US allies must demand decisive action to stop the Gaza carnage
ISRAEL, PALESTINE AND THE WAR ON GAZA
Canada is neutral on the merits of the ICJ genocide case against Israel
In last week’s blog post, we referenced the Prime Minister’s press conference remarks, later reflected in an official statement from Global Affairs Canada, that offered strong support for the ICJ and its processes but cautioned that such support
does not mean we support the premise of the case brought forward by South Africa.
What we then characterized as an “ambiguous statement” was taken by both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups to mean that Canada did not support the South Africa case.
However, as Evan Dyer made clear in a comprehensive 16 January 2024 article,
Trudeau’s and Joly’s statements were widely misreported in mainstream media and on social media as dismissing the South African case and taking the side of Israel.
In fact, their statements carefully avoided either rejecting or endorsing South Africa’s case against Israel.
In other words, Canada is taking a position of neutrality on the merits of South Africa’s case.
Canada will abide by all ICJ rulings in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel
A second clarification relates to Canada’s stance regarding any rulings by the ICJ in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel.
According to Evan Dyer, officials at Global Affairs Canada have told CBC News that
Canada will abide by all rulings arising from South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
This is a most welcome clarification, but it is not enough. As we also stated last week,
Canada must demonstrate positive support for the ICJ rulings by expressly calling on the parties to fully comply with them.
Canada and the US/UK air strikes against Yemen
Since 19 November 2023 Yemen’s Houthi militia, an armed group that has been fighting a civil war in Yemen since 2014 and now controls most of the populated areas of the country, has been targeting ships with an Israeli “connection” in the Red Sea.
We will only halt our attacks if Israel’s crimes in Gaza stop and food, medicines and fuel are allowed to reach its besieged population – Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, senior Houthi official
The Houthis have said their attacks are a response to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and the international community’s failure to put an end to it and will cease as soon as the war and the blockade on supplies to Gaza end.
Every ship that goes through the Red Sea … should broadcast ‘we have no relationship with Israel.’ – Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, Houthi leader
The Houthis have also said that any ships which explicitly state they have no Israeli connections are welcome to use the Red Sea, and pointed out that such a statement is “a low-cost solution that will incur no financial expenditures for any business”.
According to Al Jazeera:
While there have been no injuries or deaths reported from Houthi attacks, the fallout has been immense for global shipping. At least 12 shipping companies have suspended transit through the Red Sea over the attacks, among them some of the world’s largest: the Italian-Swiss giant Mediterranean Shipping Company, France’s CMA CGM and Denmark’s AP Moller-Maersk.
As for Israel, its Eilat port on the Red Sea has seen an 85% drop in activity since the attacks began.
UN Security Council passes Resolution 2722 condemning the Houthi Red Sea attacks
On 10 January 2024 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2722 demanding that the Houthis immediately stop attacks on merchant and commercial vessels in the Red Sea.
The meeting summary includes this statement:
Speaking after these votes, Linda Thomas-Greenfield (United States) said that the Russian Federation’s text [of a proposed amendment which failed] would have falsely suggested that the conflict in Gaza is cause for the Houthi attacks, which would have emboldened the Houthis and legitimized their violations.
In her view, while “regional dynamics — including Iran’s provision of advanced weapons — have contributed to the situation,” what is at issue is “the simple principle of upholding freedom of navigation.”
The Rideau Institute comments:
It is worth dwelling on this statement for a moment. The US Permanent Representative is arguing that mere acknowledgment of the Houthis’ stated reason for the attacks — to pressurize Israel — is to “legitimize” it. So the better course is to manufacture an alternative explanation.
Houthis are not just Iranian proxies, but are guided by the repressive Ansar Allah ideology
They have some shared goals with Tehran but we shouldn’t overestimate the leverage Iran has on the Houthis. They have their own agenda. – Eleonora Ardemagni, ISPI
It is important to note that despite the US and Israeli tendency, for their own political reasons, to reduce the Houthis to Iranian proxies, it is Ansar Allah’s own authoritarian ideology that is the reason for its actions, not its relationship to Iran.
Three relevant paragraphs of the UN Security Council resolution read as follows:
SCR 2722 (2024)
- Affirms the exercise of navigational rights and freedoms by merchant and commercial vessels, in accordance with international law, must be respected, and takes note of the right of Member States, in accordance with international law, to defend their vessels from attacks, including those that undermine navigational rights and freedoms;
- Emphasizes the need to address the root causes, including the conflicts contributing to regional tensions and the disruption of maritime security in order to ensure a prompt, efficient, and effective response….
