CJPME condemns Canada’s suspension of UNRWA funding as collective punishment

Montreal, January 27, 2024 — Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is outraged by Canada’s decision to suspend funding for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, based on unproven Israeli allegations against a few of its employees. UNRWA is the main humanitarian agency providing services to the population of Gaza. Yesterday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concluded it is plausible that Israeli-imposed conditions of life in Gaza, including the deprivation of food and water, could be acts of genocide. CJPME urges Canada to immediately reverse its political decision against UNRWA, increase its financial support to the agency, and put concrete pressure on Israel to end its genocidal war and siege.

“Canada’s suspension of UNRWA aid is a hypocritical act of collective punishment against a refugee population facing genocide,” said Michael Bueckert, Vice President of CJPME. “The timing of the announcement appears to have been designed to distract from the ICJ’s order that Israel must prevent genocide in Gaza. Instead of urging Israel to comply with those orders, Canada has joined a political attack on the victims of genocide,” added Bueckert.

CJPME notes that Israel’s allegation – that 12 of UNRWA’s 30,000 employees may have participated in the October 7 Hamas attack – has not been proven and must be approached with significant caution. It is reported that Israel’s allegations were attained through interrogation, in a context in which Israel routinely uses torture to gain forced confessions from detainees, including children. Moreover, CJPME notes that UNRWA has already taken immediate precautionary steps to fire the accused employees and launch an investigation into the allegations, making Canada’s suspension of funding unwarranted and gratuitous. “It is impossible not to notice how Canada has acted immediately to punish UNRWA based on Israeli claims, while Canada has taken no action to censure Israel for acts which the ICJ views as plausibly genocidal,” said Bueckert. CJPME notes that of the 26,000+ Palestinians killed by Israel, at least 152 of them have been UNRWA employees, while there are 253 documented incidents of Israeli attacks on UNRWA schools and facilities since Oct. 7.

CJPME does not believe it is a coincidence that Canada’s decision to downgrade its humanitarian support to Gaza coincided with the initial decision of the ICJ on South Africa’s application against Israel. In its ruling, the ICJ noted the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza and determined that Israel’s actions could plausibly amount to genocide. The ICJ ordered Israel to “take all measures within its power” to prevent all acts that could fall within the Genocide Convention, including “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” The court also ordered that Israel “must take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” CJPME has noted that Canada’s response to the ICJ ruling neither expressed support for it, nor called on Israel to comply with its legally binding provisions.

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 www.cjpme.org

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