The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in East Jerusalem, and Yabous, a cultural centre, were raided by Israeli police in late July. Several directors were arrested and repeatedly interrogated. International law does not recognize Israel’s claim of sovereignty over East Jerusalem. Neither does Canadian policy. Other countries objected to the Israeli incursion. However, so far Canada has remained silent. Read more.
Canadian policy on the status of Jerusalem, as spelled out on the Global Affairs website, could not be more clear: “Canada does not recognize Israel’s unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem.”
In plain terms, Canada does not recognize Israel’s right to impose its laws on East Jerusalem. But for years, Canada has remained silent as Israel continues to shut down Palestinian cultural, economic, health and educational institutions in East Jerusalem and to harass and intimidate Palestinian political and civil society leaders. “They want to cleanse any Arab or Muslim traces in the city, so it will all look Israeli”, says Palestinian political analyst Rasim Obiedat.
Over the last several years, Israel has closed a host of Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, including Palestine TV, the East Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce, the Supreme Council for the Arab Tourism Industry, the Center for Palestinian Studies and the Office for Social and Statistical Studies.
In recent weeks, while the world was focussed on stopping the proposed Israeli annexation of part of the West Bank, Israel increased its efforts in East Jerusalem.
In July, OFIP wrote urgent letters to Robin Wettlaufer, our Canadian representative in Ramallah, and to Mr. Troy Lulashnyk, Director General of our Middle East Bureau at Global Affairs Canada asking Canada to investigate.
Having no response to either letter, CTIP finally wrote on August 4th directly to Foreign Affairs Minister Francois Philippe Champagne, imploring the minister to ensure that Canadian policy on Jerusalem is applied. Click here to see full letter.
After bringing the minister’s attention to several recent Israeli actions, the letter suggested 3 specific steps Canada could reasonably take. We also invited the minister to respond so we could include his answer in our newsletter.
“I am urging you, as Minister of Foreign Affairs to protect Canada’s reputation by ensuring APPLICATION of Canada’s existing policy by:
1. Expressing directly to Israeli authorities in Ottawa and Tel Aviv that Canada continues to oppose the extension of Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian territories,
2. Joining with “like minded” countries to take concrete steps to show opposition to Israel’s ongoing campaign of “ethnic cleansing” of East Jerusalem,
3. Directing our representative in Ramallah to provide appropriate support and assistance to Palestinian cultural institutions in East Jerusalem.“
Disappointingly, as of August 18th, no answer has been received from any of the emails or letters.
The reality is that Canada has two policies – an “official” one on the Global Affairs website … and a “real” one on the ground
East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank have been under Israeli occupation since 1967. When Israel announced 13 years later (in 1980) that it was going a step further by “annexing” East Jerusalem, most of the international community, including Canada, refused to recognize that annexation.
This has not stopped Israel from carrying out a slow but relentless program aimed at transforming the historic multi-cultural city of Jerusalem, of historic importance to three great religions, into the Jewish capital of the Jewish State of Israel, by driving the Palestinians (both Muslim and Christian) out and erasing evidence of their culture.
Based on our official Canadian policy, when Israeli forces raided Palestinian cultural institutions in East Jerusalem in July – in this most recent case a music school and a cafe, and arrest and interrogate their directors, you might expect Canada to express some opposition.
Other countries did so. A few days after the arrest, the Palestinian organizations affected issued a joint statement refuting all the allegations (see here) at a small protest ceremony in the presence of the head of the European Union delegation and other European Consuls in Jerusalem. Lamentably, Canada does not appear to have been among the attendees, nor has there been any statement from the Canadian government either in Ramallah or in Ottawa.
Based on the evidence, official Canadian policy is one thing. What we do, (or don’t do) on the ground is something else. So far, not a peep.
Want to get a tiny insight into Palestinian culture?
The Yabous Cultural Center is a Palestinian cultural institution in occupied Jerusalem that organizes film screenings, theater performances, storytelling festivals and other cultural events to celebrate the deep Palestinian heritage of Jerusalem. Click here to hear a 4 minute recital, composed by Suhail Khoury, one of those arrested, and performed by the Jerusalem Girls’ Band, filmed on mobile phones amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in commemoration of the Nakba. It is entitled: “Do not leave your country.” A rough translation to English can be found by clicking here.
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 us? Go to http://www.ottawaforumip.org.