Let’s regain a reputation for fairness with respect to Israel/Palestine – some suggestions for Prime Minister-elect Trudeau

trudeau elect

As Prime Minister-elect Trudeau is at work deciding who will be in his cabinet, his key staff will also be drafting “mandate letters’ which give new ministers instructions on what the PM expects them to do in their portfolios. In an open letter, I make a number of suggestions with respect to the Israel/Palestine issue.  See my letter.

Open letter to Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau

Dear Prime Minister-elect Trudeau,

Congratulations on your spectacular victory on October 19th! Your calls for a fairer and more humane Canada resonated with Canadians everywhere. Based on your election campaign speeches, I am confident that you are interested in re-balancing Canadian foreign policy – including with respect to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, where in the last 10 years Canada has unabashedly touted its lop-sided support for Israel.

In order to help you do that, I would like to offer a number of concrete suggestions.

As you know, Canada is a relatively marginal player in the Middle East. But we can regain the moral high ground by adopting policies which are balanced, fair and realistic. The suggestions below are based on 4 guiding principles:

  1. They respect the existing policy guidelines on the official Canadian Foreign Affairs website despite being effectively ignored by the Harper government for the last 10 years.
  2. They reflect Canadian values of fairness, compassion and human rights for all. They do not advocate for either the Palestinians or the Israelis.
  3. They are consistent with international law.
  4. They are of minimal financial cost.

I hope you will consider them seriously.

Thank you in advance.

Peter Larson

Chair, National Education Committee on Israel/Palestine

Suggestions for inclusion in mandate letters

  1. To the Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Encourage and support full Israeli and Palestinian participation in the United Nations and all its various associated institutions.
  • Encourage both Israel and Palestine to join the International Criminal Court. Canada is proud to have played a key role in the founding of the ICC which was created to deal with war crimes and crimes against humanity which cannot be dealt with at the national level.
  • Announce that Canada will return to its traditional position of supporting nuclear non-proliferation in the Middle East as elsewhere. Call on all states in the region, including Israel, to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.
  • Ensure that Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom pays equal attention to defending the rights of Muslims as those of Christians and Jews. Specifically, s/he should prepare a report into the challenges facing Christian and Muslim Palestinians in Jerusalem, in the face of increasing Israeli impediments to attending churches and mosques
  1. To the Minister of Health
  • Move immediately to implement the proposal of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, Associate Professor of Global Health at the University of Toronto, to bring to Canada 100 children severely wounded in Israel’s most recent Gaza war. The offer should of course be equally open to any child – Israeli or Palestinian – wounded in the fighting. The idea was supported by the Government of Ontario and by the Canadian medical establishment.
  1. To the Government House leader
  • Organize an all-party fact finding delegation to visit Israel and Gaza as soon as possible. Canada’s ability to provide useful and balanced advice during the last “Gaza war” or assistance afterwards, has been impeded by the fact that we have very little knowledge or understanding of the Gaza situation. The delegation should report on its findings to Parliament.
  1. To the Minister of International Development
  • Reinstate Canadian funding to UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency, to its (modest) historical levels. UNRWA has continually warned about a major humanitarian catastrophe, particularly in Gaza, but also in Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Our major ally, the USA is the largest funder of UNRWA, and Canada should do its part to help our allies. The funding should be reviewed after 5 years.
  1. To the Minister of Revenue
  • Conduct a thorough review of the status of any tax exempt organization in Canada collecting money destined to conflict zones to ensure they reflect Canadian values of equality and democracy. This should include, but not be limited to, an examination of JNF Canada (JNF). According to the JNF’s own statutes, its funds are distributed in Israel on the basis of race and religion, a practice which most Canadians would find unacceptable.
  1. To the Minister of International Trade
  • Review the status of Canada’s free trade agreements to ensure that they respect all articles of our other international agreements. In particular, verify whether our recently upgraded agreement with Israel is in compliance with articles of the Geneva Accord on treatment of peoples in lands under occupation.
  1. To the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Move as expeditiously as possible to absorb 25,000 Syrian refugees in to Canada, many of whom are originally Palestinians expelled from Israel in 1948 and now made refugees a second time by the current violence.
  • Impose a visa requirement for visitors to Canada who live in any territory that Canada and the United Nations assess as “illegally occupied”.
  1. To the Minister of Finance
  • Establish clear rules and safe channels to allow Canadians to send humanitarian aid to the middle east. Many Palestinian Canadians in particular are frustrated that they cannot offer humanitarian aid to relatives living in terrible conditions in Gaza as a result of the Israeli blockade.

