Sheepish on annexation, Canada shouldn't be awarded UN seat

Sheepish on Israeli annexation, Canada should not be rewarded with UN seat
4 min read
Comment: Canada is failing to uphold any semblance of respect for international law, a seat at the UN's top table should be out of the question, writes Jillian Kestler D'amours.
Canada is vying for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council [Getty]
In less than a month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be able to bring forward his plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, cementing Israel's de facto control over the Palestinian territory.

The move is an egregious violation of international law - and one that Netanyahu has been given license to pursue as part of a coalition government deal with his political rival, ex-Israeli army chief Benny Gantz.

But while the Israeli annexation plan has been rightfully condemned by rights groups, Palestinian leaders, and several countries, a place that prides itself on being a global human rights leader remained silent until just this week: Canada.

I suppose that is not entirely true.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated Netanyahu for forming a government and "expressed Canada's continued support for Israel as a friend and ally" in a phone call on May 18, when details of the annexation plan were widely known.

"The two leaders discussed ways to continue strengthening their bilateral relationship," according to a read out from Trudeau's office.

Canada appears to have rewarded Netanyahu for his intransigence with a promise to strengthen its ties to Israel while ignoring the Israeli premier's stated goal of subjecting millions of Palestinians to never-ending military rule.

All this is happening as the Canadian government is vying for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Months of lobbying and diplomacy have led to a contest between Canada, Ireland and Norway, and a vote is expected later in June.

Such platitudes do little when Canada never takes real action to try to end Israel's occupation

There is a plethora of reasons that Canada should not get a seat.

But top among them: Why should Canada be rewarded with a spot at the table when it has repeatedly shown its unwillingness to stand up to its supposed "friends and allies" when they engage in human rights abuses and violations of international law?

This week, dozens of former Canadian diplomats and ambassadors in the Middle East urged Trudeau to speak out against the Israeli annexation plan. "As former Canadian diplomats, we urge you to protect Canada's good name in the international community by speaking loudly and clearly on this issue," they wrote.

A spokesman for Canada's foreign affairs department told CBC News the government "is very concerned that Israel moving forward with unilateral annexation would be damaging to peace negotiations and contrary to international law".

On June 2, Trudeau finally addressed the criticism, saying he raised with Netanyahu and Gantz "the importance of staying away from measures that are unilateral and our deep concerns and disagreement with their proposed policy of annexation".

But such platitudes - the first since the Israeli annexation plan was confirmed - do little when Canada never takes real action to try to end Israel's occupation.

In fact, while Donald Trump's support for Netanyahu has drawn international headlines, Canada has for decades sided with Israel to the detriment of Palestinian rights - and that trend has continued under Trudeau's leadership.

In the last years, Ottawa has overwhelmingly voted alongside the US in defense of Israel at the UN, lambasted the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, and deepened its economic relationship with Israel.

In a visit to Israel in 2018, Chrystia Freeland, now Canada's deputy prime minister, said the country would act as an "asset for Israel" if it secures the UN seat.

Recently, the Canadian government raised opposition to the International Criminal Court's plan to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, saying it did not believe the court had jurisdiction over the matter.

That talking point is straight out of Israel's playbook, as Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders have for years sought to delegitimise the international tribunal.

Now, by providing cover for Israel's annexation plan - a move that will without a doubt lead to even more aggressive colonisation, more widespread dispossession, and myriad rights abuses - Canada is failing to uphold any semblance of respect for international law.

Canada has for decades sided with Israel to the detriment of Palestinian rights

The time is long past for statements of "concern" or pledges of support for a two-state solution that will never happen.

Palestinian rights groups said as much in a recent report to the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Michael Lynk.

"If genuine and meaningful accountability for widespread and systematic human rights violations… is to be attained," the groups wrote, then states and multilateral organisations "must take positive, effective, and coercive measures to ensure international justice and accountability and the fulfilment of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people".

In other words, Canada needs to do more to stop Israel's human rights abuses against Palestinians. Until then, it does not deserve a seat at the UN's top table. 

Jillian Kestler D'Amours is a journalist based in Canada.

Follow her on Twitter: @jkdamours

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.