Deborah 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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.