JI Newsletter 2021-06-01
Welcome to the June issue of the Justice Internationale newsletter. Usually we include a little joke here, but nothing is funnier than this real story of an MP who got caught naked on a Zoom call, twice!
In this issue of the newsletter; Sameer Gupta covers Israel and Palestine, Yogthos writes about Canada’s contribution to the climate crisis and Loljapes covers the Liberal’s efforts to radically extend the broadcasting act to cover online content.
In the end, the Israeli campaign of collective punishment against Palestine ended not with a bang—but with the occupiers announcing an unconditional, unilateral ceasefire.
While the status quo on the ground remains largely unchanged in the occupied territories, the implications of this latest conflagration are profound. Apartheid Israel remains engulfed by political turmoil, as the moral, political and military defeat suffered by the Israelis in the recent round of fighting has only deepened the crisis and exposed a new generation of observers to what Palestinians and their allies have known for more than a century: Zionism is a colonial project, and despite our government’s insistence to the contrary, there is no moderate approach to the systematic dispossession and erasure of an indigenous population from a territory they inhabit.
When it comes to analyzing the rightward turn of Israel in the years following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 much attention is paid to the right-wing Likud and especially its longtime leader Benjamin Netanyahu. It is true that Likud has been the principle force behind the mainstreaming of extremist elements in Israeli political discourse—however, the eagerness of establishment liberals to blame Netanyahu and his coalition of rogue actors for the collapse of the so-called peace process conveniently overlooks the broader history of Israel’s efforts to undermine the emergence of an independent Palestinian politics.
Take for example the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, recognized by the UN as the future capital of an independent Palestine, which was carried out in 1967 by the government of Levi Eshkol, Israel’s third Prime Minister and the founder of the Israeli Labour Party. Here too, is where Israel’s widely condemned practice of building illegal settlements on occupied land has its roots.
Meanwhile the right of return for the victims of the Nakba and their descendants, which comprises a core pillar of any acceptable peace agreement for the vast majority of Palestinians, is simply a non-starter for any Zionist party in Israel. And despite the UN affirming the right of return for Palestinian refugees, Zionists of all stripes oppose such a move on the grounds that the return of Palestinians to the land they were ethnically cleansed from in 1948 would render Jews a minority in a majority-Palestinian state—a notion that is antithetical to the mainstream Zionist conception of democratic Israel as a Jewish homeland.
This tension between democracy and the Jewish character of the state is perfectly encapsulated within the stubborn contradiction that the Palestinian question presents for the Zionist project; while one group’s right of return as recognized under international law is systematically denied, the 1950 Law of Return offers full rights of citizenship upon immigration to another group purely on the basis of creed. And while Israel and its allies readily exploit the dark history of Jewish suffering in order to silence critics of Zionism at home and abroad, exhortations that we never forget the victims of antisemitism offer a stark contrast with the Zionist demands that Palestinians forget their own catastrophe and with it their efforts to seek justice.
In short, what is ignored by those sympathetic to the rhetoric of “sensitive” Zionists like Yitzhak Rabin or author Amos Oz who purported to support Palestinian aspirations of freedom is that this embedded inequity—the basis for the logic of Israeli apartheidis part of the foundational premise of Israel itself. The implicit favoured status of one nation (coupled with an ongoing effort to marginalize the other) has functioned to produce societies of extremes, whether that be in terms of ideology, wealth, poverty, power or violence, and reflects a fundamental insecurity that drives Israel’s refusal to entertain any Palestinian presence between the Jordan and the sea that it cannot ultimately exercise authority over.
Indeed, it was what Edward Said once referred to as “the ritual demands for psychological security” that left the Israeli political establishment paralyzed as the apartheid project—for decades soberly managed under the watchful eye of Israel’s imperial patrons in the west—has became the electoral vehicle for a litany of rogue, right-wing revanchists in the wake of Oslo. The Oslo Accords, hailed in the west as “the triumph of hope over history”, would largely help Israel undermine the basis for a viable Palestinian politics to emerge within the peace process, while the psychological surrender of the indivisible land of “Greater Israel” to a future Palestinian state would spur a reactionary backlash that inaugurated the present era of renewed ethnonationalism amidst near-uninterrupted domination by the Israeli right.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear now that the laughably one-sided deal did little but facilitate the co-option of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which through the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) as merely “the representative of the Palestinian people” was soon transformed from the central pillar of Palestinian political agency into Israel’s police force in the occupied territories. Today, the Palestinian Authority is a decrepit fiefdom whose influence does not extend much further than its headquarters in Ramallah.
