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Canada's abstention in UN vote marks turning point on Israel-Palestine policy

U.S. UN ambassador Nikki Haley

Thank you, President Donald Trump and U.S. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley for helping end the Trudeau government's "Israel no matter what" voting pattern.

On Thursday, Canada actually abstained on a UN General Assembly resolution, which "affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council, and in this regard, calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem."

Since taking office, Trudeau has repeatedly isolated Canada with the U.S., Israel and a few tiny Pacific island states, by voting against UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights. Last Tuesday, for instance, Canada opposed a motion supported by 176 nations calling for Palestinian statehood. Two weeks earlier the Trudeau government also voted against a resolution on Jerusalem backed by 151 UN member states.

As RawStory pointed out, the media attention devoted to Trump and Haley's threats against those voting in favour of the Jerusalem resolution actually drove Trudeau to abstain on Thursday instead of his usual pro-Israel vote. While Stephen Harper's anti-Palestinian positions at the UN found support among many of the party's base, the same is not true of the Liberals.

Prominent Trudeau fundraisers such as Stephen Bronfman and the late Barry Sherman may want Canada to side with Israel "no matter what," but younger, progressive Liberal supporters have expressed support for Palestinian human rights.

The Liberal leadership understands that party supporters and the broader public are uncomfortable with Israeli expansionism and Canada isolating itself from world opinion on the matter, so the more attention devoted to their UN votes, the more equivocal the Liberals' position. Hopefully, the recent attention devoted to the Trudeau government's pro-Israel voting record will spur further abstentions on Palestine votes. (At this point its probably too much to expect Trudeau to vote in support of international law and official Canadian policy).

Regularly abstaining at the UN on Palestine would be a step forward, but these votes are only the tip of the iceberg in Canada's multifaceted contribution to Israeli expansionism. The two-decade old Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement includes the occupied West Bank as a place where Israel’s custom laws apply. Ottawa also has a wide-ranging "border management and security" agreement with Israel, even though the two countries do not share a border. Additionally, Canada’s Communications Security Establishment has long gathered intelligence on Palestinians for Israel.

Every year, registered Canadian charities channel tens of millions of dollars to projects supporting Israel's powerful military, institutions and illegal settlements. The Canada Revenue Agency allows organizations whose projects contravene international law and official Canadian policy to write tax credits for these donations.

Despite a GDP per capita greater than Spain or Italy (and equal to Japan), hundreds of registered Canadian charities deliver hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Israel. How many Canadian charities funnel money to Spain or Japan?

Even a large swath of Canada’s "aid" to the Palestinians--who have one-twentieth of their occupier’s per capita GDP--is explicitly designed to advance Israel's interests. Over the past decade, Ottawa has delivered over $100 million and sent military and police trainers to build a security apparatus to protect the corrupt Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian Authority from popular disgust over its compliance in the face of ongoing Israeli settlement building.

"There have been increasing references in the past months during high-level bilateral meetings with the Israelis about the importance and value they place on Canada's assistance to the Palestinian Authority, most notably in security/justice reform," read an internal 2012 note signed by then Canadian International Development Agency president Margaret Biggs. In the heavily censored note, Biggs explained that "the emergence of popular protests on the Palestinian street against the Palestinian Authority is worrying and the Israelis have been imploring the international donor community to continue to support the Palestinian Authority."

Drawing on previously classified materials, Carleton Criminology Professor Jeffrey Monaghan details Canada’s role in turning Palestinian security forces in the West Bank into an effective arm of Israel’s occupation. In Security Aid: Canada and the Development Regime of Security, Monaghan describes a $1.5 million Canadian contribution to Joint Operating Centers whose "main focus … is to integrate elements of the Palestinian Authority Security Forces into Israeli command"” He writes about Canada’s "many funding initiatives to the PCP [Palestinian Civilian Police]" which "has increasingly been tasked by the Israeli Defence Forces as a lead agency to deal with public order policing, most recently during IDF bombings in Gaza and during Arab Spring demonstrations."

Trump's decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem may well mark the end of the spurious "peace process" and Abbas's U.S.--Canada--Saudi--Israel backed Palestinian Authority. Hopefully, it will also be seen as a turning point in Canada’s effort to suffocate the Palestinian liberation struggle.

Image: iip-photo-archive

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