Anger and disappointment have greeted a major shift in Canada’s voting record on an Israel-related resolution at the United Nations.
Changing course dramatically from previous years, on Nov. 19, Canada voted for a UN measure that refers to “occupied Palestinian territory” – east Jerusalem included – and seems to puts the onus for peace in the region solely on Israel.
Sponsored by North Korea, Egypt, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe and the “State of Palestine,” the resolution, titled “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” cites a 2004 International Court of Justice ruling on Israel’s security barrier, which said that “the construction of the wall by Israel, the occupying power, in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem … severely impedes the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.”
The measure also “reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine.”
The final vote was 164 countries in favour and nine abstentions. Five voted against the measure: Israel, the United States, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Nauru.
The resolution was part of the same 20 non-binding anti-Israel measures that are adopted at the UN every year at this time. Since 2006, Canada has voted against this particular resolution.
According to a UN press release on Nov. 19, Canada’s representative at the world body voted for the resolution because “it addresses the core issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is essential that both sides of the conflict have a prosperous future and she called for direct negotiations towards achieving lasting peace in the region.”
Barbara Harvey, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, told The CJN that Canada “is committed to the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel.
“In keeping with Canada’s long-standing position, it is important at this time to reiterate our commitment to a two-state solution and the equal rights and self-determination of all peoples.”
Harvey added that, “Canada maintains our strong opposition to the singling out of Israel for opprobrium at the UN, and has voted against the vast majority of these yearly Israel-related votes.”
Indeed, on Nov. 15, the UN General Assembly’s fourth committee adopted eight other anti-Israel resolutions. Canada voted against six and abstained on two of them.
Hillel Neuer, the Montreal-born executive director of UN Watch in Geneva, blasted Canada for the move. This year’s vote change “is dramatic,” he tweeted. If the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wanted to shift, it “could have moved from a No, as it voted last year with U.S., to an Abstain, as Australia voted. Instead, they jumped all the way to a Yes – for the first time in years and breaking bi-partisan tradition.”
The vote change is dramatic. If it wanted to shift, Trudeau's government could have moved from a No, as it voted last year with U.S., to an Abstain, as Australia voted today. Instead, they jumped all the way to a Yes—for the first time in years and breaking bi-partisan tradition. pic.twitter.com/qw3CeX4ViV
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) November 19, 2019
Trudeau, Neuer tweeted, “is trading Canada’s bedrock principles of fairness & equality for a UN Security Council seat. By voting for a resolution co-sponsored by North Korea & Zimbabwe, he has entered a Faustian bargain with dictatorships that does not bode well for a free & democratic society.”
Canada is vying for a two-year seat on the Security Council beginning in 2021.
In another tweet, Neuer said the resolution condemns Israel for “occupying” (the) Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem & holiest sites of Judaism (and) ignores hundreds of Palestinian rockets just fired at Israelis.”
Michael Levitt, the Liberal MP for the Toronto riding of York Centre, told The CJN that he’s hearing from many constituents who are expressing “concern and disappointment” at Canada’s UN vote.
He added, however, that Canada voted against six other “prejudicial” anti-Israel resolutions at the UN. Those “unfairly singled out Israel for condemnation, ignoring the crimes being perpetrated by many of the resolutions’ sponsors.”
Levitt added that if the intent of the resolution on Palestinian self-determination “was to affirm international support for a two-state solution, its lack of context, failing to recognize the historic and current security threats faced by Israel, undermines that cause.”
I will always stand against the institutionalized demonization of Israel at the UN.
– Michael Levitt
He said he “strongly” believes in Canada’s long-standing support for a two-state solution. “A just and lasting peace, including the creation of a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, can only come from direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, not from one-sided UN resolutions,” said Levitt.
“I will always stand against the institutionalized demonization of Israel at the UN.”
A number of Jewish advocacy agencies also expressed alarm at Canada’s vote.
Canada “joined the anti-Israel chorus at the UN,” said the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) in a news release. Canadian support for the resolution “represents a dramatic departure from a 10-year record of principled opposition to UN resolutions that single out Israel for condemnation and ignore Palestinian intransigence and provocations aimed at sabotaging efforts to advance peace and reconciliation.”
Joel Reitman, CIJA’s national co-chair, observed that neither this nor any of the other resolutions acknowledged “the obscene barrage of Palestinian-launched rockets and missiles raining down on Israel’s civilian population, (which) reflects just how distorted and one-sided these resolutions are.”
Jeffrey Rosenthal, CIJA’s other national co-chair, said Canadian support for a resolution that refers to “disputed territories” as “occupied Palestinian territories represents a distressing departure not only from the Canadian voting record at the UN, but a betrayal of longstanding Canadian foreign policy that rejects prejudgment of the outcome of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”
The resolution unfairly implies that Israel is responsible for the Palestinians’ self-determination, said Avi Benlolo, the CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. “In truth, the Palestinians have refused to come to a peaceful resolution with Israel on multiple occasions, including since the Oslo Accords. The resolution further fails to acknowledge that Israel had vacated Gaza in 2005 and that the Palestinians living there have self-autonomy under Hamas.”
Instead of condemning Israel, the UN “should ask the Palestinian Authority and terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah what they have done to improve the lives of Palestinian people,” Benlolo said.