Made in Israel Foreign Policy Puts Canadian Lives at Risk

Speaking at an event sponsored by the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel in May, 2008 Prime Minister Stephen Harper described Canada’s support for Israel as “unshakable.” Earlier in the day Harper had told the Canadian Jewish Political Action Committee (CJPAC) that anti-Israeli sentiment was “really just a thinly disguised veil for good old fashioned anti-Semitism.” In a statement issued less than a week later marking the same anniversary the PMO noted that, “We count ourselves among Israel’s staunchest friends.”

These pronouncements represent an accurate appraisal of the Tory government’s stance since its election in early 2006. With Canada’s recent decision to boycott, along with Israel, the planning for the Durban 2 anti-racism conference Canada has become Israel’s strongest supporter. Even the United Sates does not have the loyalty from Canada that Israel does.

This new policy represents a significant departure from Canada’s historic Middle East policy of following a middle path. In the wake of the Suez crisis Lester Pearson, then Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs won a Nobel Peace Prize for brokering a ceasefire and organizing the first United Nations peacekeeping mission. Since then Canadian peacekeepers have served in the Sinai, Lebanon and the Golan Heights.

Only two month’s after the election of Harper in January 2006 shifting policy winds made themselves apparent. In March 2006, Canada was the first state, other than Israel, to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas won the election to the Palestinian legislature. That summer the Canadian government refused to sign a resolution that expressed sympathy for the Lebanese civilians caught up in the Israeli invasion of that country. Harper described the resolution as “a case of political correctness gone mad.”

Not surprisingly, this seismic shift in Canadian policy has become evident during the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza. On January 23, 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted on a statement that expressed concern about Gaza’s civilians as a result of “the series of incessant and repeated Israeli military attacks and incursions.” Alone on the 47 member Council, Canada voted against the resolution.

On February 4 the Honourable Lawrence Canon, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Honourable Bev Oda, Minister of International Cooperation issued a statement that blamed Gazans, and their democratically elected government for the invasion: “Hamas precipitated the recent crisis by its rocket attacks on Israel.”

The day before the frightening practical implications of this unconditional support for Israel were made shockingly clear. Eva Bartlett, a Canadian citizen currently in Gaza reported to the mission in Tel Aviv that she was “being shot at by Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border fence.”

Her blogpost of the incident continues, “Jordie Elms, the Canadian attaché in the Tel Aviv office, informed us that “Israel has declared the 1 km area along the border to be a ‘closed military zone’” and added that humanitarian and aid workers need to “know the risk of being in a closed area”. Meaning, apparently, that it is OK with Jordie that Israeli soldiers were firing on unarmed civilians.”

Shocked by this statement I contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Middle East spokesperson Rodney Moore asked that I put my questions into writing. On February 9 I did so asking for comment on “Canada’s position on the IDF declared ‘no-go’ zone extending 1 kilometre into Gaza” and “allegations made by a Canadian international observer, Eva Bartlett” about contacting the mission while under IDF fire.

Four days later Moore responded with a three-part, diplomatically worded non-answer:

Canada welcomed the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. What is needed now is a permanent, sustainable and durable ceasefire, as called for in United Nations Security Council 1860, so that Israel and the Palestinian Authority can return to the peace process.

The security situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is very poor and unpredictable due to inter-factional violence and ongoing military operations.

In its travel advisory to Canadians, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises Canadians against all travel to the region surrounding the Gaza Strip due to the risk of rocket and mortar launches, gunfire and of ongoing military activity.

His response is remarkable for reasons other than its absolute irrelevance to the questions that were submitted. It twice states that risks to civilians and foreign nationals are a result of Palestinian actions?“inter-factional violence” and “rocket and mortar launches”–as well as “military operations” and “military actions.” In the specific circumstances of the Bartlett incident this is categorically untrue.

It also highlights the emasculation of DFAIT. Under Harper’s autocratic style, Ministries and their spokespersons have been reduced to parroting the party line as it is delivered from the PMO and issuing meaningless, generic statements to the media. In this case the message is that staunch support” of Israel extends to blaming Hamas and Israel equally for the recent fury in Gaza even to the extent that the safety and security of Canadian citizens be damned and disregarded.

