From Yoni’s Desk: What’s Israel got to do with it?

(Amos Ben Gershon/GPO photo)

It’s not difficult to spot the connections between Canadian Jews and this country’s indigenous peoples. Both communities are forced to confront past traumas on a daily basis. Our government, at various points in Canadian history, has sought to systematically exclude Jews and the First Nations. We have both faced significant struggles in attempting to integrate into society at large, and clearly, considering the hate crimes – often violent – perpetrated against both populations, that work is far from over.

For some Canadian Jews, the standoff between the hereditary chiefs of Wet’suwet’en Nation and the RCMP in northern British Columbia may revive memories of their own dispossession and persecution in Europe (not to mention Canada’s infamous none is too many policy). If you come from the family of a Shoah survivor or, like many of us, have interacted with any survivors,  then you know how real and paralyzing the anguish can be.

Wet’suwet’en chiefs who oppose a pipeline running through their territory have been supported by countrywide protests. As Jews, we very well understand the value of communal solidarity, of focusing on faith and tradition in troubling times. That is why it is so unfortunate that some railway blockaders and their supporters have used the opportunity to hurl anti-Israel positions into the fray.

Take the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the coalition of Palestinian groups that leads the international boycott campaign against Israel. On Feb. 13, it issued a press release headlined Palestinians Stand in Solidarity With the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

“From the occupied Palestinian territory, we stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation and land defenders … who continue to resist Canada’s colonial incursions of their unceded territories,” it began.

It concluded, “From Palestine to Wet’suwet’en, we stand united with you in the struggle against settler colonialism, racism, corporate criminality and your inalienable rights for justice and self-determination.”

Of all the things that should bring Canada’s Jews and First Nations together, the notion of indigeneity might be at the top of the list. When supposed indigenous “allies” only see the value of one people’s historic connection to a land, while actively working to devalue another’s, it only serves to muddy the waters. The situation in Canada is complicated enough without dragging Israel into it to satisfy someone else’s ulterior motives.



On a recent episode of The Canadian Jewish Shmooze, our flagship podcast, we asked Yoni Belete, a former staffer at the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa, to set the stage ahead of Israel’s March 2 election, the third national vote in less than a year. He said: “The big thing that I think Israelis will be going into the polls thinking about is, first and foremost, how do we avoid a fourth (election)?”

Yet, with less than a week until election day, Israel remains mired in a political stalemate. According to two polls published on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party leads Benny Gantz’s Blue and White by the slimmest of margins. (It was the first time this cycle that Likud has outpolled Blue and White, perhaps as a result of revelations about a new investigation into a former company run by Gantz, though he is not named as a suspect.) But even if those results hold true, Israel doesn’t seem closer to ending the deadlock in the Knesset, as those same polls also indicate that Likud is unlikely to be successful in building a right-wing coalition government, while Blue and White’s road to a governing coalition appears even more unlikely.

Back in Canada, we await the results, and all the coalition conversations
that are sure to follow. Hopefully, there won’t be a fourth election later this year.