CJPME Appalled by Minister Joly’s Meeting with Far-Right Israeli Government

Montreal, March 18, 2023 Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is appalled by the decision of Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly to meet with her Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen this week. This was the first meeting between Minister Joly and Israel’s far-right government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, which has been in power since the end of 2022. CJPME identifies Cohen as a far-right extremist and annexationist, who has said that Palestinian citizens of Israel can “move to Gaza on a one-way ticket.” According to the readout of the meeting, Minister Joly expressed concerns about violence against Israelis but did not confront Israel on its escalation of violence and oppression against Palestinians. CJPME reiterates its call for Canada to send a strong message in support of human rights and international law by imposing a diplomatic boycott on Israel’s far-right regime.

“Minister Joly’s friendly meeting with Israel’s foreign minister lends legitimacy to this far-right and dangerous regime, which has already killed more than 80 Palestinians this year,” said Michael Bueckert, Vice President of CJPME. Almost 2,000 Canadians have written to the Minister requesting that she boycott all meetings with Israel’s far-right government, which poses an immediate threat to the safety of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. “Canada’s decision to continue business as usual with Israeli extremism demonstrates a shocking disregard for Palestinian lives,” added Bueckert.

CJPME notes that the readout of the meeting between Minister Joly and Israeli Minister Cohen takes a warm tone, speaking of an “enduring friendship” and “shared values,” and congratulating Israel on upcoming celebrations. While the readout also mentions issues of democracy and Israel’s illegal settlements, these are presented as statements of existing Canadian policy, rather than posed as a direct challenge to Israel’s current actions. Moreover, only violence against Israelis is specifically acknowledged. Although the readout mentions “deep concerns” over the “recent escalation of violence in Israel and the West Bank,” these are presented as issues of security and a need to “restore calm,” rather than expressing concern over Israel’s human rights record or the impact of its actions on Palestinians.

CJPME notes that Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen is himself a far-right anti-Palestinian extremist, who supports annexing the occupied West Bank. Last year, Cohen sponsored a bill to ban Israeli institutions from displaying the Palestinian flag, saying of Palestinian citizens of Israel: “those who view themselves as Palestinian, by the way, will receive all the assistance they need from us to move to Gaza on a one-way ticket.” While this was Minister Joly’s first meeting with Israel’s far-right government, CJPME has raised concerns over Trade Minister Ng’s meeting with her counterpart, Israeli MK Ofir Akunis, who has similarly promoted the annexation of the occupied West Bank and says that only the Jewish people have any right to the territory under Israeli control. CJPME has also expressed concerns over a meeting between three Senators and Israeli MK Amir Ohana, who has said that Muslims are prone to “cultural murderousness.”

Minister Joly’s meeting took place only weeks after fascist Israeli minister Bezalel Smotrich said that the Palestinian town of Huwara should be “wiped out,” shortly following Israel’s advancement of 15 new illegal settlements and 7,000 new settlement units, and on the same day as an Israeli military invasion of the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank. During that invasion, Israeli forces executed four Palestinians in broad daylight in the middle of a crowded city centre, including a 14-year-old who was shot in the back as he was riding his bike.