Bob Gordon writes from Guelph, Ontario. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Bob, or visit Bob's website.

20 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Barry said on March 2nd, 2009 at 9:27am #

    The Canadian government is Israeli-occupied territory. Just as Buchanan put it about US congress: Canada is another ‘Amen Corner’ for Israel. I think some day Canadians will look back in puzzled horror and say, “how did we let our government advocate genocide?”

  2. Gideon said on March 2nd, 2009 at 9:54am #

    Canada – Israel: peoples with shared values! Israeli model cover SI Swimsuit 2009. Chercher la femme?
    Sports Illustrated Swim Suite edition who does not like it?

    “Canadian peacekeepers have served in the Sinai, Lebanon and the Golan
    That’s why they Understand what it is all about!

  3. mebosa ritchie said on March 2nd, 2009 at 9:57am #

    another one for you barry—interesting!!!!!

    > This video clip from January provides yet another example of how Hamas
    > fools gullible western journalists and UN officials about Palestinian
    > casualty figures.

  4. bozh said on March 2nd, 2009 at 10:06am #

    canada had been participating {along with ?all christian lands} in destruction of palestine for at least a century.

    so, sins of own fathers are defended by their sons. and this may go on for an eternity.

  5. Barry said on March 2nd, 2009 at 1:03pm #

    Hey Mebosa – The casualty figures are courtesy of B’tselem – they are Israeli figures. Besides, Israel doesn’t get all that free ammo from the US for nothing. They just wiped out thousands of Lebanese – why would they refrain from wiping out Palestinians? And the bottom line: the world has deemed that the occupation of Palestine by Israel (the world’s only occupation) is ILLEGAL.

  6. Ismail Zayid said on March 2nd, 2009 at 1:11pm #

    It is time that our political leaders begin to see that Israeli policies stand in complete defiance of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention. Thus, Mr. Harper’s statement, that Canada’s support for Israel is unshakable, clearly defies the claim that Canada stands for upholding human rights, international law and the UN Charter.

  7. John S. said on March 2nd, 2009 at 2:58pm #

    I’m new here, maybe you can help me out: whom deemed it illegal? And since it’s illegal, what would be a legal occupation? Which laws specify this? Who (or which body) made these laws? How have they been enforced in the past? I’d like to find out more about this “illegal” occupation.

  8. Steve said on March 2nd, 2009 at 3:54pm #

    I think Canada should be extremely proud of itself as a nation for how it is reacting to global islam-ization and the oppressive way of life that goes along with it.

    Years after these new-age Nazis are exposed and defeated, Canada will be able to say, ‘We were not fooled. We sided with human rights, freedom and moral decency from the beginning.”

    If only nations had set aside fear of a forming global mob (like Canada is doing now over the islam movement of today) 60 some years ago, maybe Nazi Germany would never have amounted to anything. Maybe 1/3 of the entire Jewish population would not have been murdered. But then the UN would have nothing to deny…

    Lets be clear about one thing: Muslims make up almost 25% of the population of Earth; Jews make up LESS THAN 0.2%. Anyone who thinks Jews are not a discriminated against minority is simply an idiot, or can’t figure out basic math.

    I am expecting you will eat your words and be proud of Canada after these slavers, dictators, and abusers of human rights calling themselves a human rights advocacy group are exposed… oh wait, they are already exposed and its obvious to every one in the world that has not yet been brain washed by Islam. What the hell are you waiting for? Wake up!

  9. Ghabi said on March 3rd, 2009 at 2:31am #

    It’s audacious that there are still people out there who feel they can defend Israel’s inhumane actions…, and witha straight face!!?

