Israel was already in a crisis before the current war, according to former Canadian ambassador to Israel, Jon Allen, who spoke at a lecture hosted at TMU on Wednesday.
In “A Year in the Middle East: How Israel Got From There to Here,” Allen tackled the “crisis of democracy” in Israel saying that the Israeli government has embraced orthodox and far-right views since Benjamin Netanyahu won his sixth term as prime minister in late 2022. Allen served as ambassador to Israel from 2006 till 2010.
“Some of the most extreme reforms are aimed directly at the Arab Israeli sector, including banning the Palestinian flag was in the green line, imposing the death penalty on Arab citizens of Israel convicted of terrorism, and deporting those convicted of the ill-defined crime of disloyalty,” said Allen, “Those provisions would not have been applied to Israeli Jews.”
As the chair of Project Rozana Canada, a non-profit, which according to its website, has the objective of building bridges between Palestinians and Israelis, Allen said as long as Israel discriminates against Arab Israelis, Gazans, and people from the West Bank, it will continue to be a flawed democracy.
“Whatever Israel’s rights and fears are, they do not, in my view, justify the siege and collective punishment that Israel initially imposed on the Gaza Strip, nor the trickle of humanitarian supplies that it has permitted to enter Gaza up to now, nor the massive numbers of deaths and injuries of innocent Palestinian men, women and children,” said Allen.
Although Allen criticised both Israeli and Palestinian authorities, his two-state solution to the conflict wasn’t welcomed by all. When questioned about his optimistic view during the Q&A session, Allen stated that the solution is difficult, but not impossible to achieve.
TMU student Rawan Al-Soodani said Allen presented empathy towards Palestinians. However, she said she feels it should be noted that “this conflict is not between two equal parties, but rather it is between oppressed people and their oppressors.”
On the other hand, University of Toronto student Alice Quan thought that Allen was more blatant when it came to criticising Israel.
“As a Canadian ambassador, he has given insight from the Western perspective as well as his own identity being Jewish. The way he framed the entire lecture, he spoke on behalf of both sides,” said Quan.
Quan noted the intense energy in the room as the event began. “I’m neither Israeli nor Palestinian, but I felt the emotions of everyone around the room. It was so intense, but I thought the questions were formulated very clearly.”