The Electronic Intifada / August 14, 2023
The government of Quebec is embracing Israeli apartheid.
The Francophone Canadian province is opening up a trade office in Tel Aviv, a move being decried by supporters of Palestinian rights.
“Quebec has chosen to reward Israel’s far-right government with trade deals despite the fact that international and Israeli human rights organizations have accused that country of imposing apartheid practices on Palestinians,” said Thomas Woodley, president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.
“Opening a Quebec office in Israel when it is led by an extreme right-wing coalition opposed by the population is immoral. And not a word from [Minister Biron] about the Palestinians. I am shocked! It is not worthy of Quebec,” tweeted Ruba Ghazal, a lawmaker from the left-wing opposition Québec Solidaire party.
Ghazal was referring to Martine Biron, the international relations minister in the province’s government formed by the right-wing Coalition Avenir Québec (Quebec Future Coalition).
Announcing the move earlier this month, Biron recited standard Israel lobby propaganda.
“Israel’s dynamic economy offers business opportunities,” Biron tweeted.
“It’s the place in the world where there are the most startups per capita,” she asserted. “Our research and development exchanges and our ties with the universities have been there for a long time, but we will consolidate them and do more business.”
“Israel is poised as an important pole of technological innovation on the world stage, especially in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, which particularly interests the Quebec government,” the newspaper Journal de Québec reported.
Marketing Israel as a so-called “Startup Nation” has been a key strategy of its propaganda outlets and lobby groups in recent years to distract from the brutal reality of its dispossession and subjugation of millions of Palestinians.
In reality, Israel is a small, uncompetitive economy suffering from a long-term brain drain that hampers innovation.
A 2019 article in the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz, called the “startup nation” idea a “myth” and asserted that overall in terms of its economic performance, Israel is a “superpower of mediocrity.”
The flight of capital and people is accelerating as Israel’s Jewish settler-colonial population turns against itself in a bitter and escalating conflict over how best to maintain its system of violently enforced Jewish supremacy and apartheid over the Palestinian people.
A recent survey by the OECD on how attractive and open countries are to international startup founders placed Israel and Japan at the bottom of its ranking.
Israel scored at or near the bottom for every factor considered by the OECD.
“Canada is the most attractive country for startup founders in the OECD, with high scores in all dimensions and a start-up visa that offers several advantages for prospective startup founders,” according to the survey.
In other words Quebec has little to gain from collaborating with apartheid.
As for “cybersecurity,” Israel’s most notorious tech export has been surveillance technologies such as NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware that has been used to hack the mobile phones of human rights activists, journalists and politicians around the world.
Emulating Israel ?
Biron claimed that Quebec has always taken a “balanced position” when it comes to conflict between the Palestinians, Israelis and the broader Arab world.
But the provincial government’s embrace of Tel Aviv can only be understood as an endorsement of Israeli government policies, especially when contrasted with Quebec’s response to the conflict in Ukraine.
Last year, François Legault, the premier of Quebec, offered his full support for the Canadian government’s economic sanctions against Russia.
“It’s incredible that in 2022 that there would be a war, that one country invades another,” Legault said. “It’s totally unacceptable what President Putin is doing and we are going to support Justin Trudeau and the federal government to put in place all repressive measures, including economic ones.”
It can therefore be confidently inferred from its actions that as far as Legault’s government is concerned, Israel’s illegal invasion, occupation and colonization of Palestinian land is not only acceptable, but worthy of encouragement and rewards.
Legault has himself long been an advocate for more trade with Israel and has promoted the “startup nation” myth – perhaps considering it a model for Quebec to emulate.
Anti-Palestinian groups in Canada are welcoming the Quebec government’s move, which they correctly interpret as evidence of its growing support for Israel.
CIJA, one of the top pro-Israel lobbying organizations in Canada, said it “has encouraged successive Quebec governments to open a formal diplomatic mission in Israel for several years.”
CIJA also noted that recently, “representatives of the Quebec government have made official visits to Israel.”
Although Quebec, like Israel, is a European settler-colony established on ethnically cleansed Indigenous land, there has been a strong tradition of Palestine solidarity there.
Many Quebeckers, who see English-speaking Canada as a historical oppressor and support sovereignty or independence for the province, have identified with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.
In 2019, activists in the province celebrated after Quebec’s national electricity company Hydro-Québec declined to renew an agreement with its Israeli counterpart, following a grassroots campaign.
Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine (Haymarket Books)