On the other hand the large-scale uprisings of Palestinians across historic Palestine, including in many Israeli cities, are indicative of how successful the leadership of the resistance factions in Gaza have been in restoring a sense of shared struggle. What hasn’t been widely reported in the west is that the first rockets from Gaza were making good on a promise made to the besieged Palestinians of East Jerusalem five days earlier by the enigmatic Mohammad Deif, commander of Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades: “If the aggression against our people…doesn’t stop immediately, the enemy will pay an expensive price”.
As the promised retaliation for the Israeli provocations came, Palestinian residents could be heard cheering and chanting “we are the sons of Deif”. The Missile Intifada, as retired UK diplomat Alastair Crooke put it, has inaugurated a new phase in the Palestinian freedom struggle. Thanks in part to Israeli efforts to undermine any independent Palestinian aspirations for freedom, the people of Palestine have now shown they are united under a resistance which itself is a united front, comprised of diverse factions including Hamas, the pro-Iran Islamic Jihad and the socialist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The resistance have also deepened their cooperation with regional actors like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, both of whom have successfully fought off invasions by technologically superior foes—including Israel.
All of this is to say that these developments can only be positive for the prospects of a restored Palestinian national politics, with the unity and cooperation between these groups whose ideologies span the political spectrum boding well for the emergence of a national project in Palestine that is no longer beholden to Israel and its imperial backers in the west. It was this dependence which for so long allowed Israel to unilaterally put Palestinian independence on hold, the hostage for their demands that Palestinians surrender their legal right to resist the occupation, including but not limited to the right to armed resistance.
The experience of revolutionaries in places like South Africa and Namibia under apartheid show us that freedom is irresistible. And as apartheid Israel will need to quickly realize, you can defeat a generation, maybe even two - but you cannot defeat a people. In the words of Mandela, “The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.”
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has recently stated that all fossil fuel exploration needs to end this year. The IEA has traditionally promoted a conservative energy policy focused on fossil fuel extraction so such a statement highlights that the fossil fuel contribution to global warming truly is a dire threat. Despite that, Canada continues to ignore the global climate crisis and double down on fossil fuel extraction as a major part of its economy.
Recently, Enbridge was in the news when Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer called for the shutdown of line 5, a Canadian pipeline which runs through the US. Activists in the US are also calling for shutdown of line 3 and it appears that the Biden administration may follow through on that. First Nations groups in Canada backed the shutdown of line 5 as well. Despite this, the Liberal government has thrown its weight behind the pipeline, with our ambassador calling the shutdown a threat to Canada’s national energy security. Despite repeated platitudes from our Liberal government regarding climate action, it continues to be a staunch proponent of fossil fuel extraction and has done nothing to shift our economy away from it.
Not only are we continuing to double down on fossil fuel extraction, we’re also failing to prepare ourselves to deal with the disruptions caused by climate change. The fact that a single pipeline shutting down can have a catastrophic impact on our energy security clearly shows that the system is both fragile and unreliable. There is no slack or redundancy built into it, and a single unexpected event can have devastating impacts on the entire country.
This problem has to be considered from the perspective of the climate change that’s currently unfolding. We’ve already seen massive fires hit both Australia and the US last year. Similar kinds of fires are projected to become a risk in Canadian Boreal forests in the near future. This is just one of the types of disruptive events that are looming on the horizon. As weather patterns change we’ll see more events such as the recent Texas cold snap, droughts, hurricanes, floodings, pandemics, and other kinds of disasters. Our global economy is not structured to accommodate these disasters, and that translates to the disruption of the lives of millions of people whenever such events occur.
Canada needs to start treating climate breakdown seriously and to refocus our economy locally. We need to strive to create a self-sufficient localized economy that can withstand global disruptions. Such refocusing will also make a direct positive contribution towards reducing the impact of climate change as it will reduce the need to ship goods to-and-from Canada. Localizing our economy will also benefit Canadian workers by creating jobs in Canada and contribute to the development of new industries. We must immediately shift our economy from fossil fuel extraction and invest in the clean energy sector to replace fossils. The world is running out of time, and Canada must do its part to address the crisis.
