Canada Backs Palestinian Self-determination

Canada Backs Palestinian Self-determination

As published by the Victoria Standard: December 18, 2019.

Canada’s surprise UN vote for Palestinian self-determination evoked strident protests from media defenders of Israeli exceptionalism. Trudeau’s token gesture has been portrayed as a betrayal of the Israel state, a nation without permanent borders. According to pundits like Canadian expatriate David Frum, stateless Palestinians should acknowledge defeat and quietly accept their fate. On the other hand, they may take inspiration from the vibrant example of Israeli determination.

Canada’s previous UN voting record has contradicted the nation’s foreign policy on Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. In spite of its official objections to Israel’s illegal settlements, Canada had formerly either abstained from or opposed all resolutions supporting Palestinian emancipation.

International laws forbidding the illegal settlement of conquered Palestinian and Syrian territory have been opposed only by Israel, the United States, tiny Pacific island nations and formerly by Canada. Prior to the recent UN vote, Trudeau had mainly followed Harper’s policy of total support for Israel actions, even the crushing Gaza assaults of 2009 and 2014 and the Israeli army’s 2018 mass shootings of Palestinian border protesters.

The long U.S. record of vetoing UN resolutions requiring Israel to join the international consensus of nations on Palestinian issues has allowed a succession of Israeli governments to act with impunity. Further, Israel still enjoys generous U.S. military support, diplomatic cover and yearly billions in public funds.

Unfortunately for Palestinians under martial law in the Occupied Territories, both the United Nations peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance budgets are owed hundreds of millions in general revenues, mainly by the United States. Other debtor states include Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Trump complains about America’s unfair burden while ignoring how U.S. funding partly justifies America’s Security Council veto.

Official Canada’s support for the Israeli state began even before its 1947 creation and was based largely on Christian sentiment among evangelicals who viewed the Jews’ return to Palestine as fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. The start of the Cold War and Israel’s role as an anti-Soviet military proxy increased its value to NATO members like the U.S. and Canada. This trend accelerated with the election of Stephen Harper in 2006 and ultimately led to Canada’s 2011 failure to secure a UN Security Council seat.

Unlike its despotic neighbours, Israel receives criticism specifically because it is a liberal democracy that should not abuse either its Palestinian citizens or those under military occupation. A genuine democracy would have equal rights for all instead of the Israeli situation where Palestinian Israelis have limited rights in a country that has declared itself the Nation State of the Jewish People. It is difficult to avoid concluding that this law is divisive.

Official Israeli rhetoric reveals an intention to annex the entire West Bank and the Golan Heights. Aside from its UN role, Canada has quietly backed the gradual settlement process, supported the collaborationist Palestinian Authority and even recognizes Israeli customs law in the West Bank. As well, the Government of Canada subsidizes the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) by giving charitable status to organizations who fund Canadian-Israeli dual nationals serving in IDF combat and support units.

Nonetheless, the spirit of Boycott, Divestment & Sanction (BDS), seems active at the Federal Court of Canada whose judges recently ruled that imported Israeli wine made with West Bank grapes could not be labelled as an Israeli product. Both Harper and Trudeau have condemned BDS’ use of economic pressure tactics to encourage Israeli compliance with international law.

Under embattled Israeli leader Netanyahu, the so-called peace process stalled and nearly died but a practical plan still exists. In 2002, Saudi Arabia organized the Arab Peace Initiative, whereby 22 Arab League nations offered Israel peace and full diplomatic relations if the Israeli’s withdrew completely from Arab/Palestinian lands captured in 1967.

Saudi King Abdullah proposed a Palestinian State in the West Bank, Golan Heights and south Lebanon, where many Palestinian refugees still languish in UN camps. Although extremists on both sides derailed the 2002 plan, its core proposals remain relevant to today’s situation and provide practical options for leaders willing to compromise. It’s time for Canada to show global leadership by resurrecting this bold peace plan.