TORONTO — The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has refused to put its stamp of approval on the first-ever postage stamp issued jointly by Canada and Israel. Unveiled last month, the international rate stamp commemorates 60 years of bilateral relations between the two countries.
Depicting a red maple leaf and a blue Star of David, both comprised of human figures, the stamp is worth $1.70 in Canada and 4.60 shekels in Israel.
“CUPW recognizes that Israel is a democracy and has taken steps to end discrimination against lesbian and gay citizens,” Denis Lemelin, national president of the postal union, wrote in a recent letter to the head of Canada Post.
“However, we are puzzled about the concept of shared values with a country that has consistently ignored United Nations and World Court decisions in regards to the ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza… Sadly, in Israel there are still over 20 laws that discriminate against the Palestinian national minority on such basic issues as education, jobs, land ownership and access to public resources.”
Lemelin’s letter goes on to cite Israeli violations of UN resolutions, its building of a “separation wall” and ongoing discrimination against Palestinians.
The editor of Canadian Stamp News, Charles Verge, also took a swipe at the joint stamp, writing that “I am amazed and mystified by the totally political nature of this stamp.”
Not everyone agrees with this stance, however. Canada Post spokesperson John Caines said that CUPW’s opinion does not reflect that of Canada Post.
“The stamp has been issued. It’s out. It’s just their reaction… it’s got no impact on the stamp at all,” he said.
Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber agrees. “The fact of the matter is the stamp is out there. It’s a legal stamp. It’s a stamp that’s celebrated by many people, many Canadians who understand the shared values between Canada and Israel,” he said.
Farber doesn’t think Lemelin’s letter reflects popular opinion either.
“You have your grassroots membership and then you have the leadership of CUPW. I think it’s fair to say there will be many times when the grassroots will not be in sync with the leadership,” he said.
“I doubt that a letter from Lemelin will have the kind of effect that he is trying to generate. I think most Canadians get it. I think most postal workers get it.”
He said the stamp represents a connection between Israel and Canada.
“The stamp recognizes the fact that, even though thousands of miles separate us, we share a common understanding of human rights, we share a common understanding of democratic values,” he said. “I’m proud of the fact that the Canadian government is celebrating the two countries.”
With files from Rita Poliakov