Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement bolsters Israel’s West Bank annexation attempts: CJPME report

Montreal, September 27, 2023 — A new report by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) warns that Canada’s trade policy with Israel operates as if Israel had already annexed the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), bolstering Israel’s attempts to annex the territory. Titled “Annexing Palestine Through Trade,” the report shows that through the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA), Canada has been treating all trade with the OPT as if it were “Israeli,” thus violating international law and rewarding Israel’s illegal settlement activity. CJPME’s report demonstrates that CIFTA’s benefits to Palestinians are grossly outweighed by its harms, and urges that the trade deal be suspended until Israel complies with international law.

CJPME notes that, unlike other trade deals, CIFTA has been transferred onto a third party, the Palestinians, and extends into militarily occupied territory over which Israel does not have sovereignty. Canadian officials have claimed in the past that this arrangement would support the peace process and boost Palestinian economic development. However, CJPME’s report shows that CIFTA undermines Palestinian rights and livelihoods by providing an economic incentive for Israel to consolidate its occupation and expand illegal settlements. The report also debunks claims that Palestinians benefit from CIFTA: first, by showing that Palestinians have not provided meaningful consent to be included under CIFTA; second, by revealing that Canada’s total trade with Palestine is a pittance, amounting to an estimated 0.5% of its trade with Israel.

“From the very beginning, Canadian officials were warned that CIFTA would have negative consequences for the Palestinian people, who have been inappropriately subsumed under the agreement,” said Michael Bueckert, Vice President of CJPME. CJPME notes that this policy is particularly problematic in the context of recent actions by Israel which amount to the illegal annexation of the West Bank. “By operating as if the OPT was ‘Israeli,’ CIFTA has emboldened Israel to consolidate its illegitimate control over occupied Palestine,” added Bueckert.

CJPME’s report urges the Canadian government to support Palestinian trade without upholding Israel’s oppressive structures of occupation and annexation. CJPME calls on Canada to:

  1. Suspend CIFTA until Israel ends its military occupation of the Palestinian territories, dismantles its apartheid policies, and complies with international law;
  2. Cease the practice of subsuming Palestinian trade under ‘Israel’ and start properly identifying, tracking, and reporting imports from the OPT;
  3. End all trade with Israel’s illegal settlements in the OPT by prohibiting the trade of goods, services, and investment;
  4. Negotiate directly with Palestinians regarding measures to promote trade in the OPT, including East Jerusalem;
  5. Protect Palestinian economic development by imposing consequences against Israel for any closures and restrictions on the movement of people and goods in the OPT, including the brutal and illegal 16-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.

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 Michael Bueckert, VP CJPME, 613-315-7947

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

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