Palestinian demonstrators made it clear to Foreign minister John Baird that he was not welcome in Ramallah (or Jerusalem).
Many Canadians couldn’t help but smirk when John Baird was pelted with eggs and old shoes in Ramallah last week. Some might even say that Baird had it coming, after his provocative statements opposing almost every political initiative made by the beleaguered Palestinian government in recent months.
In fact, many had wondered why the Abbas government had taken such a pliant attitude towards Harper until now. Why would Abbas “make nice” with Harper when Canada appears to be doing every thing it can to frustrate Palestinian aspirations? Why roll out the welcome mat, when Canada is opposing Palestinian accession to the UN, opposing Palestinian accession to UNESCO, ignoring Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem (and most recently, even opposing Palestinian accession to the ICC).?
But the demonstration in Ramallah seems to show a change in attitude in the Palestinian political leadership toward Canada. Most observers feel that the demonstration would not have taken place without the support of the Fatah movement, of which President Abbas is a member.
Further evidence comes from a very powerful op ed which appeared in the Globe and Mail on the eve of Baird’s visit to Israel/Palestine by Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the PLO. Entitled “It is John Baird who needs to apologize to the Palestinian people“, it was the strongest public criticism of Canadian policy ever penned by a leading Palestinian politician.
Mr. Baird should apologize for his active encouragement of Israel’s brute and ugly occupation and its apartheid policies. He should apologize for failing to promote those things Canadians hold dear such as freedom, dignity and human rights and for replacing those ideals with an outspoken support of Israel’s clear and undisputed violations of international law.
Saeb Erekat, Chief Negotiator for the PLO
What has caused this hardening of position?
Certainly one element is Baird’s decision to forcefully oppose Palestinian membership in the International Criminal Court. During a press conference with right wing Israeli politician, Mr. Baird repeated that the Palestinians have made a “huge mistake” and crossed a “red line” in making their application. The logic is not clear, as the ICC was set up in part at Canada’s instigation to deal with situations where local legal systems were not able to deal with crimes. That would appear to be the case here where alleged Israeli war crimes have not been satisfactorily dealt with.
But a second element has to have been Baird’s provocative decision to meet Israeli officials in East Jerusalem – for the second time in two years. No other western country has done this – not even the USA. This is land that Canada “officially” recognizes as part of the Occupied West Bank, but Baird ignores official Canadian policy. Erekat continues:
While the whole of the international community condemns Israel for its systematic policy of demolishing Palestinian homes and forcibly displacing Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem, Mr. Baird has decided to legitimize Israel’s illegal, de facto annexation of the city by meeting an Israeli minister in Occupied East Jerusalem.
The change in the PLO’s attitude toward Baird was welcomed by the Palestinian community in Canada. “Palestinian Canadians have been dismayed by the Canadian government’s lack of interest in the human rights of Palestinians”, said Burhan Shahrouri, President of the Association of Palestinian Arab Canadians. “We are happy that the government in Ramallah is making it clear to Foreign Minister Baird that ignoring our rights is not acceptable.”