Only a few days ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was aggressively calling for an independent investigation into the killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Then CIJA began a serious lobbying effort. And he got a call from Mr. Netanyahu. Trudeau is caught like a deer in the headlights. But perhaps Mr. Netanyahu has found him a way out…. Read more…
Many observers were surprised when, a few days after Prime Minister Trudeau called for an investigation into Israeli killing unarmed protesters in Gaza, Canada seemed to reverse field. Our representative to the UN in Geneva strongly criticized a resolution passed 29 – 2 by the UN Human Rights Council calling for just such an investigation. Only Australia and the United States voted against it.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told the House of Commons on Tuesday that Ottawa believes that the UN resolution was “mostly pushed by Pakistan and other Muslim countries” and was “biased against Israel”. (In fact, the resolution was proposed by Pakistan, but only 10 of the 29 countries which voted in favour of the resolution could be called “Muslim’.)
It appeared to be an awkward “walk back” by a Prime Minister under pressure.
However Minister Freeland may have revealed the Liberal government’s strategy for saving face and helping out its friend and ally – by calling for a new, different inquiry, separate from the UNHRC, one that might be less critical of Israel.
Freeland told MPs that Canada is talking to other ”international partners” about setting up a “neutral inquiry”. She did not give any indication as to who these partners might be, what authority they might have, or how the inquiry would function.
It seems possible that Netanyahu suggested this to Trudeau. Israel did the same thing when it faced with a similar dilemma a few years ago.
In May 2010, Israeli navy commandos intercepted a civilian convoy carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, boarding the Mavi Marmara, and killing 10 Turkish civilians. Then, as now, the incident provoked international outrage. The UNHRC launched an investigation, as did the International Criminal Court, both eventually releasing damning reports (here and here).
In order to neutralize this, Israel and its allies persuaded UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to convene a separate “Panel of Inquiry” comprised of representatives from Israel, Turkey, and two international panelists. Even though it had no investigative powers and was not asked to adjudicate legal responsibilities, the panel nevertheless took it upon itself to declare that Israel’s naval blockade was “a legitimate security measure” –thereby confusing the issue and discrediting the ICC and other investigations.
It will be interesting to see who Canada proposes to put on the new “neutral” panel and what it’s mandate might be.
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