Letter to Minister Joly: Canada must act against state-sponsored settler violence

Montreal, December 15, 2023 - CJPME has sent to Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly urging action against state-sponsored settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Click here to download the full letter as a PDF

Dear Ms. Joly,

I am writing to you on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) to urge the Canadian government to take immediate action to address the epidemic of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

I note with appreciation your recent statement calling to “hold those responsible for the violence accountable under the law,”[1] and today’s joint statement with the UK and EU which notes that “Israel's failure to protect Palestinians and prosecute extremist settlers has led to an environment of near complete impunity.”[2] With reports that the US, UK, and EU are taking steps to impose visa bans on Israeli settlers involved in violence,[3] I urge Canada to follow their lead and announce similar measures immediately. This is the very least that Canada could do.

However, an approach to settler violence that focuses on a handful of individuals would not be sufficient. All available evidence suggests that the primary responsibility for the skyrocketing levels of settler violence rests with the Israeli government, which has encouraged acts of violence against Palestinians while refusing to enforce the law against settlers. Therefore, any meaningful action must include measures to hold Israeli officials accountable for settler-state violence.

Israeli minister support for settler terrorism

I want to draw your attention to an alarming report from Israel’s Channel 12 News which alleged that Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has instructed senior officers not to enforce the law against settlers who commit violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.[4] Ben-Gvir has not denied the claim.[5] As emphasized by Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, “instructing the police not to enforce the law against nationalist Jewish terrorism is tantamount to endorsing violence against Palestinians and providing impunity for such activities.”[6]

These allegations are eminently credible as they are consistent with Ben-Gvir’s entire career, which has involved consistent support for Israeli settler terrorism against Palestinians:

  • He is the leader of Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), a far-right and racist party with origins in Kahanism, a fascist and terroristic movement which calls for the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel.[7]
  • He is a former youth activist in the Kach party, which is proscribed as a terrorist organization in Canada, Israel, and the US.[8]
  • He has openly celebrated the Kahanist terrorist Baruch Goldstein as a hero.[9] In 1994, Goldstein killed 29 Palestinian worshippers in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque. Ben-Gvir dressed up as Goldstein for a TV interview when he was 18, and until very recently he had a portrait of Goldstein – posing in front of the Ibrahimi Mosque – hanging in his home. 
  • He was convicted in 2008 of racist incitement and support for a terrorist organization for “waving a sign that read ‘Arabs out’ after a terror attack in Jerusalem, as well as having signs in his car that read ‘Either us or them’ and ‘There is a solution – expel the Arab enemy.’” [10]
  • He has repeatedly celebrated settler extremists. For example, following a series of violent attacks and vandalism by settlers in June of this year, Ben-Gvir referred to the perpetrators as “sweet boys.”[11]
  • He recently announced that his ministry was purchasing 10,000 assault rifles to arm Jewish Israeli civilians in the OPT and areas within Israel with significant Palestinian populations, which risks directly arming the perpetrators of settler terrorism.[12]

We can no longer pretend that it is normal for a lifelong supporter of ideologically motivated terrorism against Palestinians to be responsible for Israel’s national security. Action must be taken immediately to protect Palestinian lives.

Settler violence as state violence

Unfortunately, state support for settler violence goes far beyond one individual. 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. The UN reports that “nearly half” of recorded incidents of settler violence since Oct. 7, “Israeli forces were either accompanying or reportedly seen as supporting the attackers.”[13] Israeli settlers and soldiers have been documented working together as ‘joint militias’ to attack Palestinians in May 2021[14] and October 2023.[15] Israel’s largest human rights organization B’Tselem has concluded that settler violence should be considered a form of state violence: “settler violence is a form of government policy, aided and abetted by official state authorities with their active participation.”[16] Similarly, Yesh Din argues that Israel’s systemic failure to pursue action against settlers “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.”[17]

Not only is Israel incapable of upholding the rights and safety of Palestinians, as it is obliged to do as an occupying power, but Israeli authorities are contributing to the extrajudicial violence and acts of terror against an occupied population. This violence has a specific political purpose: pushing Palestinians off of their lands. The unavoidable conclusion is that Israeli settler violence is a form of state-backed terrorism, and should be treated as such.

