Israel/Palestine trip leaves participants concerned about the future for both Israelis and Palestinians

2018-11-22 Larson Group 1 (002)tlv1Deborah Lyons, Canada’s Ambassador to Israel, graciously received our group at her official residence in Tel Aviv. Lyons spoke glowingly about Canadian trade with Israel. But other parts of our trip left people concerned about the situation of Palestinians and the future for both Israelis and Palestinians. Read more.

Sixteen Canadians took part in a 2 week “Come and See” tour of Israel/Palestine in November 2018. We spent an equal amount of time in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the West Bank, as well as several days in Jerusalem. In a dozen cities and towns – from Hebron to Haifa, and Tel Aviv to Ramallah, we met with civil society, NGO’s and community leaders.

come and see map v2

Our itinerary. Many were surprised to see so many Israeli settlements deep in West Bank.

We spoke with a wide range of people, from a determined Jewish settler (originally from Chicago) living in Efrat, who believes God gave all of “the Land of Israel” to the Jewish people, to a Bedouin Sheikh (himself a citizen of Israel) who told us his lands have been confiscated by the Jewish National Fund and his village had been repeatedly destroyed by the Israeli military.

group pic with sheikh of al araqib

Sheikh Sayeh Al Turi (centre, with head scarf) told the group that the Israeli military has repeatedly destroyed his village (Al Araqib) in order to allow the Jewish National Fund to plant trees. A few weeks after our visit he was jailed for 10 months by Israeli authorities for “trespassing” on land he claims has belonged to his village since before the creation of Israel. 

Participants in the tour came from a wide range of backgrounds. It included a retired Canadian senior diplomat, a retired Major General in the Canadian Forces, a retired Mayor of a Quebec Municipality, and the current chair of the Canadian Parliamentary Centre.

After the tour was finished, Colin Robertson, Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI), who participated in the tour, prepared a 30 minute podcast interview with 3 of the other participants: retired General Dempster, Maureen Boyd, who is current chair of the Parliamentary Centre and Peter Larson, who led the tour.

global exchange

The entire 32 minute podcast can be found on The CGAI Podcast Network. Click here:  The Global Exchange: Finding a Future for Israel & Palestine. Here are a few of the interesting and thoughtful observations:

3:55 Maureen Boyd

  • “I was surprised. I had expected to be talking a lot about religion.” 
  • ” I saw how the wall separates Israelis from Palestinians, and breeds distrust”

5:05 Doug Dempster

  • “Israel operates a very coercive environment for the 5 million people in its occupied territories”
  • “fair justice is inaccessible to the Palestinians”

6:42 – Colin Robertson

  • “The Palestinian commitment to the right of return was something I had not appreciated”

10:46 – Dempster

  • “Israel feels very comfortable. Is very far from having to negotiate.”

11:00 – Boyd

  • “Hamas rockets do not do all that much damage. The asymmetry of their relationship is astonishing”

But this group could not agree on the solution…

All tour members were concerned (some even “alarmed”) by the difficult circumstances imposed on the Palestinians in the West Bank and even in Jerusalem by the combined activities of settlers and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

But while concern over the current situation of the Palestinians, and the future for both Palestinians and Israelis, was shared by all there was no consensus on what should be done about it – or even what Canada should do.

Some people felt that Israel would “never” give up the idea of a Jewish State and that therefore a 2 state solution is the only realistic path forward. Others felt that a better direction lay in emphasizing human rights and equality, and that as long as these issues are not addressed, friction would be bound to continue. (Listen to the last 7 minutes of the podcast to hear the range of ideas expressed by the 4 people interviewed.)

NOTE: The podcast is not necessarily representative of the views of other tour participants.


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) encourages a thoughtful discussion among Canadians on the Israel/Palestine issue, including a well informed and sensitive discussion of Zionism itself. CTIP accepts guest columnists and encourages brief comments (under 100 words) from serious readers. To learn more about what we do, contact us at





  1. This podcast is very good. The participants approach the issue with open minds and the discussion reflects a variety of views on the complex conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you Peter for all you do in order to have more and more Canadians see some of the truth beyond the propaganda and one sided narrative, which has been dominant for decades by Israel and the Jewish lobbies.

  3. Really surprised to hear all “solutions” proposed continue to be based on what might work for Jews or Israelis while Palestinian aspirations are irrelevant, much less justice.

    1. Hey Robert, Me too. Even after visiting refugees, bedouins in the negev, talking to peasants losing their lands, seeing the expansion of settlements, discussing with hard line Zionists, etc. etc. It shows me how deeply anchored in the Canadian mentality (including of very good and thoughtful people) is the idea that the Jews need a state for their protection. I don’t think any of them would have said, however, that Palestinian aspirations are “irrelevant”. But most see safety for Jews as paramount.

    2. Hey Robert, this comment is not aimed at you, but your remark raises a point that I think is very important.

      Some activists for Palestinian human rights speak and act as if we had higher moral standards than those who don’t agree with us. I think all of the people on my trip are just as “moral and ethical” as I am. But they weigh differently the situation in the mid east, and are more inclined to believe that if the State of Israel did not exist as a Jewish state, something terrible (expulsion/murder/oppression) would happen to Jews.

      I don’t agree with their assessment. Its up to us to find a way to have them recalculate. But admonishing them on their moral weaknesses will just make them indignant.

  4. The above comment by Robert Assaly and response by Peter is a crucially important observation about attitudes among Canadians (and Americans) and understanding why we are in this mess for last 70, 50, 30, 10, 1 years. They somehow value the allegiance to Israel or Jewish priorities as greater than allegiance to human rights / dignity, equality or justice. Last time I checked “Canadian values” meant the latter not the former. Privileging Jewish / Israeli / Zionist interests/desires/concerns will not lead to a solution but only to further sorrow and damage to the world. And as we have seen for decades especially in the last 20 years it is of world consequence.

    1. I think that memory of the holocaust and fear of what “might” happen to Jews if they didn’t have the protection of a state , leads many good people (including many non Jewish Canadians) to the conclusion that they must defend Israel even at the cost of Palestinian rights.

      Its our challenge to figure out how to change that perception. One of the elements, in my view, is that we have to bring forward a serious discussion about Zionism, a topic that has been largely avoided because of the fear that challenging that will lead to accusations of anti-Semitism. As long as the conversation remains focused on “ending the occupation” rather than on the nature of Zionism itself, I don’t think we can win this argument.

  5. I totally agree. The nature of Zionism needs to be brought into focus urgently, and the discussion as urgently needs to revolve around how, not if, Israel, as a State of many communities, is to be fundamentally reformed. The two-state solution is a defunct option, that it is illusory and actually dangerous to pursue.That said, this discussion cannot be had at the expense of the continuing scandal of Israeli occupation and oppression. It cannot be had at the expense of a formal critique of “glowing trade”. By failing to sanction Israel for its 70-year career of vicious human rights violations, for carrying out a colonial project in broad daylight, Canada and the rest of the international community stand to account. By trading glowingly, Canada and the rest of the international community doing business with Israel are doing little else than empowering a rogue state. A state that is, in the end, endangering its very own survival. Palestinians have made abundantly clear that they are not going away anytime soon, and that they are part of Israel’s future. Whether as a nightmare or as a dream finally come true, is entirely up to it.

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