Meet Bob Rae, Canada’s new UN Ambassador

Bob Rae, Canada’s newly appointed Ambassador to the United Nations, is generally regarded as “progressive” on many issues. However there is one big exception – human rights for Palestinians. He is an active supporter of Israel and involved in many Zionist organizations in Canada and in Israel. Read more…

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named Bob Rae, a respected former Canadian politician, as Canada’s new Ambassador to the United Nations. Rae is a skilled lawyer who is known for having adopted many progressive causes over his long career. Among other things, he was arrested defending the land claims of Indigenous People in Temagami, and most recently he investigated the expulsion of Rohingya Muslims from Mayanmar and pleaded for the rights of the refugees.

Rae is a frequent speaker at events organized by J-Space Canada (above) and other liberal Zionist organizations

A talented and experienced negotiator Rae prides himself on understanding various sides of any issue. And when it comes to the Israel/Palestine conflict, Rae likes to show that he understands the “two narratives”.

Rae travels to Israel regularly and is proud to say that he sometimes meets with senior Palestinian officials.

But in words and deeds, he makes it clear he sides with Israel and supports Zionism.

Rae has been honoured with a doctorate from Haifa University in Israel (a distinction he shares with a few other well-known Canadian Zionists including Irwin Cotler, Jason Kenny and Avi Benlolo).

He can be described as a “liberal” Zionist. He is a frequent speaker at events organized by J-Space Canada which describes itself as a “progressive” Zionist organization. J-Space supports the right of Jews to have a state which Jews control, based on the land that was taken from indigenous Palestinians in 1947/48.

Most “progressive” or “liberal” Zionists hope that by letting Palestinians retain a small piece of historic Palestine (less than 22%), Israel’s right to control the rest will be secured. This is often referred to as the “Two State Solution”.)

In addition to his honorary doctorate, Rae is also a member of Haifa’s University’s Board of Governors. Its annual meeting brings together over 300 members from around the world every year.

Haifa University is one of Israel’s most important. Among other things it is the home for Israel’s three military colleges which “form the backbone of the IDF’s elite training program”. According to the university’s newsletter, “This program is partially supported by donations from the Canadian Friends of Haifa University”, a registered Canadian charity of which Rae is a member.

The IDF is responsible for the killing of thousands of Palestinians civilians. It seems odd that Canadian taxes should support foreign military colleges, particularly those whose graduates are being investigated for war crimes by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Rae is on record as strongly opposing the legal and nonviolent Palestinian protest movement called Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS). Rae has said that BDS is “wrong at every level‘.

It is not clear which of 3 demands of the BDS movement Rae opposes. Is it:
• Its demand to “end the occupation” which is overwhelmingly supported by the UN General Assembly and by Canada’s official foreign policy?
• Its demand for “equality” for all citizens of Israel, whether Jewish or not? Equality and democracy are values that Canada supports around the world?
• Its demand for the “right of return” for the Palestinian refugees whose claim has been confirmed by the UN and endorsed by Canada’s official foreign policy (and would appear to be no less valid than that of the Rohingya refugees)?

Rae also helps fundraise for JNF Canada, a registered Canadian charity.   A recent CBC investigation found that JNF Canada is funding projects linked to the Israeli military.

On November 24th 2019, Rae was a headliner at JNF Toronto’s 71st annual Negev Dinner. “The event was a sold out success with 1,500 community members in attendance who all took a stand to help combat anti-Zionism and antisemitism,” according to the JNF FB page. Many JNF projects support the dispossession of Palestinians from the West Bank (including in Canada Park and East Jerusalem) and inside Israel itself through the actions of KKL Israel and its subsidiaries.

Rae’s views on the Israel/Palestine issue accurately reflect those of the two faces of the Trudeau government which, while publicly claiming to be “a friend of both Israel and the Palestinian people”, actually does the opposite. In fact, Canada supports Israel and undermines the Palestinians in dozens of hidden (and not so hidden) ways at the UN and elsewhere.

Every fall, a series of resolutions is presented to the UN General Assembly on the Israel Palestine issue. Canada regularly casts its lot with Israel, the USA, and a handful of tiny countries against the overwhelming majority of UN members. Based on his public record, we can expect that Mr. Rae will happily continue the pattern.

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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 with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

Want to learn more about what we do? Go to 

http://www.ottawaforumip.org.

26 comments

  1. Re ” Its [BDS’s] demand for “equality” for all citizens of Israel, whether Jewish or not? Equality and democracy are values that Canada supports around the world?”

    Israel’s VERY OWN Declaration 1948May14 of statehood PROMISES that same equality:
    “THE STATE OF ISRAEL will … be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete *equality* of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” [Israel’s 1948May14 Declaration (of Independence), *emphasis* added]

    But Israel has decided (the evidence says; and see Wikipedia) that its very own promises in its Declaration of independence/statehood are not binding.

