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.
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The report of the 18 parliamentarians from Canada is very thin, virtually a whitewash of the fundamental injustices visited daily on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. By failing to recognize the death of the two-state solution, and recommending “monitoring” and future visits to the region as a means of addressing apartheid practices and ethnic cleansing on the part of the Zionist state, the MPs show how feckless they are in the face of reality.
Given the official pro-Israel positions of all of the federal parties, I think it showed a considerable courage on the part of these MP’s to take the trip. They knew they would be criticized, and that has happened. They will suffer consequences. But (most of them) are sticking to their guns.
Agreed!! A significant step forward!!
Thank you Peter Larson for highlighting this important and historic report. As you say in the summary although it skips many aspects and is mute about attributing ultimate responsibility for continued failure of peace and continuation of violations, it does represent a huge advance for recognizing and understanding the situation of Palestinians by Canada’s elected leaders.
Thank you to the 18 MPs who participated in the visit and I am a little perplexed and more than disappointed as to why 3 of the MPs did not sign on to this report. The 3 are:
Garnett Genuis Conservative AB
Geng Tan Liberal ON
Shaun Chen Liberal ON
This is a good initiative which we hope will be followed by more visits of this nature. As Palestinians, our demands are in line with those of the delegation. We call upon Canada to take more effective stances towards the issues mentioned in the report.
Thank you for your support.
Hey Rana, thanks for your comment.
I think you live in Gaza. I was speaking recently to one of the MP’s who took this trip. He told me that he had wanted the group to visit Gaza. However, that idea was not adopted. I don’t know whether it was because of Israeli opposition, or whether the PA, who organized the logistics of the trip, did not want the group to visit Gaza.
They should have visited where Abbas and Hamas live; and, they would have found out how the rich live while not allowing its general population of Palestinians to the good life also.
Hey Barbara, where do you think the Hamas leaders live in Gaza? It sounds like you think they live a high life style. Where did you get that idea? It was not what I heard when I was there. I had heard this accusation before going to Gaza, so I asked my taxi driver to show me where one of the leaders lives. It looked pretty shabby to me. But perhaps you have some information I am not aware of. Or perhaps Rana can comment.
“…while not allowing its general population of Palestinians to the good life also.”
The reason Palestinians in general do not live “the good life” is due to the fact that they have been dispossessed and expelled from their homeland (in which, including their ancestors, they have lived continuously for at least 15,000 years) by racist/fascistic Zionist Jews of foreign origin and forced to live in refugee camps or under the boot of Israel’s illegal and brutal occupation for the past 70 years.
This is real progress.
Three MPs who took part in the visit did not sign the report. They are Shaun Chen ( Liberal),- Garnett Genuis (Conservative), and Geng Tan (Liberal). I would like to read their reasons for not agreeing with this very moderate report.
It seems that the only solution that these MPs can see is the “two-state” solution. I would like to see them exposed to people who believe that this permanent ethnic cleansing and separation is not the best possible solution for the people of the area. They should also hear explanations of the ambiguity hidden in the word “state”. The Israeli meaning of “state” in this context is not something that most of the world would recognize as a state.
These MPs have had exposure to the terrible conditions in Palestine now but they need to be given a “tour” of the historical developments so that they will understand how that situation came to be and how so many Palestinians have been dispersed and not allowed to return to their homeland. Your understanding of the present situation is incomplete unless you have learned about the Nakba and what has happened in the intervening years.
This trip was sponsored by Palestinian organisation, obviously from beginning it supposed to be biased towards Palestinian which is completely is.
Who pays for your opinion, enjoys results.
Hey Lee, Thanks for your comment. I completely agree.
But as you know there have been, and continue to be, dozens of trips for MP’s and other influential Canadians sponsored by the Israel lobby (primarily CIJA). This recent trip seems to have, in a small way, restored some kind of balance to the conversation.
Anyone with a reasonably thorough knowledge of the Israel/Palestinian conflict knows full well that Israel is the oppressor, Palestinians are the oppressed; Israel is the ethnic cleanser, Palestinians are the dispossessed, the expelled; Israel is the victimizer, Palestinians are the victims; Palestinians are the occupied, Israel is their illegal/brutal occupier; Israel is in gross violation of international law, Palestinians have international law on their side.
A great moderate Canadian parliamentary report iaddressing the basic provbems and issues in the Israel Palestine inpasse. First hand visits of this type are very similar to CTIP’s programmes examining both sides of the divide and lead to the inmediate conclusion that the staus quo is untenable and that both short term improvements and final solutions are necessary. Many of the former were reflected in the conclusions of the report. The parliamentary group should have recommended the imnediate recognition of the state of Palestine and the capitals of Israel and Palestine to be in West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem respectively. Beyond that essential two state solution the Parliamentary report could also look at one state or confederal options along the Canadian model could be applied to Israel Palestine. But this report is an excellent start and could build momentum for more active Canadian involvement in Israel Palestine which would n turn be an effective run up to Canada’s UNSC election.
My initial comment is that the report released by this committee of Canadian Parliamentarians was like sunshine in the morning compared to US president Trump’s efforts to whitewash Russia’s involvement in US elections yesterday
That aside, it would appear Peter you are the only Canadian with a media link who has bothered to put a headline above it which tells me how much credibility the report got in the mainstream media.
Still if progress, no matter how miniscule, is the measure then I guess this is progress, but it’s certainly not “hold your breathe” progress.
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