In Canadian Politics, International, Middle East

Kabuki is a classical form of Japanese theatre, mixing dramatic performance with traditional dance. It is known for its heavily stylized performances, its glamorous, highly decorated costumes, and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers.

As Israel’s genocide in Gaza rages on, the disparity between the West’s lofty rhetoric and its morally bankrupt behaviour has never been more glaring.

To conceal that disparity, Western ‘leaders’ engage in ever-more theatrical displays of faux compassion.

One of the leading actors in this spectacle is Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

In Act I, Trudeau plays the role of an earnest supporter of a two-state solution.

In Act II, he dons the mantle of an ethical exporter of military equipment.

In Act III, he assumes the posture of a generous provider of humanitarian aid.

All these roles, for reasons I will explain, are nothing but a stylized, elaborate and glamorous play. In other words, they bear the hallmarks of Kabuki theatre.

Act I: Canada’s government supports the Two-State Solution

On November 29, 1947, the U.N. General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 recommending the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.

The U.N. plan proposed a Jewish state on more than half of Mandate Palestine at a time when Jews comprised less than a third of the population and owned less than 7 percent of the land.

Soon after the partition of Palestine, Israel expanded aggressively. By the time of the 1967 war between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria, Israel’s internationally recognized boundaries encompassed 78% of historic Palestine. When the 1967 war ended, Israel began to occupy the remaining 22% of historic Palestine.

Israel then began to build Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Then, in 1980, Israel purported to annex East Jerusalem, which had been set aside by the U.N. for the capital of a future Palestinian state.

In 2004, in an advisory opinion, the ICJ unanimously ruled that Israel’s settlements violate international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention.

Today, virtually all states – including Canada — officially recognize that Israel’s settlements, and its annexation of East Jerusalem, violate international law. In addition, and for decades, virtually all states – including Canada – have repeatedly called for the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.

In 2014, the year before Justin Trudeau took power, there were approximately 600,000 settlers in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem). By the end of 2023 (about eight years after Justin Trudeau took power), the settler population in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) had increased to approximately 750,000.

That’s a total increase of 25%, or about 4% per year.

The number of settlements, their geographic dispersion and placement, and the number of settlers have rendered the two-state solution a practical impossibility.

For the two-state solution to be implemented along the 1967 borders, Israel’s government would have to evacuate hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers to Israel’s internationally recognized territory. These settlers are fanatically committed to remaining in the West Bank. Many of them are heavily armed. Moreover, Israel’s ruling elite is now fully aligned with the settler project.

It is therefore no exaggeration to say that the two-state solution has become the two-state delusion.

How has the Trudeau government dealt with this injustice?

Not only has it done nothing to stop Israel’s settlement expansion, it has deepened relations with Israel even as Israel expanded its settlements.

In May 2019, the Trudeau government ‘modernized’ the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement with the objective of increasing trade between Canada and Israel.

Even worse, it entered into this agreement a few weeks after an Israeli sniper had shot a Palestinian-Canadian doctor in Gaza.

Before Israel’s genocide in Gaza, Trudeau rarely spoke about the two-state solution, but the political terrain has changed dramatically. Now, Trudeau and his Ministers have been forced to address the two-state solution repeatedly.

This has become a major challenge, because Israel’s government no longer pretends that it’s interested in negotiating a two-state solution. In response to Israel’s intransigence, Trudeau’s government has engaged in Kabuki theatre.

On Jan 18, 2024, the CBC’s Evan Dyer reported that:

Trudeau pushes back after Netanyahu again rejects two-state solution

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized Benjamin Netanyahu’s position on Palestinian statehood after the Israeli prime minister claimed in a nationally-televised news conference that the so-called “two-state solution” is dead.

“I was not surprised to hear Prime Minister Netanyahu share that. That has long been his position,” Trudeau said…

“He and I had, just a few weeks ago, an extensive conversation on exactly this topic and others.