    1. Not only does the Israeli government abide by its promises in the “Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel,’ it is the only liberal democracy in the Middle east with guaranteed rights for all of its citizens.

      1. Mr. Sigman, the US declaration of Independence also said “all men are created equal”. But that did not make it into the US constitution for reasons we both well know.
        The Israeli declaration had lots of nice words, but it has no legal value in Israel and does not form part of Israel’s “Basic laws”.

      2. On my visits to Israel, I am always reminded of the US South during my youth. There was a promise to be “separate but equal” but all one could see was the separate part. The so-called “equal” was invisible. Israel has the same feeling. In both situations there were/are occasional contacts between the two groups and some common working situations but there was never any doubt about who thought that they were superior and had the right to have superior freedoms and facilities.

      3. Hey Jim, thanks.
        Israel’s apartheid is quite different from that of South Africa. Call it “apartheid with Israeli characteristics”. 🙂 But the fundamental idea is to keep Jews separate from non-Jews and preserve their privileges.
        In the West Bank, it has walls, checkpoints, settlements, etc. (This is quite similar to S.A.)
        Inside Israel, the apartheid is done by laws and administrative practices – different rights for Jews and non Jews. (Similar to the “separate but equal” Jim Crow system that existed in the USA.)
        For the refugees, including Gaza, it imposes a “military” apartheid by killing (or threatening to kill) those who would return. (I don’t think there are any other regimes in the world that are similar to this.)

      4. On paper. In practice, only Jews. When I was there a few years ago, there was a news item about an IDF officer who had received a notice that his home was to be demolished. He wasn’t Jewish, of course. He was a Bedouin. Jews don’t get their houses demolished. And they don’t get shot dead at checkpoints.

    2. Israels criminal society does not accept any critical comments objecting to their constant breach of human rights violation and denies the reality of apartheid ….

      1. Hey Horst,
        Thank you. What do you mean by “accept”? There are lots of Israeli NGO’s which criticize Israel’s breach of human rights. Just think of B’tselem, Zochrot, ACRI, Gisha, etc. etc. Or of journalists like Gidon Levy who writes in Haaretz. Their views are not “accepted” by the Israeli government or by most Israelis, but they are free to make criticism.

  2. Bob Rae is whatever those providing his paycheque expect him to be. He’s been described as “progressive”by some, who confuse the Chameleon’s ability to change colour in mid sentence as a positive trait. Those who have been bitten by his not-quite forward thinking approach know better.

  3. I am a fan of CTIP, but there’s a piece of the narrative in this essay that MUST be engaged with. If zionism is defined as “the right of Jews to have a state which Jews control, based on the land that was taken from indigenous Palestinians in 1947/48” then the only non/anti-zionist position would seem to be denial of Israel’s right to (continued) existence. Is that the view here: that Israel must be dissolved, despite international recognition? As I’ve also noted before, BDS has support and criticism (Chomsky, Finkelstein). Not supporting BDS isn’t evidence of abandonment of Palestine. The distinctions are FAR more important than what’s often being argued.

    1. Hey Rob, thanks for raising this important.
      CTIP recognizes and accepts that today Israel is a recognized state. But no state has guaranteed existence into the future. States come and go (e.g. Jugoslavia, USSR, Rhodesia, etc.). In fact, some Canadian writers put into question Canada’s future.

      BDS has 3 demands – one of them in particular – the right of return – puts in question the Jewish majority in Israel, and therefore its continuing character as a “Jewish” state.
      If the refugees return, Israel will be a changed country. I hope it will be a better one.

      1. I don’t think I’d phrase it “no guarantees into the future” either. That has the tone of a threat to it. But you are right that right of return will be a difficult negotiation, depending on who gets to return (the dispossessed only or their children? As the years go by, fewer of those expelled survive), and a large scale return would change the demographics of Israel. Still a solution is required. I can think of a few options, as most can.

      2. Hey Robin, why do you see it as a threat? I am not proposing that some other country attack Israel. In fact, if Israel were attacked by – say Iran or Egypt – and if that attack were unprovoked, by its UN obligations Canada should come to its defense.
        (Note the “unprovoked” proviso. If it turns out that the recent fires/accidents in Iran have in fact been caused by Israel, then the situation becomes more complicated. Who attacked whom?)
        But countries are dissolved and reformed based on internal/external support quite often. If Israel no longer gets internal/external support, it will have to change. In fact, I think that is almost inevitable.

      3. I don’t disagree. If “no guarantee” is interpreted as Israel has no accepted right to exist, that would not yield well to a softening on the part of Israeli hardliners. That’s all I was saying — language matters.

      4. Robin,
        Thank you. Absolutely, language matters. The slogan of CTIP is “raise the issue but lower the temperature”.

        Aggressive language will make Jews fearful – not just Jews in Israel, but Jews in the diaspora. (Perhaps even more those in the diaspora as they rarely have a sense of the real power relation between Israel and the Palestinians.)