Annexing Palestine Through Trade

Finally, it is necessary to point out that Canadian trade policy has contributed to this environment of impunity by extending free trade privileges to Israel’s illegal settlements. In this way, the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) provides a material incentive for Israel’s ongoing colonization and annexation of Palestinian territory.[18] Canada must take immediate action to ensure that its agreements with Israel are not enabling or assisting Israel in actions which violate international law.


At a minimum, we demand that Canada immediately:

  • Follow the US, UK and EU in imposing a visa ban on individuals involved in and responsible for settler violence. This list should be based on clear and public criteria, and include settler individuals, military officers and political leaders.
  • Impose strict sanctions on Israeli National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir for his facilitation of acts of terrorism against Palestinians in the OPT.
  • Investigate whether there are grounds for designating Israel as a state supporter of terrorism under the State Immunity Act,[19] which would allow victims to bring civil action against Israel for losses or damages from an act of terrorism with links to Israel committed anywhere in the world;
  • Immediately suspend two-way military trade with Israel and investigate whether Canadian-manufactured weapons have been implicated in acts of terrorism against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.[20]
  • Suspend the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) and prohibit the trade of goods, services, and investment with Israel’s illegal settlements.

We request a meeting with you to discuss Canada’s response to this serious threat to Palestinian human rights and international law. I look forward to hearing from you regarding this matter.



Michael Bueckert, PhD

Vice President

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East



Rob Oliphant, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in New York City

Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group

Michael Chong, Conservative Foreign Affairs critic

Heather McPherson, NDP Foreign Affairs Critic

Stéphane Bergeron, Bloc Québécois Foreign Affairs critic
Elizabeth May, Co-Leader of the Green Party

Lisa Stadelbauer, Ambassador of Canada to Israel
David Da Silva, Representative of Canada to the Palestinian Authority


[1] Global Affairs Canada, “Statement on increase in Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in West Bank,” November 20, 2023, https://www.canada.ca/en/global-affairs/news/2023/11/statement-on-increase-in-israeli-settler-violence-against-palestinians-in-west-bank.html

[2] Haaretz, 'Environment of Near Complete Impunity': Britain Leads a 15-nation Call on Israel to Tackle Settler Violence, December 14, 2023, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-12-15/ty-article/britain-leads-15-nation-call-on-israel-to-tackle-west-bank-settler-violence/0000018c-6d31-d798-adac-edbf772b0000

[3] Haaretz, “Banning Violent Settlers: U.S. and Europe Formulating Criteria on Who Will Be Refused Entry,” December 14, 2023, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-12-14/ty-article/.premium/banning-violent-settlers-u-s-europe-formulating-criteria-on-who-will-be-refused-entry/0000018c-6914-db38-a9fc-e9b632200000

[4] Mako, “המסמך שהוגש לרמטכ"ל וחוות הדעת של ראש השב"כ על הוראת בן גביר,” November 23, 2023, https://www.mako.co.il/tv-ilana_dayan/2023/Article-fcb9b89df8dfb81026.htm?sCh=3d385dd2dd5d4110&pId=1434139730

[5] Gianluca Pacchiani, “Video shows Israeli extremists assaulting Palestinians in their West Bank homes,” Times of Israel, November 29, 2023, https://www.timesofisrael.com/video-shows-israeli-extremists-assaulting-palestinians-in-their-west-bank-homes/

[6] Yesh Din, “Urgent Letter Regarding the Alleged Instruction Given by the Minister of National Security Not to Enforce the Law on Ideologically Motivated Crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank,” November 27, 2023, https://s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/files.yesh-din.org/Urgent+letter+regarding+the+alleged+instruction+not+to+investigate+ideologically+motivated+crime+FINAL+291123.pdf

