Marc Garneau loudly claims he “strongly supports the International Criminal Court and (…) the rules based international order”… except when that court wants to investigate Israel

Canada’s new Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau (l) had to do some fast footwork after the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced it had authorized its chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (r) to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes. This posed a dilemma for Minister Garneau. How to claim support for international law, while at the same time protecting Israel? His staff at Global Affairs Canada found him a neat legalistic loophole. But it doesn’t bring any distinction to him, or to Canada. Read more….

Canada strongly supports the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the important work that it does as a key pillar of the rules-based international order”, bravely announced Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau on February 7th, immediately after the ICC announced it would go ahead with an investigation of Israeli war crimes. “Canada continues to respect the independence of its judges and of the ICC Prosecutor.”

But a few lines later in the same press release, Minister Garneau continued, “Canada (…) does not recognize a Palestinian state and therefore does not recognize its accession to international treaties, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court”, Garneau, thereby justifying Canada’s opposition to the ICC investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes.

The Trudeau administration’s dilemma comes from the fact that Canada was one of the initial sponsors of the ICC, and Canada likes to promote itself as a supporter of international law. On the other hand, the Trudeau Liberals have already indicated their strong support for Zionism and the State of Israel, and is subject to intense pressure from the pro-Israel lobby in Canada.

GAC lawyers to the rescue: find a way to support the ICC and undermine it at the same time

Garneau, whose personal bias in favour of Israel has already been documented in an earlier CTIP post, used the fact that Canada has chosen to not recognize the State of Palestine, as a reason to oppose an ICC investigation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Of course, Canada’s decision not to recognize Palestine as a state is a political one. Garneau knows perfectly well that 139 other states DO recognize the State of Palestine, that Palestine is also recognized as a permanent observer state by the UN, and belongs to many UN bodies, including the ICC.

The original rationale for the creation of the ICC was to carry out prosecutions “when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals” which applies perfectly to the Israel/Palestine situation. Israel has repeatedly been shown unwilling to investigate its own war crimes as pointed out in repeated UN reports.

According to the New York Times, ICC prosecutor Bensouda has cited “a reasonable basis to believe” that war crimes have been committed pointing to what she described as Israel’s disproportionate use of force in the 2014 war in Gaza and its continuing settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Also under scrutiny is Israel’s deadly response to Palestinian protests in 2018 along the border fence in Gaza. She also proposed to investigate potential crimes by Hamas in indescriminate use of rockets against Israeli citizens.

While it would be almost impossible for the ICC to prosecute anyone inside Israel, it could issue arrest warrants that would make it risky for Israeli officials to travel abroad. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, led the 2014 war on Gaza, while Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz was the military chief of staff at the time. And nearly every Israeli political leader has at some time been involved in furthering the settlement enterprise, which is illegal under international law. The Israeli daily Haaretz has reported that Israel has already begun secretly briefing over 100 senior military and political figures about their potential exposure to arrest if they travel abroad.

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish’s 3 girls were killed in 2009 by Israeli tank fire into his house.

But Garneau’s two-faced approach may not let him off the hook in the eyes of the Canadian public.

An EKOS poll in 2020 commissioned by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) found that a strong majority of Canadians want the ICC to investigate war crimes wherever they occur, including those committed by Israel. The survey found that 84% of Canadians would support an investigation of Israeli officials. It also found that 86% of Canadians disagree with the idea that Canada should overlook Israel’s human rights violations just because it is considered to be an ally.

What if the victims had been Canadians?

Many Canadians will remember the horrific case of Izzeldin Abuelaish, who became known as “The Gaza Doctor” after Israeli shells slammed into his house in Gaza in 2009 killing three of his daughters.

Five years later, in 2014 Israeli missiles again slammed into civilian areas of Gaza killing over 1300 Palestinians. One cannot help wondering how messrs Trudeau and Garneau would have reacted if dozens of (white) Canadians had been among them. Would they still be loudly shouting “we strongly support international law, but just not in this case”?


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 Canada’s response to 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.

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  1. Yes, FM Garneau’s statement questioning the ICC investigation of Israel and Hamas potential war crimes is inconsistent, unwarranted and very disappointing given Canada’s historic support of the ICC. He bases it only on the proposition that Palestine is not a state eligible to be considered and protected by the ICC, despite the court’s considered decision to the contrary. But At least Garneau is not reduced to Netanyahu’s rant that the ICC is antisemitic, biased and wants to destroy the Jewish state on the very day that Netanyahu was criticizing the Israeli judicial system for organizing a coup qgainst him. Consistent with the rule and process of law that Canada supports, Garneau shlld tell Israel to cooperate with the ICC investigation which may actually help with the peace process leading to a real solution whether 2 states or one. Moreover, Canada should use the occasion to join with the rest of the world EUetc. that has not yet recognized Palestine as a state and confirm this recognition including of Hamas and base future diplomacy on this reality. The new US administration should be persuaded to join in this approach.

