Trudeau is under tremendous pressure to “walk back” his criticism of Israeli killing of Palestinian civilians. He even got a personal call from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. But Canadian civil society is also mobilizing. Will Trudeau cave? Read more…
Prime Minister Trudeau received an unexpected call from Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu following Trudeau’s strong denunciation of the killing of Palestinian civilians calling for an independent investigation. The unusual call was an attempt to get Trudeau to reverse his decision and no doubt organized by the very strong Israel lobby here in Canada. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) claims it has already succeeded in bombarding Trudeau’s office with over 9000 emails or messages.
And there is some indication that they are having an effect on Trudeau. On May 18th, the UN Human Rights Council voted to support an investigation of the type Trudeau had proposed. But surprisingly, Canada’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Rosemary McCarney, said Canada “opposed” the resolution because it was biased against Israel.
Canadian civil society mobilizes
But Trudeau is also facing pressure from Canadian civil society organizations, whose members urge him to hold the line, saying “enough is enough”.
One of them is Roy Culpeper, the head of the “Group of 78”, an Ottawa group that includes many retired Canadian diplomats. Among other things Culpeper was formerly President and Chief Executive Officer of The North-South Institute in Ottawa and before that was an official at the World Bank in Washington.
In his letter on behalf of the G78, Culpeper congratulates Trudeau for his statement demanding an inquiry, but urges him to go beyond this to look at root causes:
We (…) urge you to look to what needs to be done. (…) . This includes, at a minimum, ending of the blockade of Gaza, termination of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and discussion of the right of return by Palestinian refugees to their properties in Israel.
If these root causes of conflict are not addressed, it is inevitable that the use of violence by the Israeli Defence Force against Palestinian protestors, whose grievances are entirely justifiable, will only grow.
Roy Culpeper, Chair, Group of 78
Culpeper urges other G78 members to also write their own letters to the Prime Minister.
Concern expressed by many human rights organizations focused on the middle east
Concern over Israel’s shocking violence has already been expressed by many organizations who have traditionally made Palestinian human rights one of their main concerns. For example:
- Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East has already gathered up over 5000 signatures on a petition urging the PM to “keep his promises”. (i.e. calling for an investigation.)
- Independent Jewish Voices Canada put out a strong media release, supporting Trudeau’s call for an investigation and standing up to the mainstream Jewish lobby attempt to divert attention away from Israel and blame the Palestinians themselves.
- The Association of Palestinian Arab Canadians urged its members to write to the Prime Minister saying we “are counting on Canada to stand for justice and join the chorus of world leaders and governments, as they denounce these killings and excessive use of force against civilians”.
- The Palestinian Canadian Congress has launched a petition urging Trudeau to “insist on an independent investigation into the killings, to seriously work to end the Occupation as well as the illegal blockade of Gaza, and to increase humanitarian support.”
- United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI) urged its members to “call your MP and protest the killing in Gaza.‘
But others are also speaking up…
The G78 is not specifically focused on the Israel/Palestine question. Culpeper’s letter reflects a broader civil society awareness of, and concern about, the desperate situation of the Palestinians, and concern over Israel’s astounding violence and its insistence that it has done nothing wrong.
A few other examples:
On April 6th, the Rev. Michael Blair, Executive minister of the United Church of Canada (UCC) wrote Trudeau appealing to him to support an inquiry. In part the letter called for “the immediate need for Security Council intervention to protect Palestinians, and to take measures to end the Israeli occupation by implementing the UN resolutions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As the civilian toll continued to rise, the church followed up with a further letter, now calling on its adherents to write the PM, asking Canada to call for an immediate end to the blockade of Gaza and take an international leadership role in negotiating just peace.
Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Youssuf wrote a strong letter of support to Palestinians. “On behalf of the 3.3 million members of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), I want to condemn in the strongest possible terms the killings of dozens of unarmed Palestinians at mass demonstrations near the Gaza Strip’s eastern border on Monday. More than two thousand were also injured and we can no longer stand idly by“, he said in a letter to the Palestinian representative in Ottawa.
What happens next will be a test of wills. Will Trudeau back down? Or stay firm in the face of pressure from the powerful Israel lobby? No doubt Trudeau will be keeping his (political) finger in the air, seeing which way the wind is blowing.
Many Canadians agree that the Israeli actions were cruel and unjustified. Those who feel strongly should write Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Freeland, and copy Jagmeet Singh and Elizabeth May, as well as their own MP (first name.last firstname.lastname@example.org).
But many others don’t know enough and prefer to keep out of the fray. Because of the media attention to the issue, this is a good time to talk to friends and family about the plight of the Palestinian refugees trapped in Gaza. You might even want to refer friends to an excellent interview done by Tarek Loubani, that Canadian doctor who was also shot while trying to provide first aid to Palestinian protesters.
After years of telling the Palestinians they should try “non violent resistance”, they have done so, and have paid a terrible penalty in death and injury. Will Canada support them? Or not?
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