Citizen Action Monitor

Open letter to PM Trudeau — Why his willingness to criticize Israel is an empty gesture

May you have abundant opportunities to practice your criticism of Israel — but make it criticism with accountability.

No 1634 Posted by fw, April 5, 2016

This post is a compilation of two recent posts into a concise letter, featuring key points from each. The posts are: Impunity defines PM Trudeau’s willingness to criticize Israel, March 28, 2016 and Trudeau’s claim that Israel’s values align with Canada’s values offends me, March 30, 2016.

Here is my letter.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

About a month ago you responded to questions put to you by citizens attending a global town hall event on foreign policy, hosted by The Huffington Post Canada. Selected portions of your responses, along with an accompanying video clip, were subsequently featured in a March 7 HuffPost story, Trudeau Says His Government Willing to Criticize Canada’s ‘Friend’ Israel.

With reference to the March 7 story, as a responsibly informed Canadian on the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict, your answers, presented below, do not stand up to my critical scrutiny.

Consider your answers, followed by my comments —

1/ “The fact is we’re taking a position that is much more in keeping with Canada’s position, Canada’s traditional approach, which is, first of all, recognize that 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 Canadian values…”

To make the astonishing declaration that Israel’s “values and an approach on many, many issues” align with Canada’s values deeply offends me. It is, to quote UK writer Stuart Littlewood, tantamount to aligning Canada with a “vile villainy”. Whatever meaning you may have intended when you uttered those words, here’s what I surmised: 1) you have consciously decided to remain willfully ignorant of the history of the region; 2) you are aware of the history but reject the relevance of morality in political decision making; and 3) in a calculated political move, you are preaching chapter and verse to your pro-Israel supporters here and abroad.

2/ [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…. That approach is much more in keeping with where Canada needs to be and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Quote 2 clearly illustrates that impunity underpins your willingness to criticize Israel. You can talk and talk and talk about the illegal settlements until you’re blue in the face, Israel responds with a slap in the face, the settlements continue to be built. What’s the point of criticism if there are no meaningful consequences attached to the message?

3/ There are times where we disagree with our friends and we will not hesitate from pointing that out. There are times when we agree with our friends and will stand with them. 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

As for quote 3, once again impunity drives your pro-Israel policy. Bottom line, your message to Israel is clear — We’ll stand by you no matter what you do to Palestinians. You have carte blanche. At worst, we may “point out’ to you where we disagree. But not to worry: “we will stand by our friends”. Long live impunity.

4/ 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.”

You refer to “…the double standard that’s often applied to Israel.” Really? How hypocritical. What about the Liberal’s own pro-Israel double standard? And once again, we find a resurrection of the worn-out platitude: “the two-state solution of a peaceful… blah, blah, blah. Not even your friend, Netanyahu, subscribes to this red herring any more. Its usefulness as a delaying tactic, during which new settlements were built, is no longer necessary.

Returning to quote 2, the benign “we won’t hesitate from talking about unhelpful steps “, is an empty gesture. Given the pronounced pro-Israel bias in the mainstream media, it is highly unlikely you will find much of anything to “talk about” with your “friend”. If you are at all serious about finding more substantial topics of conversation to discuss with the Israelis, I suggest that you have an advisor choose topics from the web pages of any of the dozens of online news and information sources that offer fairer, more balanced coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Here, for example, is a sample of 12 recent news items from an Israeli source, B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, established in 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members –

Finally, I leave you with Stuart Littlewood’s interpretation of the meaning and significance of what it really means to be a “friend of Israel”

  • It means embracing the terror and ethnic cleansing on which the state of Israel was built.
  • It means embracing the dispossession at gunpoint and oppression of the native Palestinians.
  • It means embracing the discriminatory laws against those who remain.
  • It means embracing the jackboot thuggery that abducts civilians, including children, and imprisons and tortures them without trial.
  • It means embracing the theft and annexation of Palestinian land and water resources, the imposition of hundreds of military checkpoints, severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods, and maximum interference with Palestinian life at every level.
  • It means embracing the strangulation of the West Bank’s economy and the cruel blockade on Gaza.
  • It means embracing the denial of Palestinians’ right to self-determination and return to their homes.
  • It means embracing the religious war that humiliates Muslims and Christians and prevents them from visiting their holy places.
  • It means endorsing a situation in which hard-pressed British and American taxpayers are having to subsidize Israel’s illegal occupation of the Holy Land.
  • And if, after the most recent bloodbaths inflicted by the Israelis on Gaza, you are still Israel’s special friend, you are comfortable with blowing to smithereens hundreds of children, maiming thousands more, trashing vital infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, power plants and clean water supplies, and causing USD 6 billion of devastation that will take 20 years to rebuild.

May you have abundant opportunities to practice your criticism of Israel — candid criticism with accountability, please.

Sincerely yours,

Frank White, etc

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