A delegation of 18 Canadian parliamentarians, led by MP Marwan Tabbara (Lib. Kitchener South – Hespeler), spent 6 intensive days visiting Israel/Palestine in April 2018. The official report of their trip has just been released and makes for interesting reading. It seems they were quite disturbed by what they saw/heard. Read more.
For the first time ever, a large group of Canadian parliamentarians took a trip to Israel/Palestine not sponsored by the Israel lobby. In fact, the group was funded by generous members of the Palestinian Canadian community.
The group spent 6 intensive days meeting both Palestinians and Israelis. It was clear that many members of the group were quite profoundly disturbed by what they saw and heard. In an emotional joint press conference with Alexandre Boulerice and Mario Beaulieu following their return to Ottawa, an obviously upset Elizabeth May criticized Israel’s “project of expansion and colonialism” in the West Bank. (May’s comments in English start at 5’30”).
There is little doubt that their first hand experience in Israel/Palestine also encouraged Liberal MP’s Marwan Tabbara and Robert Falcon-Ouellet to personally deliver a petition to Prime Minister Trudeau asking him to be more forceful in condemning Israeli violence in Gaza.
Official report – muted, but still critical of Israel… and of Canadian inaction
The official report of the group, signed by 15 of the 18 participants has now been made public.
The consensus report is very careful in its language but still reflects the concerns of the delegation both about what they saw on the ground in Israel/Palestine and about what they feel is inadequate action by the Canadian government. The visit, and the report, is likely to have a positive effect on how the issue is approached in Parliamentary debate.
Some of the highlights of their 6 day visit mentioned in the report are:
- A visit to Hebron where Israeli authorities would not allow them to visit Abraham’s tomb
- A meeting with the father of imprisoned Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi
- Seeing first hand the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank
- A visit to the “Walled off Hotel” in Bethlehem which directly faces Israel’s 8 metre high “separation barrier” which prevents Palestinians from accessing Jerusalem and other areas of the West Bank
- A visit to the Bedouin community of Abu Nuwaar under imminent threat of expulsion by Israel
- A meeting with the Palestinian Red Crescent society to talk about the human rights abuses of children at the hands of the Israeli military.
- A meeting with “Breaking the Silence” an organization of former Israeli soldiers who are now critical of the occupation
- A meeting with representatives of the Popular Committee of the Jalazoun Refugee Camp
Among the report’s recommendations…
- Canada should appoint a special envoy to “monitor and report on the human rights situation of Palestinian children”
- Canada should hold Israeli military authorities accountable to their obligations under international human rights law
- Canada should continue and increase financial support to UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency
- Canada should deploy efforts to halt Israeli settlement construction
… but important issues left unaddressed
In a 6 day visit, it is impossible to cover all the different aspects of the Israel/Palestine issue.
The delegation spent the majority of its short stay examining important issues in the West Bank. Unfortunately, it did not attempt to visit Gaza, nor did it attempt to address many of the other key issues in the Israel/Palestine conflict, including:
- The situation of Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem as Israel increases its grip on that city
- The deteriorating human rights situation of Palestinian citizens of Israel as Israel moves to pass legislation enshrining in law special privileges for Jewish Israelis.
- The blockade of Gaza and the terrible living conditions of those living there.
- The desperate situation of the over 5 million Palestinian refugees spread out in camps in neighbouring countries.
While some might be disappointed that the report uses such muted language and misses so many key issues, the very fact of a Canadian Parliamentary delegation addressing the Israel/Palestine issue is important. For the first time ever, a cross-party delegation has spent a week seriously investigating the situation of Palestinians living in the West Bank. This will introduce a degree of realism into discussion of the Israel/Palestine issue in the Canadian Parliament.
More investigation is warranted. MP Marwan Tabbara, the delegation leader, has already indicated that he hopes there will be more visits to the region.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. We accept guest columnists from time and encourage brief comments (under 100 words) from serious readers. To learn more about what we do, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.