Canada remains silent as Israel continues to crush Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem

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.

Rania Elias (l) and Suhail Khoury (r), leading Palestinian cultural figures in East Jerusalem were arrested and interrogated by Israeli authorities as part of a program of repression of Palestinian life in occupied East Jerusalem.

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.

It has also shut down events and conducted incursions at East Jerusalem’s al-Makassed Hospital.

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.

Israeli forces raid Yabous cafe in occupied East Jerusalem

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


  1. Thanks Peter for this. I do really appreciate hearing news on this subject, especially because it seems to be ignored by a lot of media. Do you mind if I forward such posts to my own MP, David McGuinty? I may be dreaming in technicolor but it might help prompt the government to take some action!

    Btw, I am sure you are doing this among a thousand other things and don’t have time to proofread so just thought I would point out that it is Jagmeet Singh with an “a”. I personally can never find typos in my own work and know you would want a heads up.

    Thanks again Peter and take care.


    On Tue, Aug 18, 2020 at 3:21 PM Canada Talks Israel/Palestine wrote:

    > Peter Larson posted: ” 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 c” >

    1. thank you. and thanks for noticing the typo. My bad. I can’t edit it now because the email has already been sent.
      Please DO send it to Mr. McGuinty. Even more important, please share it with any of your friends who might be interested. Mr. McGuinty’s response will depend to a large extent on how many of his constituents he thinks are interested…

  2. “In plain terms, Canada does not recognize Israel’s right to impose its laws on East Jerusalem.”

    In plain terms, that is not a fact. First, there is no such political entity named “East Jerusalem.” There is only Jerusalem. Second, Israel is the only legal entity that can exercise control of that part of Jerusalem that was illegally annexed by Jordan and liberated by Israel in 1967. The Palestinian Arabs have no legal claim to any part of Jerusalem. If any entity has a claim other than Israel, it is the United Nations that designated Jerusalem to be an independent entity under the control of the UN.

    While Canada never recognized Israel’s extension of sovereignty over the entirety of Jerusalem, it also did not recognize Jordan’s illegal annexation. I do not recall if Canad protested the Arabization of that part of Jerusalem, wherein the Arabs attempted to erase all of the evidence of the Judaic culture after they ethnically cleansed the area of Jews.

    1. Mr. Sigman,

      You know exactly what is meant by “East Jerusalem”. Please don’t waste reader’s time with such word games.

      During the 1948 War, Jerusalem was contested between Jordan and Israel. At the end of that war, the two countries negotiated a division of the city, with the eastern sector coming under Jordanian rule. This arrangement was formalized in1949. These decisions were confirmed in the Knesset and the Jordanian Parliament in 1950. Jordanian annexation of East Jerusalem does not sound illegal to me. Your use of the word “liberated” reminded me of two occasions when pickpockets liberated my wallet from its imprisonment in my pocket.

      1. Mr. Parnas, words matter. Capitalizing “east” in the instance of identifying a portion of Jerusalem indicates that it is a political entity separate from Jerusalem. Other then the illegal annexation by Jordan which was recognized by the head of your Commonwealth (and Pakistan) no state recognized any such animal as “East” Jerusalem. Stating such is just propaganda. Please stop trying to force the readers to accept fake facts.

        If you had illegally placed someone’s wallet in your back pocket, it was “liberated” by the pickpocket after you had attacked him, even though he pleaded with you not to, especially as he had the ability to easily put you in the hospital.

        Analogies matter. Stop wasting the reader’s time by using ones that are little more than propaganda.

      2. Mr. Sigman,

        We agree! Words do matter.

        – The use of the word “illegal” to describe Jordanian control of East Jerusalem, when that control was accepted by many countries (including Israel) is inappropriate.

        – The use of the word “liberated” to describe Israel’s forceful seizure of East Jerusalem is inappropriate. Most of the residents of East Jerusalem did not feel liberated by the 1967 war.

        – The use of “force” to describe writing an easily confirmed fact is inappropriate. The readers of this blog know the facts very well and could not be forced to change their position by reading “alternative facts”.

      3. Mr. Parnas, “acceptance” does not change the concept of illegality. Likewise, as you stole the wallet to begin with, it was still liberated from your grasp, your feelings do not diminish the facts. There is still no such political entity as “east” Jerusalem. By you response, it is clear the actual facts are not acceptable to your side. That does not change the fact that they are facts.

    2. There is an answer to your question of ambiguous recognition of East Jerusalem: simply recognize Palestine at the UN like 160 other countries which includes East Jrusalem. Then internationalize the holy sites in Jerusalem of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Still has its capital in West Jerusalem and the matter is settled.. There would be overwhelming international support for such a settlement which wld render Israeli control of East Jerusalem irrelevant and halt the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian homes, institutions and people for which compensation is required.

      1. There is no ambiguity. “East” Jerusalem has never existed, only Jerusalem exists. There is no “Palestine” to recognize. It has none of the characteristics of a state.

  3. Canada should immediately recognize Palestine at the UN which includes East Jerusalem and inform Israel that it rejects Israeli ethnic cleansing, defacto annexation and de Palestinization of East Jerusalem and will act accordingly in its diplomatic relations with Israel including in multilateral bodies like the UN.

    Canada should moreover offer to Israel consideration the three Michael’s ( including deceased ambassador Michael Bell) plan for the internationalization of the main Judaic, Islamic and Christian holy spaces consistent with the original partition resolution. This could considered in the context of negotiation for a 2 state solution along the lines of the Arab UN plans and international law together with any additional but not contradictory relevant elements of the Trump plan that remain after the presidential elections when US policy may change under President Biden

    Ambassador Rae at the UN should be required to present this proposal at the UN for international consideration and ther ambassadors bilaterally in the capitals of the main stakeholders like EU countries and Arab League, particularly the UAE in view of its recent agreement with Israel stopping annexation and Iran to obtain tthe widest possible international support. Cda shld secure support of Norway Ireland if possible, the two countries that beat Canada for the UNSC in part on this issue.

    It is the least Canada can do to secure a 2 state solution and ward off annexation both defacto and de jure including in East Jerusalem consistent with Cdn policy.

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