No 707 Posted by fw, April 01, 2013
In a November 26, 2012 post, I asked: Are Canadian MPs afraid to speak candidly and factually about Israeli culpability in the Gaza conflict? As it turns out there is at least one MP, Jean-Francois Fortin, who is not afraid to speak out. Not surprisingly, Mr Fortin is a member of Bloc Québécois, a party with just 5 seats in Parliament.
Below is the transcript of an exchange between Fortin and Harper MP Bob Dechert. (Thanks to Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) for linking to this item in its recent email update).
Mr. Speaker, since 1967, Israel has been colonizing the occupied Palestinian territories, doing such things as establishing colonies, creating bypass roads for the exclusive use of Jews, installing checkpoints and building a so-called security wall that crosses deep into Palestinian territory.
Since 1967, Israel has sent more than 500,000 Israeli Jews to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, an area that is set to be the future capital of the Palestinian state. Israel currently has approximately 120 recognized colonies and 100 unrecognized outposts that are illegally located on Palestinian land.
Colonies cover only 2% of occupied Palestinian land. However, including the road network for the exclusive use of Israelis, military bases and buffer zones around the colonies and on either side of the wall, which are completely inaccessible to Palestinians, more than 40% of the West Bank is under Israeli control.
It is widely acknowledged in the international community, by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, that the establishment of Israeli colonies represents an obstacle to peace and to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The construction of colonies on Palestinian land is creating a situation that is making it increasingly difficult to implement a solution in both countries, from both a political and logistic standpoint. This is a de facto strategy that allows authorities to establish illegal settlements of colonists and then say that uprooting these people would be unfair and impractical from a political and logistic standpoint.
The expansion of Israeli infrastructure and its security system from actual Israeli territory into the colonies also poses economic and political problems for Palestinians.
The colonies are illegal under various provisions of international law. Article 49, paragraph 6, of the fourth Geneva Convention, which Israel signed, stipulates that:
The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
What is more:
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) also expressly identifies the transfer of an Occupying power’s own civilian population to the territory it occupies as a war crime punishable by the ICC.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice gave a formal ruling to the effect that Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, violated international law.
Many human rights reports found that Israeli colonies and their associated institutions inherently violate international law. These colonies and their related infrastructure, such as checkpoints and roads for exclusive Israeli use, severely restrict Palestinians’ access to jobs, lands, schools and hospitals.
Will the government tell us why it is refusing to clearly and publicly speak out against the Israeli colonies and infrastructure in occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem?
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening with the opportunity to once again remind the member of Canada’s principled Middle East policy, which is not immoral, as he wrongly implies. In fact, Canadians can be proud of our government’s principled policy and, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs stated in his original response to the question, Canada has been and remains “…a strong supporter of the peace process”.
Our position is well known, and it is the same as it has always been. We are committed to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East whereby two states live side by side in peace and security. We have been clear that all unilateral actions are ultimately unhelpful to the cause of peace. This of course includes the Palestinian Authority’s provocative action and rhetoric at the UN General Assembly, which would obviously elicit a response from Israel.
The hon. member implies that we do not support the Palestinian society. Again, I remind him of the minister’s response to this exact question. We are delivering on our commitment to provide assistance, with $300 million geared toward supporting the security and justice sectors, sustainable economic development and humanitarian needs. This assistance has been well received not only by the Palestinian Authority but also by Israel and the United States.
Canada’s position has been consistent and it has been clear. We continue to believe that the final status issues are to be resolved between the two parties. We continue to urge the two parties to return to negotiations without pre-conditions.
Mr. Jean-François Fortin:
Mr. Speaker, a recent statement from the Minister of Foreign Affairs was shocking, to say the least. At the most recent annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee held in early March, the minister said that the Palestinian authority could face serious consequences, specifically a possible end to aid delivered by Canada, if it files a legal complaint against Israel before the International Criminal Court regarding disputed territories in the West Bank.
It is completely appalling that a cabinet minister would threaten to punish the weakest party in a conflict, the Palestinians, simply because they ask the ICC to examine the status of the Israeli settlements and give a ruling.
Can the government also tell us why it is threatening the Palestinian authority if it turns to the International Criminal Court—a body created by the international community to protect civilians from war crimes—on the issue of Israeli settlements?
Mr. Bob Dechert:
Mr. Speaker, I actually attended that conference and heard the minister’s speech. I can assure the member that no such threat was made. However, I must reject the premise of the member’s question.
Our government’s position is clear. The only way to achieve a just and lasting peace is through direct negotiations between the parties. Unilateral actions on either side are unhelpful to the peace process, and we have conveyed this to both parties. Canada is maintaining its $300 million in assistance to the Palestinian authority, but we will not recognize a Palestinian state prior to a negotiated peace agreement with Israel.
We continue to be committed to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East whereby two states live side by side in peace and security.
As the Minister of Foreign Affairs noted in his speech to the UN General Assembly on November 29 of last year, the importance of a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rooted in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and has been a consistent theme for the last 45 years.
I can assure the member that Canada remains committed to this path.
Re Dechert’s claim, above, “that no such threat was made”, here are Baird’s exact words, which sure sound like a threat to me:
“We were very clear from the outset that further actions, like we’ve seen at UNESCO, like we’ve seen at the United Nations, particularly at the International Criminal Court, will be ones which will not go unnoticed and will have certainly consequences in the conduct of our relations with the Palestinian Authority.” Source: CBC’s Evan Solomon no match for Palestinian spokesperson in televised interview posted March 11, 2013.