  2. Garneau is such a weak politician he ought not be in any Cabinet position. Sadly, he appears to be the convenient vent for Trudeau and the Libs who last time I was paying attention Ottawa was still in favour of a two-state solution to the mess in Palestine/Israel. Now he’s telling Canadians that Palestine doesn’t exist.
    Rocket science I guess!

    1. Hey Allan, I think Garneau is following the Trudeau/Liberal playbook. We say we are in support of a 2 state solution, but don’t REALLY do anything to help make it happen, and don’t object when Israel undermines it.

  3. To be realistic, Israel will tell Trudeau, Garneau and most of our politician what to say and what to do and not only in this matter.It was like this previously and will be like this in the future.

    1. Hey Jake,
      I do appreciate your comments on my blog. Thank you. They bring perspective. But as you know, I don’t always agree with you.

      In my view Israel has NO leverage at all over the Canadian government. No military leverage, no economic leverage, no political leverage. Canada does not need Israeli support for anything, nor is it afraid of anything Israel can do.

      However, it is very intimidated by the “Israel lobby” which is composed mainly of Jewish Canadian businessmen, and the powerful lobby groups they support financially – CIJA, Bnai Brith, etc.

      The Liberals (like all the other parties) need money and votes to get reelected. The Israel lobby in Canada is important to them for that.

      If you disagree, pls feel free to explain where you think I am wrong.

  4. So the Canadian government’s position seems to be that Palestinians are not entitled to the protections of international law because Canada does not recognize a Palestinian state. What could more clearly demonstrate the moral bankruptcy of Marc Garneau and the Canadian government?

  5. Hi Peter,
    Thanks for detailed response. Yes, in this case we disagree. I think that Israel has great deal of influence on Canada in several ways.

    One important aspect is homeland security. Not only that there is much of sharing info, but Israel is privy to our homeland security. It supplying us with surveillance and Hi Tech material, which at times is used for spying on Canadians, which Israel has a part in it.It’s way over as with other countries excluding US.

    There is quite a bit of weapon exchanges both ways.
    There are trade agreements, which go beyond normal trades, like with other countries. Of course I have no details but general understanding.

    Not to mention the Israeli military training of Canadian forces, which proved to be brutal here and in US. Police chiefs with officers used to go routinely there to be trained with tactics which bordering on illegal in western countries. I got info that there is a training camp north of Toronto for this purpose.

    When I said that Israel tells us what to do or say at times, although it may be too strong, it’s not far from the truth. We do mostly oblige willingly and also out of fear, for a few reasons.

    * Many politicians and others are still ignorant as to the criminality of Israel and believe that Palestinians/Arabs are the bad guys.This is of course due to decades of massive lies, propaganda and cover ups.

    * Religion and the Bible play a part for some, (Harper one of them?).

    * As you mention the Zionist support and money play a part

    * Fear plays a part. Most politicians and others will not dare criticize Israel or the Zionists, in order not to be a target, by their own leader, by other colleagues and the Zionists.

    Our politicians and others, being conditioned by the above, are convinced that there’s much to be gained in all aspects by Israel and the Jews, compare to supporting Palestinians which have nothing to offer. This is a corrupt world and we are a part of it.

    For our government to hide behind the immoral excuse that Palestine is not a country, therefore the ICC has no jurisdiction, I wonder if they will say the same that Myanmar regime should not be investigated, since Rohingyas do not have a country, or in other situations.

    In conclusion, Israel has enormous influence in Canada. Much more than with other countries, except US.
    We have no influence over Israel, not even trying. On the contrary, we support all what they do.

    1. Hey Jake, Thanks for your thoughtful clarification/addition. I don’t think we are far apart.

      I agree that Israel has a lot of influence over the “narrative” in Canada. Surveys have shown that most Canadians have strong criticisms of Israel, but at the same time, they have bought the idea that Israel does what it does because it (and jews generally) are threatened and need protection. That narrative is actively promoted by the Israel lobby, (CIJA, Bnai Brith, etc.) not only to government officials, but to the Canadian public at large.

      But I don’t think that the State of Israel has much leverage over the Government of Canada. Not in the way that the USA, or China or even Europe might. It is far too small, and our economic interests are insignificant. Little investment and little trade.

      (I don’t know where I read this, but I believe this to be true or approximately true: At the beginning of a new year, Canada has done more trade with the USA by noon on the first day than it will with Israel all year long.. )

  6. Yes, Israel and the Israel lobby has a lot of power and influence and is expert at instilling fear by weaponizing malicious accusations of antisemitism to shut down official and unofficial Cabadian efforts and criticism to resolve the issue through a real 2 state solution of Israel and Palestine. This is why braver, less blinkered and more principled and determined Cdn politicians are needed to work towards a democratic Israel and free Palestine with llike minded civil society NGOS.

