The discreet sham of Justin Trudeau
Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University/Aljazeera
Justin Trudeau is just as bad for humanity as Donald Trump is.
“The world is a very dangerous place,” quipped the pre-eminent US Philosopher-King of the Twitter age, Donald J Trump, in a recent encomium in which he managed to exonerate Saudi Arabia for butchering one of their dissident journalists and blame Iran for everything evil in this world.
I could not agree more with President Trump. The world is indeed a very dangerous place – all the more so for being ruled by clinically delusional psychopaths.
But are these psychopaths, ranging from Donald Trump to Benjamin Netanyahu to Mohammed bin Salman to Rodrigo Duterte to many others, the causes or the consequences of the historical maladies we now live through?
For this not to become the proverbial chicken-and-egg question but actually help us decipher our time, we need to compare world sociopaths like Donald Trump with their supposed opposites like Barack Obama or – now that he is gone – the newest sweetheart poster boy of neoliberal politics, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The purpose of the exercise is not to judge who is better or who is worse. The point is to place both sides of the majority’s political preferences in a larger, more, urgent, frame of reference and see how we are actually at the mercy of their similarities rather than the beneficiary of their differences.
Whitewashing one crime with another
One quick look at Justin Trudeau’s recent pronouncements on the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, for example, shows how the twisted fact and fantasy of Zionism and its settler colony have driven liberal world leaders like him utterly incoherent if not, in fact, insane.
Recently, Justin Trudeau made an effort to apologise on behalf of Canadians for the atrocious fact that Canada rejected a ship carrying some 900 Jewish refugees running away from the murderous Nazis in 1939. Historians believe, “more than 250 of these passengers were later killed in Nazi death camps after the MS St Louis was forced to return to Europe.”
“We apologise to the 907 German Jews aboard the St Louis, as well as their families,” Trudeau said. “We are sorry for the callousness of Canada’s response. We are sorry for not apologising sooner.” This was a necessary apology, though slightly too little and much too late for the victims and survivors of the callous act that cost the lives of so many innocent people.
Such politically motivated “apologies” ring entirely vacuous and hollow. Nevertheless, they contribute to the collective awareness and documentation of the murderous course of Europe’s Holocaust and the refusal of other “Western” countries to act as a haven for those running away from it.
But this was not where Trudeau’s disingenuous apology ended. His true colours as a career opportunist politician soon emerged when he said: “Anti-Semitism is far too present. Jewish students still feel unwelcomed and uncomfortable on some of our colleges and university campuses because of BDS-related intimidation.” This is where he exposed the dishonest roots of his sham apology, where one atrocity was committed to whitewash another.What is BDS and what does it have to do with the murderous act of Canada aiding and abetting the Nazis by refusing entry to desperate Jews running away from genocide in Germany and the rest of Europe? The BDS movement for Palestinian human rights was launched by dozens of Palestinian civil society groups in 2005. It calls for a non-violent act of civil disobedience – on the model of a similar movement in South Africa – seeking to pressure the Israeli settler colony to end its prolonged, sustained and expanding occupation of Palestine so Palestinian refugees can return to their homeland. What sane human being would see any connection whatsoever between that peaceful, modest, gesture to restore the most basic human rights of a nation against a gargantuan military colony and the genocidal act of the European Holocaust and the Canadian racist refusal of sanctuary to Jews running away from that genocide?
Trudeau paid the price of his dishonest and disingenuous apology with the inalienable rights of yet another people at the receiving end of yet another egregious criminal act, this time perpetrated not by the Nazis against Jews but by Israelis against Palestinians.
What decent human being would try to whitewash one criminal act with another criminal act? Justin Trudeau did: the cute and cuddly sweetheart of North American liberal neo-colonialism.
A true apology for the Canadian refusal to help Jews escape from the Nazis would be helping Palestinians sustain their non-violent BDS movement to regain the dignity of their place in their own homeland.
What in effect Justin Trudeau did is a bizarre fusion of the history of Canadian anti-Semitism (refusing sanctuary to European Jews), racism (siding with the Zionist occupation of Palestine), and colonialism (demonising Palestinian resistance to the Zionist occupation of their homeland). Justin Trudeau, in short, hit three birds with one speech.
Consistency in hypocrisy
As in all other cases, there is a consistency with the political charlatanism of politicians like Trudeau. “The Canadian prime minister presents himself as a climate hero,” we learn from an article in the Guardian by Bill McKibben, but “by promising to nationalise the Kinder Morgan pipeline, he reveals his true self.”
McKibben’s wording is precise: “In case anyone wondered, this is how the world ends: with the cutest, progressivest, boybandiest leader in the world going fully in the tank for the oil industry.”I am no longer sure what the word “progressive” means any more in the context of North American politics. But in McKibben’s words, Justin Trudeau is indeed “the boybandiest” boy this side of the Atlantic. And yet, we are coaxed to turn a blind eye to his terrorising politics by looking at his handsome smile.At issue here is Trudeau’s plan to “nationalise the Kinder Morgan pipeline running from the tar sands of Alberta to the tidewater of British Columbia,” a project that First Nations and environmentalists oppose for the obvious catastrophic dangers it poses to human life. Trudeau takes the same liberty with the environment that he takes with Palestinians as human beings entitled to their liberty.