“Canada’s position is crystal clear. We believe the only way forward for the region, indeed the only way forward for a safe and secure Israel, is to have a Palestinian state that is also safe and secure with internationally-recognized borders. We believe in a two-state solution.”

What was Israel’s response to Trudeau’s ‘push back’? Netanyahu’s cabinet promptly formalized its opposition to what it called the “unilateral recognition” of Palestinian statehood. The cabinet vote in favour of that position was unanimous. Several days later, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, endorsed the cabinet’s position.

According to the Times of Israel, when Netanyahu sought the Knesset’s endorsement of his cabinet’s rejection of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu “boasted” that he had thwarted the creation of a Palestinian state for decades:

“Everyone knows that I am the one who for decades blocked the establishment of a Palestinian state that would endanger our existence… No matter what, Israel will maintain full security control over all territory west of the Jordan River,” including both Gaza and the West Bank.”

Basically, Netanyahu showed Trudeau and other Western leaders the middle finger.

In response to the middle finger, Trudeau did… nothing. He simply continued to engage in Kabuki theatre. 

Act II: Canada allows only “non-lethal” military equipment to be sold to Israel

Since Israel’s genocide began last October, Canada’s government has authorized a large increase in military exports to Israel.

According to a February 10 report by The Maple:

The Trudeau government authorized at least $28.5 million of new permits for military exports to Israel during the first two months of the state’s brutal war on Gaza, data supplied to The Maple by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) shows.

The total value of the new permits authorized over a two-month period exceeds the 30-year annualrecord high of $26 million in Canadian military exports to Israel in 2021. The information provided by GAC does not indicate the time period for which the newly authorized permits are valid, meaning not all the goods may have been exported in 2023…

The newly issued permits include four worth a combined total of $1.7 million that authorize the sale of, among other items, goods under an export category that includes “bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles, other explosive devices and charges and related equipment and accessories, and specially designed components.”

GAC has repeatedly insisted that all of Canada’s military exports to Israel since October 7 have been for “non-lethal” goods, a term with no legal definition and that arms-monitoring experts say can refer to components of deadly weapons.

During the first two months of Israel’s war on Gaza, GAC issued permits worth a total of $18.4 million that covered military items categorized as “electronic equipment.”

A further $9.2 million worth of permits included “‘Aircraft’, ‘lighter-than-air vehicles’, ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ […] aero-engines and ‘aircraft’ equipment, related equipment, and components.” $859,000 worth of permits covered items that included “ground vehicles and components,” and $7.3 million worth of permits covered “fire control, and related alerting and warning equipment”…

The permits appear to have been authorized quickly, with one processed within four days of the application being submitted. In its 2022 report on military exports, GAC said that its target processing time was 10 days for “low-risk” destinations, and 40 days for other destinations. Israel was not listed as a “low-risk” destination in GAC’s most recent military exports report.

As previously reported, Canada’s export categories provide only broad strokes about the kinds of goods being exported and offer little information about the exact nature of the products. Precise information — including the names of the manufacturers — about the goods newly authorized for export to Israel were redacted by the ministry…

GAC also did not respond to additional questions and requests for comment about the newly authorized export permits — including whether it had revoked any of the permits since December — by publication time. This story will be updated if a response is provided…

Canada is a signatory to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which is enshrined in the Export and Import Permits Act (EIPA). Under the EIPA, “the Minister of Foreign Affairs must deny exports and brokering permit applications for military goods and technology if there is a substantial risk that the items would undermine peace and security, or could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws [or] serious acts of gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children.”

On February 23, 2024, two weeks after The Maple’s report was published, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights issued a statement regarding the illegality of military exports to Israel:

Any transfer of weapons or ammunition to Israel that would be used in Gaza is likely to violate international humanitarian law and must cease immediately, UN experts warned today.

“All States must ‘ensure respect’ for international humanitarian law by parties to an armed conflict, as required by 1949 Geneva Conventions and customary international law,” the experts said. “States mustaccordingly refrain from transferring any weapon or ammunition – or parts for them – if it is expected, given the facts or past patterns of behaviour, that they would be used to violate international law.”

