Many liberal Zionists in Canada (and the US) Jews have expressed concern over Israel’s aggressive plan to “annex” up to 30% of the West Bank, in defiance of international law and international opinion. They fear that Israel is overreaching, and by making it clear that it has no interest in giving the Palestinians a state, western support for the Zionist idea of a state for Jews might be at risk. Read more...
Fifty eight “eminent” Canadian Jews have written an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, urging “our government to speak out strongly against a unilateral annexation agenda that is unwise, unjust, and dangerous to peace in the Middle East.” The list of signatories includes:
- Jon Allen, Former Canadian Ambassador to Israel
- Bernie Farber, Former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Ottawa
- Rabbi Steven Garten, of Ottawa
- Gabriella Goliger, National President, Canadian Friends of Peace Now
- Julius H. Grey, Montreal Human Rights lawyer
- Stephen Lewis, Former Canadian Ambassador to the UN
- Prof. Henry Mintzberg, Management Studies, McGill,
- Professors Allan Moscovitch and Mira Sucharov, Carleton University
- Arlene Perly Rae author and journalist (also married to Bob Rae)
Here is an excerpt from their letter (underlining added by CTIP):
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
“We are a diverse group of Canadian Jews and long-time supporters of Israel who share a deep concern about the current Israeli government’s intention to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank.
(…) Any form of West Bank annexation would signal that Israel is uninterested in a negotiated solution (…) unilateral annexation could provoke a new cycle of violence, lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, jeopardize peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, undermine Israel’s security and further destabilize the region.”
The letter to Trudeau reflects many of the arguments put forward by the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis in an emergency resolution adopted a few days ago.
“As a proud Zionist movement we hold (…) love for the people, the Land, and the State of Israel – as core to who we are as Jews.”
– Text of Reform Judaism resolution
Their statement makes a few references the “deleterious impact of annexation on the Palestinian people”, but then continues to address their main concerns – the threat it poses to the dream of a Jewish State of Israel
- “Annexation is seen by Palestinians as Israeli repudiation of the two-state solution. (…) Calls will increase for a “one-state solution,” which will negate the continuation of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
- “Annexation risks making Israel a pariah in growing segments of the international community. Annexation also risks undercutting the improved relations between Israel and some of the Arab nations in the region (…)
- “Annexation would also provide fodder for those who advocate for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) toward Israel. In North America, Zionist college students, (…) will find themselves besieged by BDS activists, having to defend what many will view as an indefensible policy.
- Annexation jeopardizes Israel’s security. Throughout nearly three decades, cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian Authority security forces has thwarted hundreds of terrorist attacks and made life in Israel safer. (…) Annexation would significantly weaken the PA, reducing or even ending security cooperation and further stressing Israeli security forces.
- Annexation jeopardizes North American strategic interests and political support for Israel. Over time, North American political support for Israel would likely be weakened. We are already seeing shifts toward greater sympathy for the Palestinians among pro-Israel supporters, including younger evangelicals.
Fear for the end of Israel?
Serious divisions have opened up among Jews in Canada (and the USA) over the annexation issue. A measure of how divisive it is, can be gleaned from the fact that as of July 1st, the Canadian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, still has not come out to say whether or not it supports annexation.
Perhaps this is also a result of the fact that it is still not clear what Netanyahu will do. Will he take 30% of the West Bank, as he has promised (or threatened)? Or will he move cautiously taking “only” a couple of the major settlement blocs? This might give the European Union, the Palestinian Authority and liberal Zionists a window to cry “victory” that only a “small” annexation took place.
Whatever the immediate outcome, Israel is not about to disappear anytime soon. It is still very powerful, and it has the backing of the world’s only superpower. But there are good reasons to agree with the assessment in the letter signed by the 56 eminent Canadian Jews that: “Any form of West Bank annexation would signal that Israel is uninterested in a negotiated solution“.
It seems likely that even limited annexation will in fact begin the process of undermining Western democratic support for the basic idea of a Jewish State which got UN support in 1947.
However, CTIP readers should be clear that the liberal Zionists who are calling for a stop to annexation, are motivated by a desire to protect Israel as a Jewish state, not by a concern for the historic rights of Palestinians which were lost in 1947 and which have been trampled on ever since.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. There is no need to use strong words. A focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights is enough. Readers who have a different point of view are invited to make comment.
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