Issue #198 of Fightback is out now! In this editorial, M.A. Olanick discusses the increasing pressure that the Palestine movement is coming under, and the need to not back down in the face of oppression. The issue also contains an article on why communists call for Intifada; as well as articles on media slander against the Palestine movement, how communists repond to the demand for ceasefire, and Canada’s history of support for Israel. In “The Spectre of Communism” you’ll find reports on solidarity actions, a response to the injunction agaisnt McGill’s Palestine policy, as well as some recommendations for political movies (and further readings!) to enjoy over the holidays.

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For nearly two months, the Palestine solidarity movement has been met with contempt and slander by the press, the state, and its institutions. In spite of this, protests against Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of Gaza are continuing, and public opinion is only coming more firmly to the side of the Palestinians.  

So, the ruling class is stepping up its repression of pro-Palestine activists. 

The clearest examples of this are in Toronto, where police have arrested protestors at peaceful sit-ins at MP offices, and physically attacked a sit-in at Scotiabank. On Nov. 22 Toronto police conducted a series of early morning raids on activists, breaking into their homes and handcuffing residents. What crime warranted such tactics? Putting up posters at Indigo denouncing CEO Heather Reisman’s active financial support for the IDF. 

Police are cracking down in other cities as well. For example, in Calgary, organizer Wesam Khaled was arrested for hate-speech after leading a chant of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The charge was later dropped, in recognition of the weakness of the case against Khaled. 

These legal attacks against the Palestine solidarity movement have been added to attacks in the press, from school administrations, and from employers. As pressure builds, some in the movement are getting worried. How should we respond? 

What we should not do is apologize or back down. From the beginning, we’ve seen figures on the left make statements in solidarity with Palestine, and then back-pedal in the face of media and political denunciations, as was the case with former NDP MPP Sarah Jama and CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn. 

More recently there’s the case of McGill, where the student body voted overwhelmingly in favour of adopting a pro-Palestine policy. In response, a single student, backed by B’nai Birth, got a court injunction to prevent the policy from going into effect. The leadership of the McGill student union folded immediately. This is a mistake. 

We should never apologize for something we did not do (like antisemitism); or for that matter, something we did do that is well within our rights (like show solidarity with Palestine). 

Furthermore, the disagreement between the Palestine solidarity movement and the supporters of Israel is not a rational debate between two reasonable sides. It is not a mere difference of opinion that can be resolved by playing by the rules of “democratic civil society”.

The media, the state, and the law are not neutral bodies. They exist to serve the interests of the Canadian ruling class. Ninety per cent of the time they may act with a degree of independence to preserve the appearance of neutrality, so that when it really matters, they can all the more effectively do their job of defending the interests of Canadian imperialism. Israel’s war on Gaza is one of the things that really matters to the imperialists. 

As the ridiculously disproportionate actions of Toronto and Calgary police demonstrate, their aim is not to enforce the law. Whether or not activists actually broke the law doesn’t matter, the aim is to harass and intimidate protestors, to demoralize and disorganize the movement. 

Israel is too important an ally to Western imperialism for Canada to abandon. Therefore the only way for the ruling class to contain the rising anger and social discontent embodied in the Palestine movement is to repress it. We can expect all of the tools in the hands of the imperialists, including the law, to be bent to that purpose. And we cannot win by playing by their rules.

The Palestine movement needs to stand up against all attempts at repression. 

Weakness invites aggression. Concessions won’t satisfy the other side, it will only prove to them that their attacks work. We saw this with Sarah Jama—she apologized for her initial statement on Oct. 7, but that didn’t prevent her from being kicked out of the NDP caucus, or being routinely attacked in the right wing press. 

Rather, the best defence is a good offence. Every time the Palestine movement comes under attack, that can be used to expose the hypocrisy of the capitalist state and media, as well as to rally support and mobilize more people. 

This is what the comrades of Socialist Appeal in Britain did, when their photos were posted online by the London police, along with baseless charges of “racially aggravated harassment”. They went to the police station, not to cooperate, but to confront the police. They demanded to see evidence of their “crimes”—there was none—and argued that the charges were a political attack, all the while posting about the incident on social media. In the end, the charges were dropped, and the police apologized to them.

Another example is that of the student unions at York University. The university administration threatened to dissolve the student unions if they did not retract their statement of solidarity with Palestine. Rather than giving in, they called an emergency rally to mobilize students in defiance of the administration. This is an example that could be easily followed at McGill, where the vote on the pro-Palestine policy saw the highest ever participation rate from students. 

In this way, we can turn every attack against Israel’s imperialist backers in Canada. Public trust in media and institutions is already low, with every attack they risk further discrediting themselves. They say that by defending Israel they’re defending democracy in the middle east—but where is the democracy in Canada, where is the freedom of expression, when peaceful protestors are violently arrested? Where is the fair and unbiased press when tens of thousands of people protesting against ethnic cleansing are either ignored by the media, or accused of antisemitism? 

The struggle for Palestinian liberation is a struggle against all of Western imperialism. Therefore when we take the side of the Palestinians, we should not be caught off-guard by attempts at repression, we should prepare for them. We should be prepared to respond to repression with defiance—if we take this fight seriously, there is no other way to respond. Anything else is simply admitting defeat. By standing firm, we strengthen the movement, set an example for others, and inspire greater numbers of workers and youth to join in. Not just for Palestine, but for every struggle against oppression and exploitation that is to come.