Montreal, June 29, 2023 - CJPME has sent to Lisa Stadelbauer, Canada's Ambassador to Israel, regarding a recent statement by Canada on Israeli settler terrorism.
Dear Lisa Stadelbauer,
I’m writing to you on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME, https://www.cjpme.org) to express concern and seek additional information regarding Canada’s statement on settler violence as published by the “Canada in Israel” Twitter account on June 28, 2023.
Canada's statement was published several days after last week’s series of horrifying violent attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank. Canada’s statement rightfully “condemn[ed] the violent attacks by extremist settlers targeting Palestinian civilians in Turmus Aya.” We were also glad to see that the previous week, Canada’s representative in Ramallah had also visited Turmus Ayya as part of a diplomatic delegation to show “solidarity” (although Canada did not sign the joint statement).
However, we are deeply concerned by the subsequent tweet which says that “Canada welcomes the joint statement from the heads of the Israel Defense Forces, Israel Security Agency and the Israel Police, as well as statements by other Israeli leaders condemning these acts.” In this statement, Canada appears to take Israeli forces and leaders at their word that they are serious about addressing the issue of settler violence. Moreover, Canada does not provide any further call to action: no calls for an investigation, no demands for improved procedures, no calls for justice for the victims, no suggestion that Israeli leaders will be held responsible for ongoing violence.
Regrettably, Canada’s position is simply inconsistent with the available evidence. It is well known that Israeli forces often actively participate in settler attacks against Palestinians, or use force to protect settlers from Palestinians who try to defend themselves. For this reason, Israel’s largest human rights organization B’Tselem has concluded that settler violence should be considered a form of state violence:
The state fully supports and assists these acts of violence, and its agents sometimes participate in them directly. As such, settler violence is a form of government policy, aided and abetted by official state authorities with their active participation.
Similarly, data from the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din shows that Israel systemically fails to pursue action against settlers who commit attacks against Palestinians: of 1,597 investigation files since 2005, only 7% led to an indictment and only 3% resulted in a conviction. Yesh Din concludes:
The fact that this is a longstanding systemic failure proves the State of Israel normalizes and supports ideologically motivated violence perpetrated by Israelis against Palestinians in the West Bank as a matter of policy and benefits from its effects.
We can see these issues in practice in recent settler attacks this year. More than four months after the settler pogrom against Huwara, not a single person has been prosecuted and most suspects were released within days of their arrest. Even though Israeli soldiers were present when Palestinian man Sameh Aqtash was shot and killed by Israeli fire (it is not known whether by soldiers or settlers), not a single person has been questioned. In fact, a CNN investigation found that Israeli forces were complicit in the attack on Huwara:
CNN found that, not only did the [Israeli] forces fail to stop the riots in Huwara, they did not protect residents as settlers set fire to Palestinian homes and businesses and blocked emergency services from responding. Instead, when residents threw rocks in reaction to the settlers’ aggression, Israeli forces fired at the Palestinians with tear gas and stun grenades, according to analysis of the footage and eyewitness accounts.
Similar issues were documented during last week’s settler attacks. For example, in the attack on Turmus Ayya, 27-year-old Palestinian Omar Qattin was shot and killed by Israeli police while he was trying to repel the settlers. Later that week, during an attack on Umm Safa, the settlers were protected by the Israeli military: "The Israeli army was with them and protected them … [they] lobbed tear gas and shot rubber bullets at us."
The examples above are only the tip of the iceberg. There is no reason to believe that the Israeli government is prepared to address these serious, systemic issues, or to end its tacit support for settler violence. Further, while some Israeli leaders have made formal statements opposing the settler attacks, others have justified or downplayed them: Israel’s National Security Minister Ben-Gvir, who is in charge of the police, even referred to the settler terrorists as “sweet boys.” In a situation as dangerous as this, it is not enough to take the word of Israeli officials who govern a brutal military occupation. Concrete changes must be demanded to protect Palestinians from Israeli state-settler violence, and Israeli officials should be held liable for these acts of terrorism.
Due to the serious concerns outlined above, we request clarification from you:
- What information has Canada received to substantiate the notion that Israeli authorities are prepared to make meaningful changes to address settler violence?
- What actions are being taken by Canada to hold Israeli authorities responsible for settler violence, and to protect Palestinians from future attacks?
We look forward to receiving your prompt reply.
Michael Bueckert, PhD
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
David Da Silva, Canada’s Representative to the Palestinian Authority
Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Rob Oliphant, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group