  7. Garneau’s position is perfectly consistent. Canada supports a two state solution negotiated between the PA and Israel as agreed by both sides at Oslo in 1993.

    That means there will be no State of Palestine established west of the Jordan until the parties agree to establish one at the bargaining table.

    The international bodies, including the ICC have a built in anti Israel majority which was created by the threat of Arab oil blackmail in the 1970’s. Today even the Arab oil producers are abandoning that failed policy, but Israel has no hope of an impartial hearing at the ICC. Even the chief judge at the ICC wrote in a strongly worded dissent that the ICC had no jurisdiction over a state of Palestine which has no established territory and no independent government.

    Dark insinuations of the unwarranted influence of the Jewish lobby are not needed to explain Canada’s sensible position which is shared by Germany, the United Kingdom, France and the United States along with many other democratic states around the world.

    1. Hey David,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I would like to pick up on two points from your remarks.
      1. Canada says that it will recognize a Palestinian state negotiated between the two parties. That means that the Israelis who are the stronger “partner” and already recognized as a “state” are given an effective veto. So we will recognize Palestine (and by extension the right of the ICC to investigate Israel) only when the Israelis say its OK. Hmmm…

      2. I did not intend to make “dark insinuations of the unwarranted influence of the Jewish lobby”. Nothing dark at all. CIJA, Bnai Brith etc. are legitimate, legal lobbying organizations which have no parallel in the Palestinian/Arab/Muslim community in Canada. The Israeli “narrative” of a tiny state surrounded by huge menacing Arab/Muslim neighbours has a lot of traction in Canada. I think that view is essentially wrong, but CIJA and co. have a perfect right to press their case.

      1. Exactly Peter. Israel has rejected officially any viable acceptable Palestinian stste and has violated international law with war crimes, settlements, annexation and theeats, permanent occupation and control such as to render any state of Palestine unviable and questionable. Meanwhile 160 states have recognized the state of Palestine as defined by and represented at the UN including states like many Arab ones that have relations with Israel.. Canada EU and others should immediately announce that israel has rendered null and void any previous commitment to a negotiated real 2 state solution and that therefore Canada will recognize the state of Palestine at the UN and base its diplomacy on this dual recognition. It would expect that Israel and Palestine would take the appropriate steps to confirm this relationship which would include the capital of Israel and Palestine in West and Eadt Jerusalem respectively. It shld immediately reverse its policy on Palestine in the ICC investigation in any case as statehood is not a prerequisite to have war crimes and against humanity fully prosecuted as numerous examples ranging from Darfur, Kosovo, Rohinga, Tutti genocide, zuighurs etc etc etc makes very clear.

    2. First re “Canada supports two state and the two sides should directly negotiate”. This is endlessly used by Canada and other Western countries. It’s totally meaningless and/or totally sinister,.
      To repeat this slogan without any actions, is doing what Israel and the Zionist love best. There were many negotiations in past decades, which amounted to Israel keeps on stealing more land along with all the atrocities that it necessitates. Either they stopped negotiations by killing a few Palestinians deliberately and once the smallest action taken by a Palestinian, it was a reason to stop, since “We can not deal with terrorists”. Or bringing hundreds of pre conditions, which according to President Jimmy Carter book,, no one could accept. Book:: “Palestine peace not apartheid”. Like always before and up to now Israel managed to blame the victims.

      Remember the last time that Obama tried to really make an attempt, by sending John Kerry with a large delegate. Before the talks begun, Israel insisted that it will take part only if it can continue confiscating more land and expanding settlements.When Palestinians refused to sit down, Canada and US threatened that they will cut off all funds. With no choice Palestinians agreed. Kerry ran between the two sides dozens of times. Eventually he said: “Israel has no desire for peace”. Of course he instantly contracted the antisemitism disease.

      Israel made sure that never will be a proper P. state, by establishing 240 settlements and towns all over West Bank. Populating them by most radical “Jewish Taliban”.

      How any sane person can say that Israel wants peace, while exacting violence and keeps taking more land . Wouldn’t you think that anyone anywhere who wants peace, will not do what is the exact opposite of pursuing it.

      So to keep repeating “support for two state”, only absolve other countries from doing anything but keep supporting Israel 100%.

      In regard to Oslo Accord. The accord was never signed by Israel, but it kept using the favorable stuff in It (which was most of it) up to today.There was a documentary about 3 weeks ago in CBC about it. After the assassination of Rabin,Yossi Bailin, assistance to Shimon Peres asked him to sign. Peres said not now, we’ll see later. And what the accord was giving the P. I thought it was 18%, but the documentary said 2%. The P. agreed to that.
      When Netanyahu was elected, due to Israelis saying that Rabin was giving too much, he tore the agreement.

      Re ICC,and “The whole world is antisemitic and singles out Israel”, I could go on about it, but it will be too long. Just to say that what first the Zionists and later Israel did for over 100 years, are war crimes and crimes against humanity. No country could do what Israel done/doing without any consequences.

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