Montreal, July 24, 2014 — Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) believes that the leaders of Canada’s major political parties have betrayed Canadian values in their response to the violence between Israel and Gaza. “The statements by political leaders of recent weeks demonstrate no nuance of understanding of the broader situation between Israel, Gaza and the Palestinians,” asserts CJPME President Thomas Woodley. “In its own way, each political party has declared unquestioning support for Israel, and unexamined condemnation of the Palestinians. This is not principled, nor does it respect the precepts of international law in the broader context.”
While CJPME agrees that it is right to condemn indiscriminate rocket attacks by militant groups from Gaza, Canadian politicians must likewise condemn indiscriminate Israeli strikes in Gaza. That the Conservatives, the Liberals, and the NDP have not is a clear indication of a double standard. (CJPME is not aware of a statement by the Green party or the Bloc Québécois on the conflict.) The attacks of both sides do not discriminate between civilians and combatants, and both are therefore strictly illegal. Given that Israel’s attacks are far more lethal – 732 Palestinian fatalities vs. 34 Israeli fatalities (of which 32 are soldiers killed in Israel’s ground assault) – Israel’s devastating attacks require far more critical scrutiny from Canada’s political leaders.
The Conservative government and Liberal leaders also repeatedly assert Israel’s right to defend itself. However, they make no mention of Israel’s obligation to respond to threats in a proportionate manner. “If someone punches you in the nose, it doesn’t give you the right to burn down their house,” stated Woodley. “Israel seems to use the rocket attacks – practically harmless to Israel – as a pretext to wreak mayhem on Gaza’s civilian population and civilian infrastructure.” CJPME also points out that the right to “self defense” under the UN Charter is not open-ended. Israel must cooperate with UN players to put a viable ceasefire initiative in place as soon as possible.
The Canadian government’s total dismissal of the UN’s human rights experts’ opinions is especially disrespectful of Canada’s principles-oriented foreign policy tradition. On July 12th, John Baird issued an embarrassing statement to “reject” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay’s criticism of Israel’s response to rocket attacks from Gaza.
Also lacking in the Canadian political discourse, CJPME believes, is recognition of the overall context of the violence. Since 2007, Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza, condemned by the entire human rights community as illegal “collective punishment.” Palestinians also have very legitimate decades-long grievances concerning Israel’s occupation and colonization of their territory, the viability of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian population, and many other Israeli abuses of their human rights: denial of rights of movement and access, denial of due process, denial of equal protection under the law, among myriad other issues.
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