[7] Noam Sheizaf, “Kahanism’s triumphant makeover,” +972 Magazine, October 3, 2022, https://www.972mag.com/ben-gvir-kahanism-election/; Institute for Middle East Understanding, “Factsheet: Meir Kahane & The Extremist Kahanist Movement,” February 23, 2021, https://imeu.org/article/fact-sheet-meir-kahane-the-extremist-kahanist-movement

[8] Public Safety Canada describes Kach as follows: “Kahane Chai (Kach) is a marginal, extremist Jewish entity whose goal is the restoration of the biblical state of Israel, replacing democracy with theocracy. Kahane Chai (Kach) advocates expelling Arabs from Israel, expanding Israel's boundaries to include the occupied territories and parts of Jordan, and the strict implementation of Jewish law in Israel. Kahane Chai (Kach) has openly espoused violence against Arabs and the Israeli government as a viable method for establishing a religiously homogenous state. Its activities have included threats to government officials and infrastructure, grenade attacks, armed violence, and bombings.” Public Safety Canada, “Currently listed entities,” entry on Kahane Chai (Kach), listed May 24, 2005 and last reviewed November 21, 2018, https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/lstd-ntts/crrnt-lstd-ntts-en.aspx#42 .

[9] New Yorker, “Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s Minister of Chaos,” February 20, 2023, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2023/02/27/itamar-ben-gvir-israels-minister-of-chaos

[10] “Netanyahu Taps Ben-Gvir to Head Team ‘Fighting Terror Incitement by Palestinians,’” Haaretz, February 19, 2023, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-02-19/ty-article/.premium/ben-gvir-to-head-team-that-will-fight-terror-incitement-by-palestinians/00000186-6a21-dba0-a5c6-7a7dec6a0000

[11] Haaretz, “Israel's Ben-Gvir Laments Shin Bet Is Over-focusing on Jewish, Not Arab Crime,” June 29, 2023, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-06-29/ty-article/.premium/israels-ben-gvir-says-shin-bet-is-over-focusing-on-jewish-not-arab-crime/00000189-068b-dddc-a1d9-ce8b89fd0000

[12] Jeremy Sharon, “Ben Gvir says 10,000 assault rifles purchased for civilian security teams,” Times of Israel, October 10, 2023, https://www.timesofisrael.com/ben-gvir-says-10000-assault-rifles-purchased-for-civilian-security-teams/

[13] United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel | Flash Update #69,” December 14, 2023, https://www.ochaopt.org/content/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-flash-update-69

[14] Yuval Abraham, “Joint Militias: On a Single Day in May, Israeli Settlers and Soldiers Cooperated in Attacks That Left Four Palestinians Dead,” The Intercept, July 15, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/07/15/israel-army-settlers-palestinians-killed/

[15] Hamdan Mohammed Al-Huraini, “Settler-soldier militias threaten Susiya with death and displacement,” +972 Magazine, October 31, 2023, https://www.972mag.com/susiya-settler-soldier-militia-displacement/

[16] B’Tselem, “Settler Violence = State Violence,” November 2021, https://www.btselem.org/settler_violence

[17] Yesh Din, “Data Sheet, December 2022: Law Enforcement on Israeli Civilians in the West Bank (Settler violence) 2005-2022,” https://www.yesh-din.org/en/data-sheet-december-2022-law-enforcement-on-israeli-civilians-in-the-west-bank-settler-violence-2005-2022/

[18] CJPME, “Annexing Palestine Through Trade,” September 2023, https://www.cjpme.org/annexing_palestine_through_trade

[19] Government of Canada, State Immunity Act (1985), https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/S-18/page-1.html. Canada listed Iran under this act in 2012, which “allows victims to bring civil action against Iran for losses or damages from an act of terrorism with links to Iran committed anywhere in the world.” Palestinians and other victims of terrorism with links to Israel should have the same rights.

[20] For detailed information and recommendations, see CJPME’s Policy Paper: Leveraging Canada’s Arms Trade to End the Violence in Gaza, https://www.cjpme.org/pp_2023_12_arms