One of the iron truths of the current political moment is that everyone loathes the collection of internet and social media companies that can collectively be described as the ‘web giants’ and we all enjoy thinking of ways to take money off them. That fact is clearly informing how the Liberals are deciding to brand their current controversial efforts to amend the broadcasting act. Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has been given the job of shepherding Bill C-10 through parliament and has portrayed the bill as an effort to regularize the treatment of companies like Netflix and Amazon by getting them to do the same things Canadian broadcasters are already required to do by law.
If that was the full extent of the legislation it would likely be a good idea. However, as the bill has wound its way through committee it has become clear that Bill C-10 will have wide ranging effects on what content Canadians will see while online. A major flashpoint has been over how the bill will treat user-generated content (i.e. audio and video posted by individuals to third-party sites like YouTube or TikTok). In the original version of the bill there was a broad carve-out that explicitly exempted social media sites from the scope of the new legislation. This would have meant that while sites like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video may have faced requirements to produce or showcase a certain amount of Canadian content, social media sites would largely be exempt from the law. This carve-out was removed via amendment, and replaced with a much narrower exemption that merely protects the rights of people to post user-generated content. The clear implication is that the government envisages bringing at least some of the activity of social media sites under the regulation of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). A leaked Canadian Heritage memo has essentially confirmed this fact, and shows that Bill C-10 would bring a huge range of internet content under CRTC regulation, including explicitly foreign content such as BritBox (a subscription site which offers access to streaming British TV shows) which consumers presumably seek out because it is non-Canadian.
A lot of media attention has been paid to how Bill C-10 would influence the content Canadians see online. The government has spoke about boosting the ‘discoverability’ of Canadian content, so it definitely seems as though they intend to make companies adjust their algorithms to push Canadian content to the top of people’s feeds. This is a pretty silly thing to try and do, but if it is attempted it will be so easily circumvented that its hard to get too worried about.
The more pernicious effect of Bill C-10 is that it will likely result in a wealth transfer from online content producers to legacy broadcasters. Under Canada’s current laws, Canadian broadcasters are required to pay into the Canada Media Fund (CMF). The CMF supports the creation of Canadian content. In fact, sometimes the exact same broadcasters who pay into the fund will receive grants from the CMF to produce this content. Bill C-10 seems to be an attempt to massively expand the number of entities that will have to pay into the CMF. This will benefit companies currently making content that qualifies for CMF money at the expense of all other content creators. It is perhaps defensible to make truly huge internet content providers like Netflix* pay for their ‘fair share’ of Canadian content production, but it hardly seems appropriate to make online services like podcast networks pay money that will ultimately end up in Bell and Roger’s TV production budgets.
If the Liberals had been clear about their intentions for Bill C-10, Canada might have been able to have an adult discussion about what regulation (if any) should exist to control social media recommendation algorithms. It might also have been possible to discuss the outdated mechanism of funding Canadian content production and update the system for an online era. Instead, the Liberals have chosen to obfuscate key issues about how the bill will function. What’s worse is that they’re likely to get away with it. The NDP, Greens and Bloc Quebecois all appear to have accepted the ‘making web giants pay their fair share’ argument, meaning Conservative opposition to the bill can be painted as mindless contrarianism on the part of Erin O’Toole. Hopefully its not too late for these parties to wake up to the con and work to stop Bill C-10 becoming law.
* Although, it should be noted that Canadian broadcasters benefit from a variety of regulations that make broadcasting in Canada more profitable than it otherwise would be. This is essentially a regulatory subsidy that makes up for the contributions Canadian broadcasters are required to make to the CMF. Non-Canadian companies like Netflix do not benefit from this regulatory subsidy so if they contributed to the CMF the would be paying the quid but not getting the quo that Canadian broadcasters do.
- No Fences and Good Neighbours: Free Futures of Palestine - Sameer Gupta
- Canada Must Rethink Its Energy Production - yogthos
- Bill C-10: Come for the censorship, stay for the corporate welfare - loljapes
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