Harper Knesset speech avoids real reasons for Mideast conflict

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Montreal, January 21, 2014  — CJPME laments that in his address to the Knesset yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper misrepresented the reasons for international criticism of Israel’s conduct. “Harper attributed criticism of Israel’s conduct to anti-Semitism.  In reality, the criticisms – including those from various European governments whose commitment to Israel’s survival is unstinting—are of Israel’s ongoing illegal land grab in the West Bank, its harsh military occupation, the longest in modern history, and its brutal blockade of Gaza,” says CJPME President Thomas Woodley.  CJPME notes that although Harper alleges that critics of Israel’s conduct are “singling Israel out” for criticism, in fact most of the organizations and governments criticising Israel’s conduct also frequently criticise other countries’ actions. “In effect, through such accusations, Harper has thrown Palestinians under the bus of Israeli territorial ambitions,” adds Woodley. 

Harper also expressed outrage at the use of the term “apartheid” in reference to Israel. However, as noted by black South Africans who have visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, the measures to segregate the Arab population there rival those taken against black South Africans during the apartheid years. Moreover, both Israeli human rights organisations and neutral international human rights bodies have noted that Israel has for years had a body of laws whose net effect has been to ensure the second-class status of the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are Palestinian. Furthermore, under Netanyahu, a plethora of bills reinforcing and intensifying this discrimination have been introduced, and in many cases become law. “Harper may bridle at application of the term ‘apartheid’ to Israel, but it’s not inapt,” comments Woodley.

When Harper referred to the kind of Palestinian state he envisions, the term “territorially contiguous” was conspicuously absent. CJPME hopes that Canadian MPs and the media will query the Prime Minister whether he is, via this wording, signalling that his government has no objections to the annexation of East Jerusalem and the major expansion of settlements there and between it and the Jordan River. CJPME reminds MPs and the media that both of these moves have the particularly deleterious effect of bisecting the West Bank, thereby making the establishment of a separate viable Palestinian state even less likely.

The “facts on the ground” clearly indicate that Israeli leaders intend to continue expanding Israel’s territory beyond the 78 percent of historical Palestinian that Israel has under the 1967 borders. Various members of the Israeli cabinet vociferously oppose the creation of any Palestinian state, ever. Yet Harper asserted yesterday that Israel will be among the first to welcome a Palestinian state to the UN, without a shred of evidence of any genuine willingness to allow progress toward that. Disappointingly, he stated that Canada will be “right behind you” when that day comes – signalling that Canada will likely continue to oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state as long as Israel does. “Enabling Israel to continue to block the emergence of a Palestinian state will simply prolong the misery of millions of Palestinians,” emphasises Woodley.

About CJPME – Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is a non-profit and secular organization bringing together men and women of all backgrounds who labour to see justice and peace take root again in the Middle East. Its mission is to empower decision-makers to view all sides with fairness and to promote the equitable and sustainable development of the region.

For more information, please contact Patricia Jean, 438 380 5410
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East www.cjpme.org

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