Below is an open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who issued a statement on Israel’s Independence Day in which he made three statements that left me and many others, somewhat befuddled. On behalf of the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel I have asked him to clarify the following points:
1. He said Canada and Israel share “common democratic values”. Does this mean Canada embraces the concept of a 50 year-long occupation that violates international treaties and denies human rights and democracy to 4 million Palestinians as a shared democratic value?
2. He talks about our mutual desire to promote peace in the Middle East. I am curious how he views the latest UN Security Council Resolution that calls Israel’s illegal settlements, “a flagrant violation” of international law”, and that the settlements have, “no legal validity”. It would seem the Security Council might not share Mr. Trudeau’s understanding of what working for peace means. Since he has committed Canada to pursuing a seat on the SC it would be helpful if he clarified his position on this resolution.
3. Finally and most significantly, he states Canada is committed to fight anti-Zionism. I am unsure if he even understands what that means in the eyes of the international community. No Canadian PM, even Harper, ever mentioned anti-Zionism! So, it might be a good idea to clarify some of these points that he made.
Below, is the text of my letter, we await his response.
The Honourable Justin Trudeau P.C.,
House of Commons,
Ottawa K1A 0A6
May 11, 2017
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
I am writing as co-chair of the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI) seeking clarification of your remarks made in recognition of the establishment of the state of Israel.
The Biblical warrant is clear that people of faith are called to stand in solidarity with all who suffer but our priority must be with those who are suffering the most currently. As I write, the words of the prophet Ezekiel are at the forefront on my concern. Ezekiel 13:10 reads, “Because, in truth, because they have misled my people, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace;”
You stated that Canada and Israel share democratic values. I am somewhat confused by this statement. Certainly, as Prime Minister you are aware Israel has illegally occupied Palestine for 50 years hence depriving more than 4 million Palestinians of their inalienable rights to peace and personal security as guaranteed under the Fourth Geneva Convention to which Canada is a High Contracting Party.
Further, it is clear that not all citizens of Israel are treated as equals under Israeli law in that Jewish citizens have more rights than their non-Jewish, specifically Palestinian neighbours.
Additionally, Israelis are governed under civil authority while Palestinians are governed under military law. Over 1,600 Palestinian prisoners have been on a hunger strike since April 17 demanding the Israeli government respect their human rights.
Based on these few examples, are Canadians to assume that Canadian democratic values include support for the 50-year long illegal occupation and the denial of rights guaranteed under the Fourth Geneva Convention to over 4 million innocent Palestinians?
Mr. Prime Minister, you speak of Canada working with Israel to promote peace and stability in the Middle East. Again, you are well aware of UN Security Council Motion: SC 2334 adopted on 23/12/2016. It states Israel’s settlement activity constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law and has “no legal validity”. It demands that Israel stop such activity and fulfill its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Based on this international criticism, how do believe that Israel is working toward, peace and stability in the Middle East? Additionally, and a more important question, do you support SC 2334 or not?
This leads to the most serious question regarding your remarks, you speak of Canada’s commitment to fight, “anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.” Certainly, Canadians support working toward the elimination of hatred of any kind including anti-Semitism based on our values enshrined within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Further, Canadians support Israel’s right to exist. Yet, you mention “anti-Zionism”. What do you mean by this term? As Prime Minister, do you support the right of Palestinians to a homeland based on the 1967 borders or do you support the pro-Zionist movement in Canada and Israel who believe the West Bank and East Jerusalem should be annexed by Israel and that Gaza should remain the largest “open air prison” in the world in perpetuity?
Do you somehow mean that your government will use your powers against Canadians exercising their freedom of speech, as guaranteed under the Charter, to criticize the state of Israel for its illegal occupation and denial of Palestinian human rights? Does your government oppose Canadians who stand in solidarity against pro-Zionist groups who want Israel to annex the West Bank and East Jerusalem?
These comments by you as Prime Minister of all Canadians cause Palestinian Canadians, human rights activists including members of UNJPPI and others serious concerns that demand clarification.
On a personal note, I served as a human rights observer in the West Bank and witnessed on a daily basis, Israel’s violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as breeches of International Human Rights laws and Humanitarian laws. These laws are rooted in the international community’s response to the horrors of WWII where Canadians fought and died in the service of freedom, democracy and human rights for all people. I do not need to remind you of Canada’s history of support for human rights and the rule of international law. Yet, your statement, made on behalf of all Canadians, seem to turn a blind eye toward Israel’s denial or basic rights and freedoms to Palestinians guaranteed under international treaty. You must clarify your comments so all Canadians clearly understand your position!
These clarifications are especially important as you seek a seat for Canada on the Security Council against countries like Ireland and Norway who clearly stand on the side of human rights for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
Mr. Prime Minister, the members of UNJPPI, Palestinian Canadians and other citizens concerned with human rights and the rule of international law look forward to the clarification of your remarks.
Peace, Paix, Salaam, Shalom,
Rev. Steve Berube
Co-chair: United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel
Cc The Honourable Chrystia Freeland P.C., Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Peter Kent, Foreign Affairs Critic, Conservative Party of Canada
Hélène Laverdière, Foreign Affairs Critic, New Democratic Party
Elizabeth May, Leader, Green Party of Canada
Rhéal Fortin, Leader, Bloc Québécois
Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell, Moderator: United Church of Canada
Nabil Maarouf, Chief Representative of the Palestinian General Delegation in Canada
Deborah Lyons, Canadian Ambassador to Israel