Québec, Israël and Palestine
It is no secret, when it comes to the situation in the Middle East, sympathies in Québec are overwhelmingly on the side of the Palestinians.
Although it would be unfair to compare the two situations, there is something automatic, almost visceral, in the way people in Québec identify with the conquered people living in Occupied Territories. The images of the uneven war between a makeshift resistance armed with rocks and old soviet rockets and one of the world’s most modern armies echoes with something very profound about the way we see ourselves.
Until Jacques Parizeau asked them to leave in the mid-80’s, the Parti québécois invited representatives of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation at all its assemblies and members of the Front de Libération du Québec trained with the PLO in Jordan in the 1970s. To this day, members of Québec’s sovereignty movement like Gilles Duceppe, Amir Khadir and Pierre Falardeau are staples of any demonstration against israeli aggressions.
I used to feel the same way. Not anymore.
As much as I am horrified by much of Israel’s way of dealing with the Palestinians and as much as I am disgusted by the blatant racism and islamophobia of Israel’s apologists in much of the Canadian media like the National Post and Maclean’s, I have come to understand Israel’s position much better recently, and I did it by – if you will – putting Québec in Israel’s shoes.
Take a step back with me.
After a long and emotional campaign during which all of the past injustices suffered by the French-Canadians, from the deportation of the Acadians to the economic discrimination of the 20th century, have been dredged up, Québec has just become an independent country. At long last a free, independent and secure homeland for French-speakers in America.
The vote and it’s consequences causes fear and panic in English-speaking parts of Montreal. Many leave their homes and move in with family in the rest of Canada, at least temporarily. Quickly, resistance is organized in the West Island and the Pontiac. Heavily financed by Canadian nationalist and patriots in Ontario and Alberta unable to accept any form of independence for Québec, the Canadian Liberation Organisation makes plans for the complete and final reconquest of Québec.
After countless deaths and destruction caused by Canadian terrorists operating out of bases in DDO and Shawville, the Québec government is forced to impose an always tighter control on Anglo areas, including countless check points, curfews and even walls. Further complicating things, ultra-nationalist Québécois factions are building settlements in Pointe-Claire and the Ottawa Valley in the name of a divine right of the Québécois to occupy the whole territory of Québec. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Anglos who left Québec in the days following the referendum are now demanding the right to return and the restitution of their property.
Sympathies in the vast CNN watching North American public are overwhelmingly on the side of Québec Anglos whom they naturally identify with as they are of the same culture and speak the same language. Anglo leaders know this and use it to their advantage as a vast campaign of Québec-bashing is orchestrated and dutifully relayed by the American and Canadian media.
Anglo Resistance leaders also spend much time on American television explaining how they are just a peaceful people trying to establish a peaceful homeland for Anglo-Quebecers, conveniently overlooking the fact that just yesterday they vowed to destroy the State of Québec and drive every last French-speaker in the St.Lawrence River.
And so it drags on, for years and decades. Québec, with scarcely a friend (except for France, which doesn’t exactly help in North America) continues to protect its security and defend its citizens in the face of worldwide criticism. Meanwhile, Anglos in the West Island and the Ottawa Valley suffer indignities that are simultaneously the cause and consequence of their support for always more radical leaders.
Of course, all of this is political fiction and I certainly don’t believe there is any reason to think things could ever breakdown so badly in Québec. And I certainly don’t want to trivialize the pain and suffering of the people of the Middle East.
But I also think the people of Québec, and especially my friends in the sovereignty movement, should be careful before they throw their first stone at the State of Israel.