Although the meeting was boycotted by Israel, Canada, the United States and Australia, the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the counties that signed on to that convention, met on Dec. 17 to condemn Israel for its actions in its conflict with the Palestinians.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement that Canada would not lend “any credibility” to the conference planned by Switzerland to discuss Israel and the Fourth Geneva Convention on Rules of War, which was adopted in 1949 in response to the atrocities committed by the Nazis during World War II, and governs wartime actions as they relate to the treatment of civilians in occupied territories.
“Canada is deeply disappointed by the convening of this one-sided and politicized conference, which serves only to single out one country, Israel, for criticism. Canada has complete faith in the strength of the rule of law in Israel, and we believe the Israelis are capable of investigating matters surrounding the events that took place in Gaza in the summer of 2014,” Baird said.
“This conference risks undermining the integrity and credibility of the Geneva conventions and the neutrality of their application. Such a misguided approach will neither serve the cause of peace nor bring the parties closer to a negotiated settlement.”
The United States and Israel had been working in recent weeks to pressure the Swiss government to cancel the meeting.
Australia’s ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma confirmed via his Twitter account that Australia would not participate.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry released a statement in advance of the event, calling it “a political move whose sole aim is to utilize the important stage of the Geneva conventions for the sake of denigrating Israel… Israel, of course, won’t take part in the conference, in addition to other states that clarified their objection to the Swiss government.”
Shimon Fogel, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ president and CEO, referred to the fact that this is only the third time since the Geneva conventions were put into place after World War II that the High Contracting Parties have met.
Previous meetings for the 196 UN member states who are signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention were held in 1999 and 2001 – both times to condemn Israel.
“I think that’s exactly what the story is,” Fogel said. “An instrument of the international community, which was put into place, really, as a response to what they witnessed happen to the Jews during World War II, has been directed against only one country, as if there hasn’t been a collection of atrocities that make the Israeli-Arab conflict look like kinderspiel [child’s play].”
He said that although the basis for the meeting is “an outrage,” he is “gratified” with the position taken by Canada.
“The explanation that they advanced through the statement by the foreign minister is exactly the appropriate response to this and it challenges the other High Contracting Parties to do a little soul searching about their willingness to be exploited and used to advance a very cynical, political agenda,” Fogel said.
He added that this meeting is just one of many strategies anti-Israel forces, including the Palestinian Authority, use to demonize and delegitimize Israel.
“[The Palestinian Authority is] trying to circumvent direct negotiations with Israel to seek what it wants to achieve diplomatically, not through the process that was set out by the relevant [UN] Security Council resolutions, but rather through the back door, without having to reciprocate in terms of expectations of what Palestinians would be obliged to do in return for peace with Israel,” he said.
“We have to be really worried about the extent to which members of the international community who are charged with the responsibility of upholding these mechanisms, these treaties and processes, are willing to be used in this way.”