No 1627 Posted by fw, March 28, 2016
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will be a frank voice in the Middle East, even if that means criticizing a friend and ally in Israel. Trudeau made the remarks Monday at a global town hall hosted by The Huffington Post Canada, dedicated entirely to foreign policy. Paul Darlaston, a HuffPost reader, asked the prime minister why he appeared unwilling to differentiate his government from the past Conservative leadership by calling out Israeli actions that ‘block the peace process.’ Trudeau said one need only tune into question period to see how opposition Tories are already accusing the new government of not being as supportive to the Jewish state. He said the position of his government is more in line with Canada’s ‘traditional approach’ to Israel and the Palestinians. ‘Israel is a friend, Israel is an ally, Israel is a country that has values and an approach on many, many issues that are very much aligned with Canadians values,’ Trudeau said. ‘But, at the same time… we won’t hesitate from talking about unhelpful steps like the continued illegal settlements. We will point that out. We will continue to engage in a forthright and open way because that’s what people expect of Canada.’” —Huffington Post
The above passage is taken from the opening of a short HuffPost article, Trudeau Says His Government Willing To Criticize Canada’s ‘Friend’ Israel by Ryan Maloney, Huffington Post, March 7, 2016.
As well, here are two other comments by Trudeau excerpted from the same source.
“There are times we disagree with our friends and we will not hesitate from pointing that out. There are times we agree with our friends and will stand with them,” he said. “And there are times we will disagree with our friends, but we will stand by our friends. We’ve all had that friend we’ve had to do that for.”
Trudeau said that UN votes singling out Israel aren’t an effective or helpful part of international discourse. That position isn’t going to change now that Liberals are in charge, he said. “The demonization, the de-legitimization or the double standard that’s often applied to Israel is not helping reach the two-state solution of a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state alongside a peaceful, democratic Israel,” Trudeau said.
Turning to the discussion…
First, are the Liberals following policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that were crafted by the Harper regime?
According to the Government’s web page, the date that Canadian Policy on Key Issues in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, was last modified was June 24, 2015 — when the Harper government was still in office. In other words, unwittingly or not, the Liberals have adopted Conservative goernment policies. Otherwise, why would these policies still appear on the government website?
Second, critically analysing Trudeau’s answers to questions about Liberal willingness to criticize Israel
So we know our PM is willing to criticize Israel. However, for criticism to be effective, meaningful consequences must be attached to the message; otherwise, it will simply be ignored. And it is with this comment that we encounter the first of several times that Trudeau refers to Israel as “a friend and ally”.
Note how Trudeau changes the subject when asked about “calling out Israeli actions that ‘block the peace process.’” He deftly shifts the focus away from “calling out Israelis” over to the Tories’ question period accusations. He could just as easily have referred listeners/readers to the Conservative/Liberal policy Support for a comprehensive peace settlement: “the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.” Perhaps no one would have noticed that this relic from the past – one that not even Netanyahu takes seriously anymore – has lived long past its birth date of 1993.
Canada’s “traditional approach”? What, pray tell, is that? Is that the one mentioned above: Canadian Policy on Key Issues in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict? Alas, Trudeau doesn’t elaborate. And the journalists don’t bother with a follow-up question. Well whatever the “traditional approach” is, one thing is certain – it will be pro-Israel.
One wonders — do most Canadians accept that Israel’s values are “very much aligned with Canadian values”? Does that include the slaughter of innocent civilians, building separation walls, occupying our neighbour’s territory, imprisoning children, bulldozing homes and olive gardens…? And there’s Trudeau’s second reminder, as if we needed one, that “Israel is a friend.” What does that make Palestine? Trudeau’s silence is deafening.
We can talk and talk and talk about the illegal settlements until we’re blue in the face. And Israel ignores us — and Washington. The settlements continue to be built. To repeat, what’s the point of criticism if there are no meaningful consequences attached to the message? By now, Netanyahu probably sees this not as criticism but as a mild irritant. In fact, settlement concerns are even mentioned in the Canadian Policy on Key Issues web page under the heading Occupied territories and Settlements: “As referred to in UN Security Council Resolutions 446 and 465, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.” Don’t waste your breath, Mr. Trudeau, nobody on the Israeli side is listening.
Yet a third reminder that Israel is “our friend”. Is this repetition Trudeau’s way of reassuring Canada’s pro-Israeli supporters? More to the point, is this passage supposed to serve as a sample of the PM’s erudition, his profound wisdom? Bottom line, Trudeau’s message is: We’ll stand by the Israelis no matter what they do to Palestinians. They have carte blanche. A slap on the wrist perhaps, but no serious consequences.
“A double standard that’s often applied to Israel.” Really? How hypocritical. What about the Liberal’s own pro-Israel double standard? And again, a resurrection of the worn-out platitude: “the two-state solution of a peaceful… blah, blah, blah.
Third, can’t find anything about Israel to criticize, prime minister? Try these, from an Israeli source, a veritable treasure trove of information —
B’TSELEM – B’Tselem in Hebrew literally means “in the image of,” and is also used as a synonym for human dignity. B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, was established in February 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members. It endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel.
Here is a sample of just 16 recent stories from B’Tselem’s web pages.
Statement of Solidarity: Israeli human rights and civil society organizations condemn attacks against Al-Haq — Israeli human rights and civil society organizations condemn in the strongest possible terms the ongoing anonymous attacks against Palestinian human rights organizations, and most recently against Al-Haq.
Girl aged 12 imprisoned for four months; probably the youngest prisoner in the history of the occupation — Though exceptional, this case illustrates the manner in which the military judicial system tramples defendants’ rights. Instead of ensuring that justice is done, this system seeks to preserve the occupation regime.
Restrictions on movement in Bab al-Majles in Jerusalem’s Old City place neighborhood in chokehold — the neighborhood has been under a chokehold since the police put up a checkpoint at its entrance in the summer of 2014, imposing severe access restrictions, which severely harmed residents’ lives and livelihoods. This is collective punishment of the entire neighborhood.
Statistics on Settlements and Settler Population — As of the end of 2013, there are 125 government-sanctioned Israeli settlements in the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem and settlement enclaves within Hebron).
Hope B’Tselem, and the dozens more online sources just like it, helps our PM find out when criticism of Israel is warranted. May he have abundant opportunities to practice criticism — criticism with consequences.