- Urges caution and restraint to avoid further escalation of the situation in the Red Sea and the broader region, and encourages enhanced diplomatic efforts by all parties to that end, including continued support for dialogue and Yemen’s peace process under the UN auspices
US and UK launch air strikes across Yemen in retaliation for Red Sea attacks
On 12 January 2024, US and British warplanes, ships and submarines launched dozens of air strikes across Yemen overnight in retaliation for the Houthi attacks.
According to Reuters, citing US officials,
The Netherlands, Australia, Canada and Bahrain provided logistical and intelligence support for the operation.
In addition, Germany, Denmark, New Zealand and South Korea signed a joint statement with these six nations defending the overnight attacks and warning of further action to protect the free flow of Red Sea trade if the Houthis did not back down.
Strong concerns about the US/UK air strikes are expressed inside and outside the UN
Fearing regional conflict escalation and the unravelling of the Yemeni peace process, criticism of the US/UK action came from many quarters.
In a press release, the UN Secretary-General called on Member States defending their vessels from attack “to do so in accordance with international law, as stipulated in the resolution”.
He then called upon all parties involved
not to escalate even more the situation in the interest of peace and stability in the Red Sea and the wider region … [and] to avoid acts that could further worsen the situation in Yemen itself … [and] for every effort to be made to ensure that Yemen pursues a path towards peace and that the work undertaken thus far to end the conflict in Yemen should not be lost.
UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg urged
all involved to exercise maximum restraint and to prioritize diplomatic channels over military options and calls for de-escalation.
Statement by senior UN official at a special meeting of UN Security Council on Yemen
At a special meeting of the UN Security Council on 12 January 2024, Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations Khaled Khiari gave a statement urging restraint on all sides. In his view:
Yesterday’s events further demonstrate that the region is on a dangerous escalatory trajectory that could potentially impact millions in Yemen, the region and globally.
While affirming the need to ensure the safety and security of maritime navigation, he called on all concerned parties to
do their utmost to avoid further escalation, reduce tensions and exercise restraint.
Statements by Security Council members
In the ensuing debate in the Security Council on 12 January 2024, the US and the UK asserted their right of self-defence under Article 51 of the Charter and described the strikes as “necessary and proportionate”, with some members concurring, while others questioned whether the air strikes were escalatory actions not authorized by the resolution at all.
Russia rejected the application of the right of self-defence in this case and the consequent right to bomb Yemen.
In a similar vein, according to the UN Press Summary:
Switzerland’s delegate also recalled that, under the resolution, Member States’ right to defend their vessels is strictly limited to military measures to intercept attacks against merchant vessels and warships to protect them and the persons on board.
Noting that any military operation that goes beyond this immediate protection would be disproportionate — and not covered by the resolution — he voiced concern over the military strikes.
Saudi Arabia — no friend of the Houthis but desperate for the peace process to succeed — expressed ‘great concern’ and called for ‘self-restraint and avoiding escalation’. Oman, which has been deeply involved in mediation efforts to end the Yemen war, strongly condemned the action.
The last thing we need at this stage is reckless military adventurism, and the first thing we need is calm and restraint.
Europe split over US/UK strikes on Houthis in Yemen
A Reuters analysis also from 12 January 2024 states:
Italy, Spain and France stood out on Friday by not taking part in U.S. and British strikes against the Houthi group in Yemen and not signing a statement put out by 10 countries justifying the attacks.
Regarding France, a diplomat close to the issue said Paris did not believe the attack could be deemed legitimate self-defence.
Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles said Madrid had not joined the military action in the Red Sea because it wanted to promote peace in the region.
Italian Defence Minister Guido Crosetto earlier this week made clear his reluctance to target the Houthis, telling Reuters that their aggression had to be stopped without triggering a new war in the region.
Biden admits the bombing is not deterring the Houthis but vows to continue
Having been targeted by the US and the UK, the Houthis have now expanded their target list to include US and UK naval forces. But they have also said they did not intend to expand their attacks on shipping in and around the Red Sea further, beyond their stated aims of blockading Israel and retaliating against the United States and Britain for air strikes.
We do not want the escalation to expand. This is not our demand. We imposed rules of engagement in which not a single drop of blood was shed or major material losses. It represented pressure on Israel only, it did not represent pressure on any country in the world.