  10. Barry said on March 3rd, 2009 at 7:20am #

    John S
    The occupation of Palestine is illegal according to the United Nations. It has been deemed that since shortly afterIsrael first invaded Egypt and Jordan in June of 1967. The illegality of the occupation has been reconfirmed by the United Nation’s many times since then. Other international legal bodies abide by this decision. It should be noted that the US considers the WB&G illegally occupied. The consensus of opinion is that Israel is to return to the pre-June ’67 Green lines – the nation’s of the world accept an Israel within those borders.
    I think there is such a thing as a legal occupation when a nation or nations occupies another with the consent of other international bodies – NATO or the UN in various parts of the former Yugoslavia, or even the squishy consent given by the UN to the ‘coalition of the willing’ to occupy Iraq. I think right now, if some of the nation’s of southern Africa went into Zimbabwe on a mercy mission it would likely be viewed as a legal occupation. But no one except Israel itself questions the illegality of its occupation of the rest of Palestine.

  11. Barry said on March 3rd, 2009 at 7:30am #

    Steve – PM Harper’s mutterings on the sacred nature of Israel had nothing to do with Islam. It had to do with siding with Israel as it pummels Palestine.

    We’ve had this discussion elsewhere on this site – that it should be understood that upwards of 60 million people were killed in WWII – and that we should not give undue attention to just one population group.

    That Jews have been discriminated against is a certainty. However, in the US (as in Canada) Jews are likely the most successful immigrant group in the nation’s history. Discrimination against Middle Easterners is much more of a problem in the US – and, of course, historical discrimination against Jews in no way compares to that against blacks, Native-Americans and other non-white groups. In fact, even within white populations, I believe historical discrimination against the Irish was far more prevalent than that against Jews.

  12. Sal said on March 3rd, 2009 at 8:35am #


    There has never been a state of Palestine. The lands that Israel occupies were formally a part of Jordan and Egypt. UN resolution 242 states that the land should be returned once a peaceful solution can be obtained. Unfortunately (for everyone) since 1967 there have been numerous attacks on Israel and Israelis such that it has not been feasible to give this land back, but then give it back to whom is the real question? The Palestinians have been more concerned with generating terrorism and hate rhetoric than seeking a peaceful solution like Egypt did in 1980.
    In fact the Israel-Egypt peace accord is an example of how Israel is perfectly willing to give back land (it gave back all of the Sinai) in return for peace.

  13. bozh said on March 3rd, 2009 at 8:41am #

    we need more info about the KIND of and CAUSES for discrimination against ‘jews’, muslims, indigenes, latinos, blacks, slavs, irish.
    each of these discriminations differ from each other.

    comparing discrimination for ‘jews’ with the discrimination for indigenes, we may find few aspects in the two discriminatory stances that match.

    at the moment, i can’t find even one aspect that pertains to both groups.
    discrimination/anger against and hatred for ?all ashk’m has roots seems to me, in religious-shamanistic-cultish rationalizations.

    discrimination against slavs and latinos also differ from one another; and both differ much from discrimination for blacks. thnx

  14. Al Mutanabi said on March 3rd, 2009 at 12:10pm #

    I too am quite surprised by this government’s unceremonious position on foreign policy. Of course you’ll no doubt enjoy the latest proclamations from the illustrious one:

    “My government is a very strong supporter of the state of Israel and considers the Iranian threats to be absolutely unacceptable and beyond the pale,” said The Canadian prime minister, the Wall Street Journal’s online edition reported.
    “It concerns me that we have a regime with both an ideology that is obviously evil, combined with a desire to procure technology to act on that ideology,” Harper said.

    While what Harper says may be true, a quick scan of the current reality suggests otherwise. Being an MSM instrument, I don’t believe the WSJ’s reporter asked Mr. Harper to name the country that has troops half way across the world propping-up an illegal government (after an illegal invasion)? ….Or to name the country that has nuclear weapons but which has not signed the NPT and is not in compliance with the NPT protocols….Or perhaps to name the country that has maintained the longest illegal occupation of a territory in recent history.
    The answer to these questions confirms the inaneness of Mr. Harper’s comments.

