Canadian church leaders call on foreign minister to oppose Israel’s “evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes”

Israeli border police officers arrest a Palestinian demonstrator as they suppress protests in East Jerusalem, Friday, May 7. 2021 using the kneeling-on-neck technique that killed George Floyd last year. Two weeks ago, twelve high level Canadian Christian leaders representing many church denominations signed an open letter to Foreign Minister Marc Garneau demanding that Canada publicly condemn the evictions from, and demolitions of, Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. Read more….

CTIP has just become aware of a powerful letter sent by leading Canadian Christians to Foreign Minister Hon. Marc Garneau on April 20th demanding Canadian action.

If the Canadian and other western governments had acted on the recommendations in their letter sent two weeks ago (and before the Israeli attack on Muslim worshippers at the al Aqsa Mosque), it is possible that the dangerous situation currently existing might have been avoided. Once Israeli police attacked peaceful worshippers praying at one of Islam’s most holy sites, it was inevitable that there would be a powerful response from the Palestinians.

The Christian leaders’ letter

The letter reads in part:

Dear Minister Garneau,

We represent Christian denominations, church agencies, ecumenical organizations and networks who work with long-standing Palestinian and Israeli partners towards a just and lasting peace. Our concerns are based on our long-term engagement in the region, our many church-to-church partnerships, and our longstanding relationships with both Palestinians and Israelis working for peace.

We draw your attention to the urgent plight of Palestinian families facing imminent evictions from their homes, in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods in occupied East Jerusalem. According to Geneva Convention IV (Part III, Section III), this is a clear violation of the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to their homes and lands.

(…)

The letter goes on to make three recommendations:

We urge that Canada:

  • publicly condemn the evictions from, and demolitions of, Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and call on Israel to immediately reverse the rulings on the intended evictions and halt its settlements policy;
  • live up to its obligations and commitments to protect and promote human rights and international law without exception;
  • together with the international community, denounce this impunity and the ongoing human rights violations.

The full text of the forceful and principled letter can be found here: https://canadatalksisraelpalestine.files.wordpress.com/2021/05/ecumenicallettertoministergarneaupalestiniansevictionsinejerusalem20210420-3.pdf

Reverend Michael Blair, Moderator of the United Church of Canada was one of the 14 signatories to the letter to Minister Garneau

The letter was signed by 12 leading Canadian religious leaders:

  • The Venerable Alan T. Perry, General Secretary, the Anglican Church of Canada
  • Rick Cober Bauman, Executive Secretary, Mennonite Central Committee
  • Reverend Michael Blair, Moderator, United Church of Canada
  • The Reverend Susan Johnson, National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
  • Rula Odeh, Chair, Canadian Friends of Sabeel
  • Lori Ransom, Executive Director (interim), KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
  • Lana Robinson, Clerk, Canadian Friends Service Committee
  • Sylvia Skrepichuk, Chair, Catholics for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land
  • Byron Rempel-Burkholder, Chair, Mennonite Church Canada Palestine-Israel Network
  • Jon Nofziger, Chair, Mennonite Church British Columbia Palestine-Israel Network
  • Joanna Hiebert Bergen, Mennonite Church Manitoba Palestine-Israel, Working Group
  • George Bartlett, Chair, United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine – Israel

The letter was also copied to representatives to all federal political parties and to Global Affairs Canada officials.

What was the follow up?

As of May 15th, Minister Garneau had not responded to the letter so it is not known what his response might be.

What IS known is that Canada did not do ANY of the things recommended by the religious leaders until AFTER the evictions had started, AFTER the worshippers at the mosque had been attacked and AFTER Palestinian rockets began landing in Israel.

In a rather weak statement made on Wednesday, May 12, Foreign Minister Garneau finally expressed concern over “the continued expansion of settlements, and the demolitions and evictions, including the ongoing cases in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.” Better too late and too little than nothing at all, perhaps but without any threat of consequences, the Minister’s words sound hollow.

Readers who agree with the Canadian Christian leaders’ letter can send an email to their own Member of Parliament expressing frustration with the lack of credible response from the government. They might get a response.

_______________________________________________________________________________

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.

Want to learn more about us? Go to http://www.ottawaforumip.or

16 comments

  1. FM Garneau has now said that Canada will do everything possible to get to a 2 state solution. So his statements and policies can ultimately judged from that perspective. His first major step should be to formally recognize Palestine at UN.

    1. George,

      “Recognition” in the sense you use it is supposed to be the acknowledgement of a fact. In this case, recognition of Palestine as a state would mean declaring that it has a government in control of its territory and able to speak for a majority of its citizens. Today, Israel is in control of all territory that might become a State of Palestine. It has troops (and settlements) throughout the Occupied West Bank. Israel controls Gaza’s borders, imprisoning its inhabitants, and is able to invade or destroy any structure in Gaza at any time. Further, there is no unified government that could take over if Israel withdrew.

      We do not want Minister to declare “victory” when none exists. That would only give Canada another excuse for doing nothing.

      We must not put “the cart before the horse”. Canada should join with other nations in trying to get Israel to abandon its claim of the right to complete control of all the land that was once called Palestine. What happens after that must be determined by the people who live in the area. They, all of them, irrespective of ethnicity, have the right of self-determination.

      1. Good point. Would not want recognition of Palestine to be interpreted in that way. I mean recognition in the way that 150 or so UN members do: that Palestine exists in the occupied territoriesincl East Jerusalem and Gaza regardless of who is in control. This is the sense that Sweden and 9 other EU members regard this. If such recognition became universal it would serve notice of what the internationql community expects as a solution. It would effectively disallow continuous Israeli resistance to any state of Palestine. It would also eliminate the facile Canadian excuse that the ICC cannot investigate war humanity crimes against Palestine because it is not a state. Maybe it would encourage CBC to refer to ” Palestine.”
        SYMBOLIC AND NOT A FINAL SOLUTION FOR PALESTINE BUT A GOOD STEP.