For his part, President Biden has vowed to continue US strikes on Houthi targets, even as he admitted to reporters on Friday morning that the administration’s military action had not stopped the Houthi attacks.
Well, when you say ‘working,’ are they stopping the Houthis? No. Are they going to continue? Yes. – President Biden
The lack of impact on Houthi actions should come as no surprise to anyone even vaguely familiar with the Saudi Arabian experience in their war against the Houthis. Yemeni expert Helen Lackner elaborates,
it is worth remembering that most of the [Yemeni] positions attacked by the US/UK had been bombed on multiple occasions by the Saudi-led coalition in the past decade [to no avail].
White House redesignates the Houthis as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist organization
In another blow to the fragile Yemeni peace process, the White House has redesignated the Houthis as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) organization. The group had been delisted in 2021, in one of President Biden’s first major foreign policy decisions upon taking office in January 2021.
At that time Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated:
This decision is a recognition of the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen. We have listened to warnings from the United Nations, humanitarian groups, and bipartisan members of Congress, among others, that the designations could have a devastating impact on Yemenis’ access to basic commodities like food and fuel.
And, as AJ reports, once again rights advocates and political analysts are sounding the alarm over the negative effects the decision may have on Yemeni civilians, even as experts question whether it will have any impact at all on the Houthi attacks.
Brian Finucane, a senior US programme adviser at the International Crisis Group, says the action is a reflection of Washington’s refusal to recognise that recent Houthi attacks are linked to the war in Gaza:
The Biden administration has put itself in a box … where it doesn’t have good policy options.
SDGT designation is far below that of Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO)
Experts also point out, however, that the SDGT designation is a “minimal” designation, restricting access to funds from abroad, which the Houthis have never had.
Nonetheless, it could still impede aid flows as well as further emboldening and radicalising parts of the Yemeni population.
Nabeel Khoury, a former deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Yemen, comments:
It’s really baffling what this administration is engaged in. … This designation is more like an insult. It’s the old glove in the face, slap someone with your glove. You’re sort of challenging, but not really hurting them.
For an excellent open-source analysis from Helen Lackner on how the Biden policy towards the Gaza war is imperilling what was to have been a key foreign policy success — an end to the war in Yemen — click HERE.
We give the final word on the designation issue to Scott Paul, Associate Director of Peace and Security at Oxfam America, who told Al Jazeera in a written statement,
The Biden administration is playing with fire, and we call on them to avoid this designation immediately and prioritise the lives of Yemenis now.
The Rideau Institute comments:
This is an extraordinary example of how the Biden administration has tied itself in knots and is sacrificing other important foreign policy objectives on the altar of an Israel policy that has long been indefensible but is now increasingly becoming incomprehensible as well.
We come now to Canada’s sadly misguided decision to contribute logistics and/or intelligence in support of a strategy — air strikes on Yemen — that carried a very high escalatory risk but had virtually no chance of actually deterring the Houthis.
The Rideau Institute asks:
Why did Canada feel the need to join in this dubious military engagement? Why are we not giving priority to diplomatic measures to achieve an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza?
The way forward: The US, Canada and the two-state solution
The so-called two-state solution is dead. – Benjamin Netanyahu
In a nationally televised news conference on 18 January 2024, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu asserted that the “so-called two-state solution” is dead. According to Haaretz, he went even further, ‘vowing to block it’.
His address to the Israeli nation followed weeks of pressure by the United States to get Netanyahu’s government to commit to a plan for the post-Gaza War period that includes a clear roadmap to a “sovereign, independent Palestinian state”.
According to an excellent analysis by CBC’s Even Dyer,
His televised speech will further embarrass Biden, who has given Israel unconditional backing since the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7. Biden has insisted that the U.S. and Israel are working together toward a two-state solution.
Dyer reminds that:
On Sept. 22, 2023, Netanyahu went before the UN General Assembly with a printed map entitled “The New Middle East” that showed a Greater Israel in blue containing all of the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean.
Since coming to power in 2022, the Netanyahu government has accelerated the granting of permits for new settlement construction in the Occupied Territories even as its settler allies have accelerated their often-violent efforts to push Palestinians from the land.
Much of the land envisioned as part of a future Palestinian state in the 1990s has now been taken by settlers or seized by the government of Israel for other purposes.