Mr. Trudeau,

I hope you agree with me that all these recommendations meet Canadian values of fairness and compassion. Canadians look forward to seeing how the new ministers carry out your new policy directions.

20 comments

  1. Peter,

    Good letter!

    I hope people at the Prime Minister–elect’s office will pass your letter on to him to read it himself, and not just give him a one short paragraph briefing about it.
    Thank you, Peter, for your humanity, and for consistently being true to Canadian values of fairness, compassion and human rights for all.

    Monzer

  2. Congrats Peter on a number of excellent policy suggestions, fully compatible with Canadian policies and values. They are a framework by which Canada can start again to contribute to a peaceful and just “two state solution”which is also a stated policy goal nationally and internationally.

    Such a solution should however have reasonable time limits and a framework for settlement involving all parties including Hamas, taking into account the great imbalance in power on the ground, the years of futile discussions following Oslo and the continuing prospects of disruptive violence to derail the “peace process.”

    The goal must be the establishment of a viable and independent State of Palestine to stand equally with Israel and resolve the outstanding Palestinian national issue .

    Good luck on your trip where you can be the precursor of a more balanced and focused Canadian policy on Israel Palestine.

  3. Excellent! Marina Kun (I tried to log in to make comment) I used my only email address and a password which I always used and they were not accepted.

  4. Thank you Peter,

    As a Palestinian, I can’t comment on your letter and suggestions to Mr. TRUDEAU and his Ministers, except saying great suggestion from a great man like you Peter.

    I hope to find a result of the Government’s Policy not in a short period, but i’m sure those will be done eventually,

    Then I’ll be proud of being Canadian of Palestinian origin.

    Thanks again.

  5. Thank you so much for this Peter. It will be really helpful as we work with our local people to finally get a sane humane truly Canadian approach to this situation.

  6. Peter, fabulous. I salute you for striking while the iron is hot. I hope the specific character of your proposals, distributed among the various ministries, will impress the PM and the cabinet by their thoroughness and thoughtfulness.

  7. Thank you to several commentators for your encouragement.

    I doubt my recommendations will find their way to the PMO. (Though at least 1 former Cdn. ambassador has “retweeted’ the post, which is encouraging.) Please do circulate these ideas to Liberal and NDP back benchers, NGO leaders, church and union leaders. Harper implemented pro-Israel policies in many ways. But with some simple adjustments, Canada can regain a moral high ground. Up to civil society leaders to indicate that they want it so. Mr. Trudeau, like any politician, will be 10% interested in your ideas, and 90% interested in your votes.

  8. I’m the Canadian of Palestinian Origin.
    I’m Samiha Barakat,
    I’d like to add here to your VALUABLE recommendations and suggestion Peter, one more thing

    After your permit Peter, I have a recommendation to our Minister Of Defence;

    :Please withdraw the Canadian Troops from AFGANISTAN.
    We want and looking for Canada as it was during the former Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. John Chretean.

    Mr.Chretien didn’t share in the Iraqi war, I hope that Canada will follow that wise policy, and withdraw its military troops from Afganistan.

    Let the Afghans ( who aren’t happy by the foreign troops) let them solve their problems by them selves.

    Let Canada protect its soldier and return them to their famiies,

    And let Canada Save the millions of Dollars spent there, to be spent inside our beloved homeland CANADA.

    Thank you Peter for giving me this valuable chance to talk to our new Prime Minister, which I congratulate him and our selves for winning the Election.

  9. Thank you for this excellent letter with well thought-out suggestions for the Prime Minister Elect. Your humanity and insights into the Israeli-Palestinian situation are most valuable. Travel well and safely on your forthcoming visit to Palestine. Be well.
    Namaste!

  10. Peter,

    One of your suggestions, “Impose a visa requirement for visitors to Canada who live in any territory that Canada and the United Nations assess as “illegally occupied”.” could be interpreted in such a way that we would discriminate against Palestinians who live in the Occupied Territories. There should be no Visa requirement for them. The Visa requirement should be for Israeli Citizens who are living in the illegal settlements, not the residents of places like Ramallah who need all the support that they can get.

