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:
- 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.
- They reflect Canadian values of fairness, compassion and human rights for all. They do not advocate for either the Palestinians or the Israelis.
- They are consistent with international law.
- They are of minimal financial cost.
I hope you will consider them seriously.
Thank you in advance.
Chair, National Education Committee on Israel/Palestine
Suggestions for inclusion in mandate letters
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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.
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.