        But I also think it is important to remain firm on the principles – equality, human rights, respect for international law.
        “Soft on the language, firm on the principles”.
        Some people will object anyway. but that can’t be helped.

      5. Robin,
        Israel’s law on the right of return for Jews grants that right to the descendants of people who emigrated (usually voluntarily) thousands of years ago. Why should people whose ancestors were forced out of Israel in the last 100 years be prevented from returning?

      6. David,

        I’m sure there are plenty who will try.
        Right of return first appears in UNGA 194 (1948) but does not mention descendants. I’m not suggesting that descendants “with a genuine and effective link”* and wishibg to return don’t retain that right, only that it makes it more difficult.

        Robin
        *https://www.hrw.org/legacy/campaigns/israel/return/hrc-gen-cmt-rtr.htm#Link

    2. Robin,
      Zionism is a movement not a right. Most in that movement want a state where Jews could always move and feel safe. The original Zionists acted as if the land was empty. There was even a slogan, “A land without people for a people without a land”. However, the land was not empty. Most of the Jews who arrived assumed (and most still do) that they could ignore those people and they would go elsewhere in the “empty land” that they saw around Israel. They saw Palestine and the surrounding countries as empty because they were not like Europe.

      The result of Israel’s treatment of the people that were there, nobody feels safe not Jews and not Arabs.

      In the eyes of most (not all) anti-Zionists, Israel has to recognize that the land was not empty and grant full rights to non-Jews who were residents of that “empty land” as well as their descendants. It does not have to cease to exist, but it does have to change.

  4. Canada’s stance and therefore Mr Rae’s vis a vis Palestine is at best disappointing and at worst despicable.

  5. Most likely one item in the “credentials” of Bob Rae, which helped Trudeau to chose him for the job, was his Zionism.
    Since loosing the bid for a seat at UN security where Freeland said: if we get a seat, we’ll be better asset for Israel, this position was the second best way to support Israel.

    1. Hey Jake, thanks for your opinion.

      IMHO, Trudeau is much more concerned about what Canadian Jews think of Trudeau than about what Israelis think of him. If Trudeau wants to support Israel at the UN, all he has to do is give instructions to our ambassador. But I think most liberally minded Canadian Jews will feel very comfortable knowing Rae is there.

  6. Liberal zionists like Rae promoting the Canadian line on Israel Palestine have a lot to live up t to achieve a Jewish democratic Israel and an independent viable Palestine to resolve the conflict. They have to stand up against Netanyahu’s insistence on continued occupation control, creeping annexation, blaming the victim for the denial of Palestinian rights. As amb to the UN, Rae has to insist on a UN led international solution based on int law and not be distracted by Israeli rejection of criticism at the UN which it gave birth through the partition resolution. He should be studying the work of Michael Bell on the internationalization of holy sites of Judaism, Islam and Christ in Jerusalem.

    Some Liberal Zionists, most notably Peter Beinart recently, are giving upand insiating on a one state democratic equal solution. They are being criticized by hardline zionists as being antisemitic by giving up on a,Jewish state. As an author and a supporter of democracy and equal human rights,, Rae shld be supporting these in both Israel and Palestine.

    By the way is Rae Jewish and could he do or has already done aliyah as a previous Harper ambassador did. Given his Zionist support and proclivities, he shld put all his cards on the table.

    1. thanks George,
      I’m not sure Rae is Jewish himself, and in any event that should not be part of the argument. I don’t agree that Canadian Zionists should make “aliyeh”. You seem to be saying that you think they should. That is what Netanyahu is always saying to diaspora Jews, but I don’t agree with that either. Canadian Jews should feel completely comfortable in Canada.

  7. Here is the comment sent to me by a writer:

    Hi Peter:
    Somehow, I cannot post comments or reply to on your website. I tried multiple times, it kicks me out , I have to figure it out what is the problem.

    Can you add the following comment into the reply of
    Mr. Jack Frank Sigman
    July 20, 2020 at 2:51 pm
    Not only does the Israeli government abide by its promises in the “Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel,’ it is the only liberal democracy in the Middle east with guaranteed rights for all of its citizens.

    My reply to him:

    Mr,. Sigman, Israel has never stood on the promises it made since its occupation of Palestine. Is this a democracy where Palestinian children 14 years old and under are living under Israeli Military Occupation and punished by the military court? Rejecting Palestinians the right of return but giving full citizenship rights to those who are not even born and have no connection to the land, is this democracy? Openly showing by the police and military their prejudice while considering Palestinians as enemies that should never be trusted, is not a democracy.

    Now putting Mr. Rae at the UN, will definitely make it very hard for Palestinians to get their right of return and for that matter right of survival in their homeland. Mr. Rae will demonstrate on a global stage that hypocrisy is deep and continue to exist among Canadian Politicians. Their support to Israel is only categorical because the politicians are blind themselves not to see the injustices that are happening in Palestine.

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