US argues that October 7 events confirm the need for a two-state solution
Respect for Oslo and the two-state principle is not negotiable – Secretary Blinken
While Israeli leaders have pointed to the October 7 massacre as a reason to take the two-state concept off the table, US officials have taken the view that those events only confirm the need for a two-state solution.
State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said last month:
The October 7th attacks should have been a wake-up call to everyone that there needs to be a solution moving forward that addresses the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people while providing security to the Israeli people.
We think the best way to achieve that is the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
In Davos, where the World Economic Forum gathered for its annual conference, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told delegates Wednesday that respect for Oslo and the two-state principle is not negotiable.
He went on to say that, for the first time, there are
Arab countries and Muslim countries, even beyond the region, that are prepared to have a relationship with Israel in terms of its integration, its normalization, its security that they were never prepared to have before.
But you have an absolute conviction by those countries, one that we share, that this has to include a pathway to a Palestinian state.
The final word in Dyer’s article goes to the Palestinian delegate to Canada, Mona Abuamara:
We want the implementation of international law, we want for Palestine not to be the exception anymore. We want for Israel to be held accountable.
The Rideau Institute asks:
Why should Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pay any attention to what the US says about Palestinian statehood when Israel is receiving the military and political support it needs from United States to ensure that goal never comes about?
What does it say about American allies, like Canada, who continue to go along with this rhetorical illusion?
And the greatest urgency is still ending the war now
Here are the latest statistics from the UNOCHA:
Russia receives Hamas delegation in Moscow
the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza strip has reached catastrophic proportions – Russia Foreign Ministry
Reuters reports that the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday, 19 January 2024 that it has received a Hamas delegation in Moscow. During the talks, the Russian side emphasized the need for Hamas to release Israeli hostages and condemned the “catastrophic” humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.
Only a ceasefire deal can win the release of hostages says former Israeli army chief
Multiple news outlets, including Reuters and AP, are reporting comments by former army chief and member of Israel’s war cabinet Gadi Eisenkot that only a ceasefire deal can win the release of dozens of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza and that those claiming they can be freed through military pressure are “sow[ing] an illusion”:
I think it is necessary to say boldly that it is impossible to bring the hostages back alive in the near future without a deal.
While 105 of the hostages seized during Hamas’ cross-border rampage into southern Israel on October 7 were freed during a short-lived November truce, Israel says 132 remain in Gaza and that 27 have died in captivity. Just one hostage, Pte. Ori Megidish, has been freed through the direct actions of Israel’s military, which also killed three hostages when they tried to give themselves up.
Netanyahu continues to insist on absolute victory despite failure to achieve any of Israel’s stated war aims
This brings us right back to Netanyahu’s televised statement where he rejected calls from the United States to scale back Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip, asserting instead:
We will not settle for anything short of an absolute victory.
This bold assertion — which has more to do with Netanyahu’s fear of what an end to the war will mean for his political career than actual military strategy — is contradicted by the failure of Israel to achieve any of its declared war aims: the elimination of Hamas, the freeing of the hostages and the “demilitarization” of Gaza.
What Israel has accomplished mainly is to make Gaza unlivable. – Nur Arafeh, Carnegie Middle East Centre.
For a detailed analysis of Israel’s failure to achieve any of its declared war aims, see After more than 3 months of fighting, even small victories for Israel are elusive (Chris Brown, cbc.ca, 20 January 2024).
Liberal and NDP MPs return from West Bank visit determined to advocate for a ceasefire
I am going to share all these stories which I have heard with the prime minister, with (Foreign Affairs Minister) Mélanie Joly, and emphasize again that it is really important that Canada be a strong voice in asking for a ceasefire. – Liberal MP Salma Zahid
For an analysis of the recent visit by two Liberal and three New Democrat MPs (the Conservatives declined to participate) to the Middle East, under the auspices of Canadian Muslim Vote, a non-partisan and non-profit group that aims to boost civic engagement among Canadian Muslims, see Liberal and NDP MPs visited the West Bank — and returned with a message for Justin Trudeau (Raisa Patel, thestar.com, 18 January 2024). The visit included meetings with Palestinians in refugee camps and Israeli settlements, Canadian diplomatic representatives, United Nations agencies and progressive Israeli organizations.
Toronto Star writer Patel explains:
Because of extreme limitations imposed on entering Gaza and ongoing violence in the area, the delegation instead visited Jordan — home to an estimated two million Palestinian refugees — and the West Bank, which has seen the deaths of more than 340 Palestinians since the war began.