    Equally alarming is the belligerence this government’s representatives seem to enjoy, for instance, Mr. MacKay’s recent commentary about the incident with a Russian bomber near Canadian airspace…..
    “Canadian pilots sent a strong signal they should back off and stay out of our airspace,” MacKay said
    “It was a strong coincidence which we met with … CF-18 fighter planes and world-class pilots that know their business,” he said.
    Probably a routine patrol turned into ‘media event’. I hope what actually happens in the air in such instances is more respectful than Mr. MacKay’s response. I’m sure Canadian pilots are world class…I suspect Russian MiG pilots are as well.
    I do wonder though, how much of this type of posturing and behavior truly reflects the general Canadian population’s feelings and belief’s. Considering that this government was just re-elected is it reasonable to assume that a good percentage of the population that approves?

  15. John S. Hatch said on March 3rd, 2009 at 2:22pm #

    Now that Mr. Harper doesn’t have George Bush’s ass to kiss anymore, Israel’s will have to do.

    Now that Mr. Obama wants to absurdly escalate in unwinnable Afghanistan (where the President’s own brother is a druglord), don’t expect that Canada will get out anytime soon.

    And since evil Israel is intent on attacking Iran, maybe Canada will help with that also.

    I recently asked the UN to intervene in Canada’s (Harper’s) contravention of the UN protocol regarding child soldiers in the case of Omar Khadr.anada is complicit in his torture.

  16. Barry said on March 3rd, 2009 at 4:11pm #

    Sal – There has never been ANY state before that state existed. So what could you possibly mean? Was there a state of the Congo before it was established? Brazil? the US? You are making a non-statement.

    You have UN 242 precisely backwards. Here it is:
    Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security,
    1. Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:
    (i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

    So Sal – peace is based on Israel’s withdrawal of its armed forces because the acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible. Not too difficult to understand, is it? Having gotten 242 wrong, it renders the rest of your statement moot. Israelis have in fact NOT come under attack since they invaded Palestine – it is the Palestinians who have been under attack, occupation and expropriation of their land. It is the Palestinians who have been killed in 10:1 ratios – not the Israelis. As for whom to give it back to, the answer is quite obvious – when the Israelis withdraw they will notice the land is inhabited by 4 million Palestinians. Besides, both Jordan and Egypt long ago relinquished authority to the Palestinians. As for terrorism, it is Israel that has all the tools of terror and uses them prolifically, the Palestinians are basically unarmed. Looks like you’ve never heard of state terrorism – or is it that you worship the notion of the state so deeply that a state can do no wrong? Israel ‘gave back’ the Sinai because it realized that Egypt would not rest until the Sinai was brought home to Egypt. You do realize that Israel came within a whisker of losing the ’73 war, don’t you. So Israel went practical for a change – they relinquished the ill-gotten gain of Sinai in return for Egypt’s silence on the plight of the Palestinians. For that, Sadat justifiably lost his life.
    Sal – You don’t sound like you are a student of history, at least not Middle East history.

  17. kalidas said on March 3rd, 2009 at 7:23pm #

    Never in the annals of human history have so few (0.2%) caused so much pain, suffering, enmity, agony, poverty and discomfort, for so damn long, to so many. (99.8%)

  18. russell olausen said on March 3rd, 2009 at 9:31pm #

    To become P.M. in Canada is highly unlikely if you don’t believe in the power of Jerusalem world wide. We all had a good University History course undone this last December, with the proroguing of Parliament. Harper is so bare brained he insulted the Chinese by not going to the Olympics. Probably thought that if something untoward happened to Bush, he would get to stand in as North American Caesar. You don’t want to know what this recently invented political dance called the prorogue is.Its so new ,spelling of it, is yet to be confirmed.The first dance was so ungainly the Governor General was sent to Haiti to learn the final steps.It was enough to want cede Ontario to Michigan and pay the difference. The snow here is as crisp as November,Arctic Ice must have added a few feet,meters,whatever.Thank us World,later.

  19. Suthiano said on March 3rd, 2009 at 10:51pm #

    It’s worse than just Harper. The NDP (Canada’s ‘Socialist’ party) has joined in enforcing the same framework:

    Dear Jack’s assistant,

    As a member of the party, I do not seek pacification from my leaders, but rather leadership (courage and honesty).

