The July RI Roundup: Israeli housing demolitions, defining anti-semitism, banning waste exports and Canada’s misguided Venezuela policy.

Widespread international condemnation was the immediate reaction to the terrible destruction by Israel, that began on 21 July, of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, on territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords:

Israeli troops knock down scores of Palestinian homes in Sur Baher village despite international outcry. – Aljazeera.com

France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom strongly condemn the demolition by Israel of Palestinian buildings in the district of Wadi al Hummus, in the South East of Jerusalem. – DW.com

Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, ‘not compatible’ with international humanitarian law, UN says – UN News

UN human rights experts call on Israel to halt demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem – ohchr.org, Geneva

In the view of the EU group, the housing destruction was “particularly egregious” because it constituted a violation of the Oslo Agreements and set a “dangerous precedent” that directly jeopardises the two-state solution.

Canadian Michael Lynk, who is the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, also condemned the demolitions as constituting a breach by Israel of its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

Like other senior UN officials, he  specifically refuted the Israeli justification that the Palestinian buildings posed a security threat:

As the International Court of Justice found in its 2004 advisory opinion on the construction of the separation wall, the route of the wall, including those parts of the wall which are constructed inside of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is not justifiable on the basis of military exigencies nor by national security.

A statement of formal condemnation was debated by the UN Security Council but blocked by the USA.

Whither Canada?

These illegal and utterly heartless acts of destruction by the Israeli government, which clearly seem designed to progressively undermine the historically multi-religious and multi-ethnic character of Jerusalem, received detailed coverage in National Post reprints of several Reuters stories. See for example: Israel demolishes Palestinian homes near West Bank barrier despite international criticism (22 July 2019).

CTV also carried an Associated Press account of the demolitions.

Official Canadian policy on such demolitions — as set out on the Global Affairs website — states in part:

Canada recognizes Israel’s right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, including through the restriction of access to its territory, and by building a barrier on its own territory for security purposes. However, Canada opposes Israel’s construction of the barrier inside the West Bank and East Jerusalem which are occupied territories. This construction is contrary to international law under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Canada not only opposes Israel’s construction of a barrier extending into the occupied territories, but also expropriations and the demolition of houses and economic infrastructure carried out for this purpose.

Yet, in the face of a flagrant and ongoing contravention of this policy by Israel, the silence from the Canadian government is deafening.

The only thing approaching an official statement was a July 23rd tweet on the  Global Affairs feed, CanForeignPolicy (@canadafp) as follows:

 

Canada is deeply concerned by demolitions of Palestinian property in #SurBaher. We call on Israeli authorities to halt such demolitions which are illegal under international law and undermine efforts for a two state solution.

This is certainly better than total silence but far less than the gravity of the situation requires – a formal statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, issued as a press release so all of us on their media list are automatically notified and do not have to troll through hundreds of tweets to try and determine the government’s response.

We call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and  Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland to stand up for international law, Palestinian human rights and longstanding Canadian policy by issuing a formal statement condemning the demolitions by Israel and demanding their immediate halt.

Related Developments

On a more positive note, see: Vancouver City Council rejects misguided definition of antisemitism (ijvcanada.org, 26 July 2019):

Opponents … emphasized that this definition of antisemitism would not in any way help the city fight this prejudice. Instead, it would encourage officials to label all criticism of the state of Israel as antisemitism, silencing support for Palestinian rights and freedoms. – IJV Canada

For a recent commentary on the somewhat muddled position of the Government of Canada with respect to this problematic definition, see: Did the Israeli lobby really achieve its main objective in the federal anti-racism strategy? It’s not as clear as they would like us to believe (canadatalksisraelpalestine.ca, 18 July, 2019).

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Canadian government challenged to support UN ban on exporting wastes to developing countries

Kathleen Ruff, Rideau Institute Board member and respected human rights activist, begins a recent RightOnCanada.ca blog post with the following observation:

Most Canadians are not aware that the Canadian government is opposing a UN ban on the export of wastes to developing countries.

As the post points out, a recent opinion poll shows that 79% of Canadians think Canada should stop shipping its wastes overseas to developing countries.

Click here for the full blog post, which provides details of the international legal framework and actions by Canadian environmental organizations to change Canada’s opposition into support for the UN ban.

Venezuela Update

For a recent article co-authored by University of Ottawa Professor Ruby Dagher, Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason and Chair of the Group of  78, Roy Culpeper, see: Canada’s misguided Venezuela policy and the inhumanity of sanctions (theconversation.com, 25 July 2019).

 Photo credit:Wikimedia Commons.

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