  2. Why? Why doesn’t our government make strong statements as called for in this letter? In fact, why would it take letters like this to get them to take a moral stand? Our politicians are often quite quick to speak out on issues that are less obvious and less urgent. Only when we understand their obvious reluctance to speak (let alone act) on issues about Palestine-Israel can we begin to get them to change.

  3. I’m sending this on to CFSC, the Quakers. We are drafting our own letter.

  4. Did not expect this from Canada. Thry should speak up for what is right and be just and not have double standards. Where is their humanity……

    1. The humanity gets lost in the effort to retain political power and sadly Garneau is mouthing the wants of Trudeau who, while acknowledging the total imbalance in this 73 year old international disaster, will not take a stance lest Netanyahu’s supporters here in Canada object.
      Meanwhile, Netanyahu, caught in yet another failed effort to retain total power in Israel has opted once more to create a crisis by encouraging fighting in the streets.

      Suddenly the failed politician is back in charge as if he won the election.

      As far as what you expect from Canada, I know if I were to try to post this comment on CBC, it would disappear. In fact, CBC, Canada’s national broadcaster doesn’t allow any open discussion of things Israeli and, yes it’s a political decision.

      1. Hey Allan, I am encouraged by seems to be a slight change of tack at the CBC. In the last 10 days they have had many interviews with people who are critical of Israel including Diana Buttu. They have also had several people who defend Israel, but I feel that it is appropriate that a National broadcaster report different sides of a story. it would be unreasonable to demand that CBC be “pro Palestinian”. A reasonable balance seems fine by me.

  5. I appreciate this letter from Canadian church leaders, but I would like to see churches recognize and reflect more on the role of Christian Zionism in this tragic history, and start to make amends for it. Christian Zionism is not just a historical phenomenon; it is still very much alive today, albeit more among the evangelical and millenarian branches, but also perhaps among congregations generally. I would suggest that the churches and church leaders have a duty from history to address this, and engage with their congregations and evangelical coreligionists about it.

    Christian Zionism clearly had a strong influence on the previous (Harper) Canadian government, and obviously also on the Trump presidency. (On the latter, see Maya Zinshtein’s recent documentary film “‘Til Kingdom Come”.) Its influence on the Trudeau government and the Biden administration might be less blatant, but it still might figure partly in their political calculations and subconscious or conscious attitudes.

    It is difficult (for me at least) to comprehend what sorts of racist, nationalist and religious ideologies can account for the savagery currently being let loose on Gaza, and for our political leaders’ apparently indifferent countenance of it, but Christian Zionism might be part of this.

    1. I would just like to add with regard to the inevitable “both sideism” on the Gaza situation that it is my understanding that Hamas has been willing to take part in a ceasefire for several days now, but that Israel is resisting this, and the Biden administration is blocking or stalling diplomatic efforts through the UN Security Council and elsewhere, in order to give the Israeli forces a few more days to kill children in Gaza and complete yet another round of “mowing the lawn” (as they put it).

      1. I have read that too. I don’t think calling for “peace” or a “ceasefire” is very useful. We have to explain to Canadians what the issues are. Most don’t understand very well, unfortunately.

      2. Peter S.,

        Biden is claiming that Israel is defending itself against a rocket attack. The best proof that that claim is is the fact that the rockets keep coming. A military force intent on defending its civilians would devote all of its efforts to finding and destroying the rockets that are being fired at those it is defending. Israel is not doing that. Instead, they appear to be destroying a long list of “annoying” targets including outspoken leaders, homes of leaders, TV stations, Press Offices, roads leading to hospitals, tunnels to Egypt etc. Every time that Israel hits one of those targets, more rockets are fired towards Israelis; those rockets are the real current threat. Israel is endangering its people, not defending them.

        Israel has the power to detect and destroy those rockets. They choose not to do so. Perhaps they allow the rockets to survive because that gives them an excuse to attack the things on their “to destroy” list.

  6. We, all of us, are living the life of the Munich parent, the Wesphalian farmer, the Bremen school mistress, and others who protested that “We really did not know where those trains were going, and we were told that the new camps were for criminal and political instigators, and others. We did not know what was really going on. Honest!” We are re-living the mass criminality of commission. Commission in the outright breach of several foundational laws and principles in international justice enschrined in the Geneva Convention, the rulings of the International Criminal Court, the United Nations, and other pillars of justice and human rights in the international order. What was a legitimate state in 1948, if ever a contested initiative, has become the worst of rogue states, a collective criminal now rampant in brazen acts of terror, colonialization, murder, evictions, and other horrifying acts. And all with impunity! An impunity underwritten by the United States of America, and several other countries, including Canada. We practice a criminally duplicitous silence. We are cowered by the malicious trump card that might suggest criticism of what has become an outlaw state is by definition the worst of anti-semitism. We agree to be gagged, we acquiesce in the poisonous silence and repeated ineffectual chiding of the Israeli government, again and again. As the trains roll by. As the camp wiring is erected. This is the heinous act of my generation, for which there is no excuse, no forgiveness. And I disown all Canadian governments and those who invest, in whatever manner, in and perpetuate this insidious commission of criminality.

    1. Hey Tim Louis, What was “carter’s brilliant proposal”? I know he warned about apartheid in the West Bank, but I don’t remember him addressing other key issues like the refugees, Jerusalem or the status of non Jews in Israel. Perhaps I missed that.

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