Its not just the Canadian government that is complicit with Israeli apartheid . . .
In recent months, Canadian government officials have been working overtime to further cement their outrageous and biased support of Israeli policies. One example is the January 18, 2015 Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries that committed to develop “a coordinated, public diplomacy initiative both bilaterally and in international and multilateral fora to oppose boycotts of Israel, its institutions, and its people within three to six months”.
This was quickly followed with the Canadian ‘Public Safety’ minister stating at the United Nations that “Canada has taken a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination including rhetoric towards Israel, and attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement”. And the controversial and draconian Bill C-51 now making its way through the Canadian parliament is another ominous sign on the horizon; pro-Palestinian activists are fully aware that all of this will require increased determination in order to continue promoting the Palestinian struggle for human and national rights.
In this context, activists from BDS Vancouver-Coast Salish started a campaign last month to boycott Air Canada, the leading airline in the country. The original impetus was reports from supporters that Sabra Hummus was being served on Air Canada flights. Sabra Hummus has already been an issue of controversy on university campuses in the U.S. and Canada (University of Ottawa) because of the deplorable human rights record of one of its partner companies, Strauss Group. Strauss is the second largest Israeli food and beverage company and is known for supporting two Israeli military units implicated in human rights abuses, the Golani and Givati brigades.
However, further research (like peeling the layers of an onion) revealed that the links between Canadian business leaders and Israeli apartheid run deep. In fact, Air Canada recently signed a maintenance agreement for its B787 jets with Israel Aerospace Industries IAI, a military defense company wholly owned by the government of Israel. IAI is the subject of boycotts across Europe and is well-known for its drone technology and production.
Corporate Watch in the UK says that “IAI was one of the earliest developers of drone technology and launched its first surveillance drone, the IAI Scout, in 1979…IAI writes on its website of its drones ‘unsurpassed track record of over 1,200,000 operational flight hours for over 50 users on five continents’. According to Drone Wars UK, IAI has exported their UAVs, sometimes through joint venture agreements, to various European countries as well as South America, Australia, Canada and India and the company has a growing market in Africa.”
And a recent study entitled “Sleepless in Gaza” by Dr. Atef Abu Saif, Al-Azhar University in Gaza, has detailed the terrifying impact of drone warfare on the Gaza Strip, especially on children, and states – “Since their first use in 2000, drones have led to the death of hundreds of Palestinians and have injured thousands more. In addition, they have directly negatively impacted Palestinian psychological and social life, as well as causing a grossly negative impact on education.”
Calin Rovinescu, Air Canada’s CEO, was part of PM Stephen Harper’s delegation to Israel early last year, along with other top Canadian business moguls. Of course, there is plenty of precedent here, most notably with the Heseg Foundation program created and sponsored by Indigo-Chapter’s CEO, Heather Reisman. Heseg (also known as the Lone Soldier program) offers financial support and scholarships to individuals who have no family in Israel but decide nonetheless to join the Israeli army – an army of occupation.
It is truly shameful that Air Canada is “outsourcing” its maintenance work to this Israeli defense company that is directly responsible for the deaths of Palestinian civilians and has the blood of Palestinian children on its hands. BDS Vancouver called on supporters in its recent fact sheet, done up for Israel Apartheid Week at local campuses, to send the message that Palestinian rights and lives matter & Israeli government abuses of international law will not be rewarded with our travel dollars!