15 Oct, 2023


Palestinian and Jewish Unity

Reply to François Legault:  Pro-Palestinian Demonstration in Montreal on October 8, 2023 : PAJU Was There

For immediate publication

Montreal October 15th, 2023

Quebec Premier François Legault said it was “shameful” and “unacceptable” to demonstrate “to celebrate or supposedly justify the killing of civilians.” Let us clarify that this judgment is of a moral nature: it is morally shameful, morally unacceptable to celebrate the premeditated murder of civilians or to try to justify it. No justification can make murder morally permissible, says the Premier of Quebec.

The question raised by the Premier is a serious one, but it is very poorly posed. A little perspective is necessary…

Nelson Mandela, this giant of the 20th century, said that between the oppressor and the oppressed, it is the oppressor who determines the means of resistance of the oppressed. In South Africa, Mandela’s party (the ANC) found that it had no choice but to create an armed wing of the party (the MK, Spear of the Nation). The ANC entrusted the creation and leadership of MK to Mandela, who was subsequently arrested and imprisoned on terrorism charges. It was not Mandela who became a negotiator; it was popular resistance against apartheid that made Mandela a negotiator. Indeed, when the South African government decided that its violence was untenable and that it had to negotiate with the ANC, it was precisely this decision that made Mandela a negotiator, this character that history remembers as a great man of the 20th century.

In the case of Israel/Palestine, Mr. Legault, following other leaders of Western states, refuses to face reality. To quote historian Yakov Rabkin:

« There is an adamant refusal to look into the obvious causes of violence. In the case of Israel, this refusal is particularly appalling. For 75 years, Israel dispossessed, exiled, imprisoned, and tortured Palestinians who never knew a day of freedom. As the Israeli journalist Gideon Levy sarcastically put it: “We’ll fire at innocent people, take out people’s eyes and smash their faces, expel, confiscate, rob, grab people from their beds, carry out ethnic cleansing and of course continue with the unbelievable siege of the Gaza Strip, and everything will be all right.” »[1]

Hamas is only one expression of popular Palestinian resistance to the oppression it has experienced for a century. The Premier recently declared that Israel is now at war, but as far as the Palestinians are concerned, Israel has been at war for ¾ of a century! This declaration of war denies the historical reality documented by historian Rashid Khalidi in his recent book The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine.

That Mr. Legault raises the moral question of innocent civilian victims is very good. But as he raises it independently of the historical context it is highly suspect. It is as dubious as representing Nelson Mandela as having been a jovial negotiator, a fictional supporter of non-violence, a harmless old wise man.

The demonstrators on Sunday October 8 in Montreal did not celebrate the innocent Israeli victims. They supported Hamas? No. Jihad? Nenni. Islam? Neither. Their message of October 8 was: “Israel Crminal, Canada Complicit.” With the opening these days of a Quebec trade office in Tel Aviv  (in the Canadian embassy), the demonstrators could have added: “Israel Criminal , Quebec Complicit.” In other words, they made a moral judgment: Canadian complicity (with its free trade treaty with Israel) and, now Quebec complicity, Canadian business as usual, that’s what is morally shameful, morally unacceptable.  The same holds for Quebec. By leveling an unfavorable moral judgment on the demonstrators of October 8 in Montreal, Mr. Legault  is trying to escape the moral judgment of these demonstrators: Israel Criminal, Quebec Complicit. To understand what Quebec is complicit in, let us quote Professor Rabkin once again:

Indeed, most Israelis are accustomed to living in denial. They party and enjoy themselves while a few minutes’ drive away armed Zionist settlers set Palestinian villages on fire, attack olive growers, and beat up anyone daring to defend them. This indifference and oblivion turned to tragedy when a music festival was organized on the border with Gaza, where millions of Palestinians endured a brutal siege imposed by Israel and supported by Egypt. Many Israeli ravers ended up killed in the recent attack from Gaza. Israeli civilians who had felt safely sheltered in their private lives were meted a dreadful reminder of the decades-long violence experienced by the Palestinians living under Israeli siege and control. Israelis found themselves in the hell Palestinians live in every day.”

George W. Bush resorted to extortion, shortly after 9/11, in stating: “Either you’re with us, or you’re with the terrorists.” Indeed, there was a third option: to be neither with the United States nor with the terrorists. Mr. Legault and his colleagues in Western capitals today use the same dishonest use of a false narrative: “Either you are with us”, reasonable people advocating negotiation, “or you are with the terrorists” of Hamas. But there is a presupposition which is not made explicit: this presupposition, completely false, is that Israel is a negotiator in good faith. Mr. Legault can believe in Israel’s good faith, but the demonstrators of October 8 have an infinitely more enlightened historical understanding than that of the Prime Minister. The Oslo peace process, to quote Edward Said, was the Palestinian equivalent of the Treaty of Versailles, a tool to ensure capitulation of the Palestinian popular resistance movement… Judging that the demonstrators should be ashamed, Mr. Legault said in short: capitulate, or you will be legitimate (symbolic) targets. Targeting these demonstrators in this way is the manifestation of a shameful pettiness.


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[1] https://www.pressenza.com/2023/10/palestine-and-ukraine-peace-is-possible/

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