The Rideau Institute comments:
Only actual — not rhetorical — pressure from the US will end the Gaza nightmare. It is long past time for America’s closest allies, Canada among them, to stop supporting America’s worst political instincts and to start demanding concrete actions by the US to end the Gaza war now.
Netanyahu was right about one thing he said in his televised speech:
the prime minister needs to be capable of saying no to our friends.
He meant himself of course — talking tough to the Americans when nothing could be easier to do in current circumstances — but isn’t it time Biden and Trudeau and other Western leaders took that to heart? Or to put this another way, if not now, then when? Exactly how many more innocent Gazan civilians must die?
We call on the Government of Canada to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and for every diplomatic effort to be made, including with other Western allies, to ensure effective American action to this urgent end.
We also reiterate our previous calls for Canada to end all military exports to Israel and to demand full Israeli compliance with all provisional orders of the ICJ in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel.
Arms embargo parliamentary petition E-4745
THIS PETITION NOW HAS 50,710 SIGNATURES AS OF 1:49 PM EST ON 19 JANUARY 2024.
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION before it closes for signature at 4:25 pm EST on 19 February 2024. PLEASE SHARE THIS PETITION WITH OTHERS.
WE ALL HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY IN SECURING A GAZA CEASEFIRE
Displaced mother of four children, two of whom are disabled, seeking shelter in Gaza (UNICEF/El Baba]
WE MUST CONTINUE TO PRESS OUR GOVERNMENT TO TAKE CONCRETE STEPS IN SUPPORT OF AN IMMEDIATE CEASEFIRE AND FULL HUMANITARIAN ACCESS TO GAZA, INCLUDING CALLING ON ISRAEL TO FULLY COMPLY WITH ANY PROVISIONAL MEASURES ORDERED BY THE ICJ IN SOUTH AFRICA’S GENOCIDE CASE AGAINST IT.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: < email@example.com >
Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly: < firstname.lastname@example.org >
Leader of the NDP Jagmeet Singh: < Jagmeet.Singh@parl.gc.ca >
Leader of the Conservative Party Pierre Poilievre: < email@example.com >
Leader of the Bloc Quebecois Yves-François Blanchet: < Yves-Francois.Blanchet@parl.gc.ca>
Green Party Critic Elizabeth May: < Elizabeth.May@parl.gc.ca >
And find your local Member of Parliament HERE.
IN MEMORIAM ED BROADBENT
Then RI President Steve Staples and board member Michael Byers flank Ed Broadbent at a 2006 event
Since the announcement of the death of the Honourable Ed Broadbent on 11 January 2024, readers will no doubt hatve seen tributes, from many quarters, for this beloved Canadian academic, politician and elder statesman.
Ed Broadbent, a towering figure in the Canadian left, has passed away. – RI board member Bruce Campbell
One such tribute, from RI board member Bruce Campbell about his long association with his friend and mentor is entitled Ed Broadbent, principled social democracy advocate (monitormag.ca, 15 January 2024). The under-banner reads:
The former NDP leader championed socialism in a capitalist world. He will be missed.
Campbell highlights Rachel Notley’s comment in her tribute that Ed Broadbent embodied the
perfect combination of ethics, intellect, empathy and authentic connection with—and concern for—regular Canadians.
Ed made a point of never demonizing his political opponents. He built bridges and always saw the benefit of seeing problems from multiple angles.
In Campbell’s view, and we at the Rideau Institute agree, Ed Broadbent
stands among the great political leaders in Canada’s history, the kind of leader we want and need.
A personal reflection from former RI President Steven Staples
RI founding President Steve Staples explains the significance of the photo at the beginning of this In Memoriam segment:
In our first year we needed to establish ourselves as a thoughtful, well-informed and credible think tank. We were delighted when a noon-hour briefing we held attracted the attention of Ed Broadbent, who came downtown and participated in our small event.
I recall his questions and comments revealed his amazing knowledge and experience in many areas of public policy, and his genuine curiosity about the topic that day, and our newly-established organization, made everyone feel very important.
RI President Peggy Mason adds:
It is most fitting that the Prime Minister has announced there will be a state funeral for Ed Broadbent – an honour reserved for the most eminent Canadians.
Photo credit: UNICEF/Hassan Islyeh (Gaza destruction.)