    Mr. Layton’s scripted statements regarding the “civilian disaster” in the Middle East, in which he expresses the “extreme… concern…” shared by all New Democrats about the “loss of innocent civilian lives in both Gaza and Israel”, are neither honest nor courageous.

    While I could certainly deconstruct the entirety of both messages I will leave that for more suitable venues. Given the severity of the issues being discussed, however, I feel the need to point out a few of the more glaring half, mis and untruths.

    “The use of force in Gaza must cease; so too must rocket attacks on Israel.”
    [Surely it can be seen how this statement plays into the Israeli arguments that the only way to stop the rocket attacks is by destroying the source of said attacks. In fact, the NDP has reinforced the framework espoused by Stephen Harper and Lawrence Canon; that first and foremost the rocket attacks on Israel must stop, otherwise Israel will be forced to defend itself vis-a-vis the violence that we are supposedly “extremely concerned with.” I noticed how the word “condemn” was carefully avoided throughout both releases.]

    “We join with world leaders in describing the shelling of a United Nations Headquarters as indefensible.”
    [These actions, amongst many others conducted by the IDF during the assault, while certainly “indefensible”, would be more accurately described as war crimes. Why so afraid to call an apple an apple? There is nothing controversial about reflecting reality in your speech, and it is certainly loathsome to shy away from talking about war crimes.]

    Jack then states that Canada should be ready to play a role in the “international monitoring of the ceasefire, including by providing Canadians troops as UN peacekeepers”. What his writer means by “peacekeepers” is elucidated in the next sentence: “The monitoring must be implemented in a way that prevents rocket attacks on Israel and the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.”

    What of the billions of dollars of arms shipped to Israel each year by western nations? Will the “peacekeeprs” monitor and put a stop to that? Will the NDP even mention it? What about the continued expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank? Perhaps the “peacekeepers” could monitor the exodus of “Jewish” residents from said settlements, and the return of Palestinians to their land? Will the “peacekeepers” block Israeli bulldozers from tearing up even more Palestinian olive trees? Wouldn’t the NDP want them to at least “monitor” the tearing down of the illegal wall dissecting the West Bank?

    A final gem offered up in the facile press releases (which didn’t even make the news): “New Democrats reaffirm our longstanding support for a two-state solution which ensures Israelis and Palestinians can live safely, side by side, in independent states with secure borders.”

    Jack/Jack’s writer, do you mean the “two-state” solution described in 1947 by UNGA Res. 181 (II), and brought into effect through SC Res. 42 of 1948, which first gave international legitimacy to the state of Israel? To which Israelis immediately violated (in accordance to the doctrine of expansion professed by the Israeli leaders), while the UN failed to intervene (in accordance to the wishes of the U.S. delegates)? Do you mean the two-state solution that has been agreed to by Fatah, Hamas and the PLO before that? The deal that does not interest Israel because of an interest in a) maintaining the “Jewishness” of Jerusalem, b) expansion, c) ethnic cleansing, d) genocide?

    Perhaps it is meant the two-state solution that would contrast sharply to both customary and black letter law. Customary, in that no such position was taken in response to the very similar apartheid situation in South Africa, and black letter in that Canada, as a member of the UN, has denounced colonialism, and affirmed the right of people to self determination (UN Charter Chapters XI and XII). As far as reality in concerned, even in the case of a two-state solution, Israel remains a neo-colonial regime, and the rights of the Palestinians to self-determination continue to be violated.

    Obviously fear runs deep within the NDP, and it has made the party ineffective. Israel was once again allowed to carry out policies of genocide and ethnic cleansing while western nations applauded from the sidelines. Jack’s cowardly press releases did nothing to change that. This is a subject on which he should publicly humiliate Stephen Harper, but instead Jack and the New Democrats offer up statements that amount to reassertions of Harper’s position.

    New democrats do not support colonialism, ethnic cleansing or genocide, though apparently the same cannot be said of “New Democrats”.

  20. CounterPunch! said on November 8th, 2009 at 8:17pm #

    […] Made in Israel Foreign Policy Puts Canadian Lives at Risk […]