“Such transfers are prohibited even if the exporting State does not intend the arms to be used in violation of the law – or does not know with certainty that they would be used in such a way – as long as there is a clear risk,” they said.

The experts welcomed the decision of a Dutch appeals court on 12 February 2024 ordering the Netherlands to halt the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel. The court found that there was a “clear risk” that the parts would be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law, as “there are many indications that Israel has violated the humanitarian law of war in a not insignificant number of cases”…

The experts welcomed the suspension of arms transfers to Israel by Belgium, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the Japanese company Itochu Corporation. The European Union also recentlydiscouraged arms exports to Israel.

The experts urged other States to immediately halt arms transfers to Israel, including export licenses and military aid. The United States and Germany are by far the largest arms exporters and shipments have increased since 7 October 2023. Other military exporters include France, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia…

“State officials involved in arms exports may be individually criminally liable for aiding and abetting any war crimes, crimes against humanity or acts of genocide,” the experts said. “All States under the principle of universal jurisdiction, and the International Criminal Court, may be able to investigate and prosecute such crimes.”

What has Trudeau’s government done in response to the pressure to end military exports to Israel? It has engaged, of course, in Kabuki theatre.

Let’s start with Canada’s claim that it has authorized only “non-lethal” military equipment to be sent to Israel.

First, if in fact the military exports it has authorized to be exported to Israel are “non-lethal”, then why won’t the government disclose exactly what it has authorized so that the public can judge for itself whether these military exports are truly “non-lethal”?

Second, the Trudeau government’s claim that it has authorized only “non-lethal” military equipment since October 7 leaves open a potentially large hole: what about permits issued before October 7 that were not fully utilized prior to October 7? Are lethal Canadian weapons being sent to Israel pursuant to permits that Canada issued prior to October 7 of last year?

Any permits that were issued prior to October 7 of last year, and that were not fully utilized by October 7, should have been revoked.

Third, the distinction between “lethal” and “non-lethal” military equipment is highly problematic. Any military equipment that enhances Israel’s ability to commit genocide – for example, surveillance drones – should be prohibited even if that equipment is not itself lethal.

Amidst the controversy ignited by Canada’s military exports to Israel, a curious report appeared in the National Post. On on February 22, John Ivison reported that, according to an anonymous source, Canadian foreign minister Melanie Joly had instructed staff of Global Affairs Canada to “delay” the issuance of permits for “weapons, firearms and components that could have a military use”.

 In response to an inquiry from Ivison, GAC refused to comment on whether the source’s claim is true.

Ivison’s report raised a host of questions.

First, what did Ivison’s source mean by “delay”? Delay until when?

Second, why didn’t Joly order the termination of permits for the export of military equipment to Israel?

Third, why didn’t GAC confirm or deny the source’s claims?

Fourth, why did the source insist on anonymity?

On February 23 – the day after Ivison’s report appeared, Alex Cosh of The Maple tweeted that Global Affairs Canada had confirmed to him that:

Our policy on export permits has not changed.

In recent years, the government has not received, and therefore not approved, any export permits for weapons to Israel. The permits issued since October 7, and in fact all permits that are currently open, are for non-lethal equipment.

Act III: Canada provides generous humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza

On January 26, the International Court of Justice rendered a decision, by a margin of 15-2, that Israel was plausibly committing genocide. All Western judges, including the U.S. judge, concurred in the decision.

On that very day, the United States, Canada and other Western states announced that they were suspending funding to UNRWA. UNRWA is a U.N.-operated humanitarian relief organization established decades ago to support Palestinian refugees.

Today, and more than ever, millions of Palestinians depend upon UNRWA for their survival. No humanitarian organization comes close to having the expertise and infrastructure that UNRWA has built up over many years in support of its mission to aid Palestinian refugees.

