Yves Engler: Canadian government funds go to policing Palestinians and supporting the corrupt Palestinian Authority
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of The Engler Report.
Now joining us is Yves Engler. He is a Canadian commentator and author, and his most recent book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy.
Thank you so much for joining us, Yves.
YVES ENGLER, AUTHOR AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST, MONTREAL: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: So, Yves, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he was recently in Israel, and this is the first time that a Canadian prime minister actually addressed the Israeli Knesset. The mainstream press has really focused on two points of Harper’s speech, one being where he extolled the virtues of supporting Israel, or the fact that the omitted–Canada disagrees with Israel’s settlements. But there seems to be less attention focused on agreements to strengthen economic ties between the two countries. What’s the real story here?
ENGLER: Well, I mean, the Harper government has been–Israel, no matter what [incompr.] Israel, no matter what position, since being elected, supporting bombing of Gaza, supporting the 2006 war on Lebanon, and taking all kinds of pro-Israel diplomatic positions. Alongside that has been a real deepening of bilateral ties, economic, military, security ties with Israel, many different cooperation agreements with the Israeli military, exchanges with the Israeli military. Recently, Canadian naval vessels and Israeli naval vessels were doing interchanges, practice runs together.
And on this trip to Israel, the Harper government wants to extend the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement that was signed in 1997. This is a free trade agreement that does not exclude products that are produced in Israeli settlements. The European Union trade agreement with Israel explicitly precludes Israel from putting Israel on products that are produced in the occupied West Bank. The Canadian trade agreement doesn’t. The Harper government wants to extend this trade agreement alongside a series of other cooperation accords.
And the sort of underlying policies of sort of deepening institutional ties between Canada and Israel have generally gotten less attention than the bombastic pro-Israel comments of the Harper government, but I think that once Harper’s gone, it’s going to be these economic accords that are really designed to help the Israeli economy. They’re very much oriented to Israel’s interests rather than Canada’s interests. And once Harper’s gone, it’s going to be these accords that have the longer-lasting impact on deepening bilateral ties between the two countries.
DESVARIEUX: How do these economic accords, as you put it, compare with Harper’s $66 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority?
ENGLER: Well, I think they shouldn’t be compared all. On one hand, the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement is designed to deepen economic ties on, you know, fairly egalitarian terms between Israel and Canada. In the case of the aid that Canada’s giving to the Palestinian Authority, this is–you know, it’s stated, it’s called aid, but in fact if you look at what most of the Canadian five-year $300 million aid program that began in December 2007 to the Palestinian Authority, and if you look at where most of that aid money went to, it went to building up the Palestinian security force in the West Bank that was designed to, on one hand, combat the rise of Hamas, so to support the Palestinian Authority in their political battle with Hamas, and on the other hand, it was designed to prop up a corrupt and undemocratic Palestinian Authority. Of course, Mahmoud Abbas’s electoral mandate ended in 2009.
So we actually have internal documents from Margaret Biggs, who is the president of the CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency, from about a year ago, where she stated very clearly that Israel supports Canada’s aid program to the Palestinian Authority. The Canadian government had actually threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinian authority when the Palestinian Authority pursued its UN statehood bid. And Israel was actually pushing Canada to continue that aid.
And in the internal document that was published by Postmedia, it also states–Margaret Biggs, the head of CIDA, says that “the emergence of popular protests … against the Palestinian Authority,” [incompr.] quotes, that this made Canadian aid to the Palestinian Authority security force particularly important. So, in other words, the Palestinian Authority is facing pressure from grassroots protests, and Canadian aid to the Palestinian Authority goes to supporting their security force that has put down demonstrations, demonstrations against the Palestinian Authority’s operations, but also demonstrations against ongoing Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.
So the Canadian aid, we call it aid to the Palestinians. Really what it is is aid to a corrupt, undemocratic Palestinian Authority that is increasingly out of touch with the desire of most Palestinians for liberation from Israeli colonialism.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Yves Engler, thank you so much for joining us.
ENGLER: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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