    My concern about all of your suggestions is that they stay too close to the “status quo”. The present situation is inherently unjust. Even the so-called “two state” solution in the form that Israel claims to accept would maintain that injustice in which ethnic cleansing is enforced, those who have not been cleansed are imprisoned, and people who were born in the area are kept from returning to property that is rightly theirs. Were I to write such a letter, I would demand an end to a mistake that the world made nearly 70 years ago. We should not recognize the legitimacy of any government that discriminates on the ground of what Israel calls “nationality” (which is quite different from citizenship). Lets not plead for the injustice to continue indefinitely.

    We also need to ask for more balanced information. For example, all the news articles I have seen that discuss the growing tensions in Israel describe Israelis living in fear but ignore the fact that the vast majority of Palestinians are living in more fear in spite of the fact that they are not violent. They are afraid to go into the street; they are afraid to send their children to school. The streets are full of soldiers, police, and armed citizens who view any Palestinian as a terrorist and may act violently against completely peaceful people. The very least we should be getting is balanced coverage; it would make the point that the present tensions are bad for the vast majority of people in the area – whatever their ethnic group. The soldiers are not there to protect Palestinians; they view their job as protecting against Palestinians.

    I know things could be worse, but they could be much better. We should begin by insisting that our media give a balanced view.

  11. Great letter, Peter. My many thanks for all you do in the name of humanity. Just one small recommendation, if I may. In section #3 “To the Government House leader”, would it be possible to include West Bank ? Thank you for your consideration of this request. Keep up the awesome work. 🙂

  12. It is a very good reasonable letter. One question: Impose a visa requirement for visitors to Canada who live in any territory that Canada and the United Nations assess as “illegally occupied”. This sounds like Palestinians who live in occupied territories should have to have a VISA for Canada.

  13. “Impose a visa requirement for visitors to Canada who live in any territory that Canada and the United Nations assess as “illegally occupied”.”

    I think this could be phrased in a more neutral fashion. Require visas based on residency, so that people from those settlements are treated the same way as people living elsewhere in the West Bank. This way it side steps the political issue of illegal settlements and perhaps adds legitimacy to the idea that the West Bank is not Israel.

  14. Thank u Peter Larson. As someone closely following the Israeli brutalities in Gaza i am appalled by the unflinching support of Israel that the newly elected PM has most definirely stated as policy. I am fully aware that western media does not report the attrocities n brutalities n keeps the public ignorant. I cannot believe that good ppl wld not be repulsed by these brutalities. I hv seen children as young as 6 yrs old being carried off by IDF. I hv seen videos of Israeli soldiers torturing young Palestinian men. The recent order of Israeli govt allowing their soldiers to shoot children throwing stones is criminal. Humanity has gotten lost. Knowing abt this genocide has caused me sleepless nights n I wonder how developed n so called civilsed nations can support a govt who carries out these crimes against humanity not only w impunity but w support. There is testimony by Israeli soldiers – chk out Breaking The Silence – chk out Gideon Levy Norman Finklestein n Dr. Mads Gilbert statements. FOR THE SAKE OF HUMANITY I BEG THE CANADIAN GOVT TO TAKE A PRINCIPLED STAND n stop this genocide of the 21st century. Not doing so makes u responsible for the brutalities n attrocities being committed by Israeli govt. There r enough Jews who r speaking out against the Zionist policies. Even a day late is a day too long.

  15. Several people have rightly noted that my suggestion regarding Visa requirements for settlers could have been better formulated. I leave it up to smart lawyers in Immigration and Citizenship to figure out exactly how to do this. My main point was to flag the gross inequity arising from the fact that Israeli settlers in the WB can come freely to Canada with no visa (even lobby on Parliament hill), while Palestinians living in the WB have to apply for a visa AND PICK IT UP IN TEL AVIV, which means that the Israelis have to approve as well. As a result, very few WB’ers get to come to Canada, let alone talk to parliamentarians about their situation.

  16. What happened from this? Greetings from Japan where it still a balmy autumn … In Kyoto. Lots of tourists looking at red maple trees. Stu

    Sent from my iPad

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