The reason given by Canada for suspending funding to UNRWA was that Israel had accused twelve of UNRWA’s 30,000 employees of being involved in the October 7 attacks on Israel. At the time that they disclosed their decision to suspend funding to UNRWA, Western governments did not say whether Israel had provided any evidence to support its allegations.

Then, on February 5, Britain’s Channel Four News published a report on Israel’s allegations. Someone had leaked to Channel Four the six-page dossier that Israel had provided to Western governments in support of its claims against UNRWA.

As Channel Four noted, the dossier contained no evidence to support Israel’s allegations.

Then, on February 21, the Wall Street Journal reported that a U.S. intelligence report had found Israel’s claims could not be independently verified, and that U.S. intelligence had “low confidence” that UNRWA staff took part in the violence in southern Israel on October 7.

While all this was happening, Trudeau dispatched his International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen to Egypt and Jordan. Hussen arrived at the Egypt-Gaza border just before the Wall Street Journal’s report was published.

So what did Hussen accomplish during his four-day trip to the Middle East? Other than engaging in Kabuki theatre, nothing.

First, Hussen stood on the Egyptian side of the Gaza border, looking earnest and compassionate.

Then, Hussen tweeted that Canadian aid was “on its way” to Gaza.

After that, Hussen shot a one-minute video of himself standing beside aid packages with Canadian flags stamped on them. In the video, Hussen professed to have deep concern for the suffering of Palestinians on the other side of the border, but not once did he mention Israel – the state that is tormenting them.

Finally, on February 22, at the conclusion of his 4-day trip to Egypt and Jordan, Hussen put out a statement summarizing what he had done during his trip to the region. In it, Hussen “reaffirmed” Canada’s “support to vulnerable civilians”, “reiterated” Canada’s “calls for compliance with international humanitarian law”, and “underscored” Canada’s “calls for a humanitarian ceasefire in order to protect civilians and to allow for far more assistance to reach Gazans”.

Hussen’s rhetoric did not alleviate Palestinian suffering one iota.

The obvious goal of this pathetic spectacle was to persuade Canadians that Trudeau’s government really, truly, honestly cares about the victims of Israel’s genocidal regime, but if it truly cared about Palestinians, Canada would impose sanctions on Israel and immediately restore funding to UNRWA.

I discuss Trudeau’s Kabuki theatre at greater length in the video below.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Eric Peter

    We are no longer the country we see ourselves as. Sadly most Canadians don’t seem to have a sense of our own culpability, likely because most Canadians follow and trust their nightly hour of main-stream media BS. Personally, I have become so saddened and enraged with the carnage in Gaza that I have become extremely open and often verbose on the subject with family, friends, in public places, and wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself. This of course includes letters to politicians et al. I have also put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, by donating more than the my usual monthly donation to MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières – Doctors without Borders). I wish I could do more. If BRICS has their way with the American Dollar, there will be hell to pay for the USA and, as a result, for us as well. Perhaps we deserve it for our apathy. Thanks Dimitris for the homework!!! Your blog has become my only catharsis regarding the two wars.

  • sheri oberman

    I was going to write to the ministers charged with foreign affairs and my MP regarding my anger over their prosecution of the massacre in Gaza, but I’m going to send them this instead. Well said.

  • Neil

    In my seventh decade, I have voted Liberal in virtually every election. No more. The hypocrisy and anti-Palestinian racism is too much to stomach. I will be spoiling my ballot at next election. There is no political party worth supporting. Voting for the lesser evil as I have done in the past, is still voting for evil. The NDP? Not when their provincial leader tosses out a disabled, person of colour MPP for the crime of advocating for Palestinian human rights. I should have known better. The signals were all there, not least when a supposedly progressive party is unable to provide clean drinking water to indigenous communities whose ancestors were massacred by the Canadian state. And their lionized human rights champion, Irwin Cotler, on the killing, wounding and displacement of hundreds of thousands refugees in Gaza? Crickets.

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