Canada shames itself once again in support of Israel

October 30, 2012

First a few background points on the legality of the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian territories (from Wikipedia): 

1. The international community considers the settlements in occupied territory to be illegal. Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and communities in the Golan Heights, areas which have been annexed by Israel, are also considered settlements by the international community, which does not recognise Israel’s annexations of these territories.

2. The United Nations has repeatedly upheld the view that Israel’s construction of settlements constitutes violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. International humanitarian law prohibits [an] occupying power [from transferring] citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory (Fourth Geneva Convention, article 49).

3. The International Court of Justice also says these settlements are illegal, and no foreign government supports Israel’s settlements.

4. In April 2012, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, in response to moves by Israel to legalise Israeli outposts, reiterated that all settlement activity is illegal, and “runs contrary to Israel’s obligations under the Road Map and repeated Quartet calls for the parties to refrain from provocations.” Similar criticism was advanced by the EU and the US.

5. As of December 2010, 327,750 Israelis live in the 121 officially-recognised settlements in the West Bank, 192,000 Israelis live in settlements in East Jerusalem and over 20,000 live in settlements in the Golan Heights. Settlements range in character from farming communities and frontier villages to urban suburbs and neighborhoods. The three largest settlements, Modi’in IllitMaale Adumim andBetar Illit, have achieved city status, with over 30,000 residents each.

6. The ongoing expansion of existing settlements by Israel and the construction of settlement outposts is frequently criticized as an obstacle to the peace process by the Palestinians and third parties, including the United NationsRussia, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the United States.

7. Numerous UN resolutions have stated that the building and existence of Israeli settlements in the West BankEast Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are a violation of international law, including UN Security Council resolutions in 1979 and 1980. UN Security Council Resolution 446 refers to the Fourth Geneva Convention as the applicable international legal instrument, and calls upon Israel to desist from transferring its own population into the territories or changing their demographic makeup. 

8. The position of successive Israeli governments is that all authorized settlements are entirely legal and consistent with international law,

Given this background, it is fair to say that Israel is a renegade state, a global outlier, on the question of their settlements in the Occupied Palestinian territories. It completely rejects the global consensus that the settlements are illegal and must be stopped. Instead, Israel brazenly defies international law and institutions and continues to expand the settlements despite the widespread international condemnation it receives. And it is clear, and uncontroversial, that Israel would not be able to do this were it not for the diplomatic and military support  it gets from the US, especially in the form of vetoes of Security Council resolutions against Israel.    

In July 2012, the UN Human Rights Council set up a probe into the Jewish settlements. Israel responded by saying it would bar the Council’s experts from access to the sites. Most recently, Richard Falk, the head of the UN Human Rights Council, called for a boycott of all companies linked to settlements in the occupied West Bank. The firms include Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Volvo and Caterpillar since their products are used in the construction and expansion of the settlements. Falk explained his proposal as follows: 

“This is an attempt to reach out beyond the intergovernmental and international institutional system. And one of the things that our report recommends is encouragement of the boycott of these named corporations and encouragement of civil society actors to join in that boycott.”

The proposal was a reasonable one stemming mainly from frustration with the diplomatic process, which seems unable to do anything to stop the continual expansion of the settlements.

Israel’s response to Falk’s comments was entirely predictable. Israel’s U.N. Mission called the report “grossly biased” and called for Falk to be replaced. And notice the standard “PR-speak” the spokeswoman for the Israeli mission uses to explain their position: 

“Israel is deeply committed to advancing human rights and firmly believes that this cause will be better served without Falk and his distasteful sideshow. While he spends pages and pages attacking Israel, Falk fails to mention even once the horrific human rights violations and ongoing terrorist attacks by Hamas.”

“Deeply committed to advancing human rights.” Ya right.

The US reaction was also swift and unsurprising: U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice called Falk “highly biased” and his appeal for a boycott “irresponsible and unacceptable.”

The Canadian government also chose to issue a statement in response to Falk’s remarks. John Baird, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, called for Falk’s removal, adding that  “when people make these type (sic.) of outrageous statements, they’ve got to be condemned.” That’s right, the Canadian government took this opportunity to condemn, not the illegal and immoral occupation of Palestinian territory, or the illegal and immoral expansion of the Israeli settlements, but the Human Rights commissioner who proposed a practical, lawful way in which ordinary people of conscience around the world can help to bring an end to the expansion of these settlements. (Incidentally, Baird is the same guy who, in his previous role as Minister of the Environment, fought for the expansion of the oil sands operations in Alberta and announced that Canada would not keep its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol). 

John Baird, the administration he works in, and the Prime Minister he serves, are bringing great shame to Canadians.  But instead of confronting and challenging this administration for their support for Israeli crimes (not to mention those of the oil companies working in the oil sands), the Canadian media seem to be heaping praise on it. Consider, for instance, the following pathetic interview by the Toronto Sun with Pierre Poilievre, another Member of Parliament from the Conservative Party.   

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