May 30th, 2022
Letter to Minister Joly
Regarding Canada's Position on Israel-Palestine
The Honourable Mélanie Joly
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Global Affairs Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa ON K1A 0G2
Sent by email: Melanie.Joly@international.gc.ca
May 30, 2022
Dear Minister Joly,
I write to you regarding three urgent matters related to the human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. I have raised my concerns with you many times in Parliament but have yet to receive clarity regarding Canada’s position. I hope that this letter will result in the serious and thorough consideration that this issue deserves and a detailed reply that conveys your government’s position on these three urgent matters.
First, I implore your government to respond with concrete action to the killing of beloved Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11 of this year. Despite initial denials from Israeli forces, thanks to eyewitness reports and investigative journalism of organizations such as Bellingcat, it is now clear that Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces.
On May 24, CNN reported new evidence from two videos of the scene of the shooting, that suggests Abu Akleh and her fellow journalists at the scene were deliberately targeted by Israeli forces. All journalists were wearing blue vests clearly marked “PRESS”. Journalists are protected under international law, and attacks on journalists in a context such as this may constitute war crimes.
CNN’s conclusion – that Shireen Abu Akleh’s death was not an accident – must be taken seriously by your government. Yet while Canada has called for an investigation into her killing, your government has not asked for this investigation to be independent and international, which is what is required in this case.
It is worth noting that we can not and should not rely on the Israeli military to investigate itself. The initial response from the IDF and its reluctance to lay charges are but two reasons. The Israeli military has continued to conduct raids on the Jenin refugee camp where the killing of Abu Akleh occurred – and killed a child during a raid there only last week. In addition, the abhorrent attack on pallbearers at the funeral procession for Abu Akleh further calls into question the conduct of Israeli security forces. Moreover, over 40 Palestinian journalists have been killed since 2000. This is a terrible pattern of disregard for international law – and one that Canada has yet to condemn.
The Palestinian foreign ministry has now formally asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh. This request is also supported by the International Federation of Journalists and by Al Jazeera, Shireen’s employer. Minister, I ask your government to support their request to refer this case to the ICC.
The second matter I wish to raise with you is Israel’s recent High Court ruling on Masafer Yatta, a collection of villages in the West Bank, and the threat of forced evictions, arbitrary detention and forcible transfer of its 1200 Palestinian residents. Israeli forces have already begun to demolish homes in this area.
A May 2022 report from the ICRC warns of the humanitarian consequences of this ruling, particularly on children. UN human rights experts recently noted that these evictions and forcible transfer of Palestinians in this area amount to a serious violation of international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime. While the European Union and others have condemned these actions by the Israeli government, we have heard nothing from your government on Masafer Yatta.
UN member states, including Canada, must not be complicit to these violations. Canada has the responsibility to exert diplomatic, political and economic measures to bring these violations to a halt.
I ask you, Minister, to denounce the government of Israel’s plan to forcibly expel the villagers of Masafer Yatta and press the government of Israel to rescind this decision. I also ask you to request Canada’s representative to the Palestinian Authority visit the Palestinian communities of Masafer Yatta to express Canada’s support for their right to remain in their homes on their land.
Finally, I wish to raise my concerns about your government’s response to a recent Amnesty International report on the situation in Israel-Palestine. When you appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on March 24, I asked whether you would be replying officially to Amnesty International. You responded that Canada rejects the findings of the report; unfortunately, you have not yet provided a rationale for why Canada rejects the report’s findings.
Minister, I ask that your government seriously consider this important report and respond to its findings in a detailed manner. Canada would not reject an Amnesty International report on any other country so quickly and without reflection; why, then, is your government shying away from this important conversation on Israel-Palestine?
The findings in the Amnesty report are very serious, but they are not new. Human Rights Watch, Yesh Din, and B’Tselem, and a number of Israeli public figures have come to the same conclusion: that the legal definition of apartheid applies to the Government of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians within Israel and in the OPT. This conclusion was also reached by Michael Lynk in his final report as UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory, in March 2022.
The Amnesty International report makes several key recommendations to states, including an arms embargo and a ban of products from illegal settlements. New Democrats support these recommendations and ask your government to end weapons sales to Israel and to immediately ban products from illegal settlements, as the report recommends.
You will also have seen the May 19 joint statement of legislators from Europe and North America responding to the Amnesty report, in which we ask for crimes against humanity to be referred to the International Criminal Court, and for a restoration of a Special Committee against Apartheid at the United Nations. I ask you to support these two recommendations.
Minister, it will come as no surprise that New Democrats have been frustrated and dismayed by your government’s lack of action when it comes to the human rights of Palestinians. We all wish to see Israelis and Palestinians live in peace and security - but that dream is increasingly under threat. Canada has a legal responsibility under the UN Charter and a moral responsibility as a member of the international community to stand up for those whose rights are repeatedly violated. It is only through principled action that these longstanding and challenging circumstances will be transformed.
This is the time for Canada to act decisively and honestly. I look forward to your reply.
Heather McPherson, MP for Edmonton Strathcona
NDP Critic for Foreign Affairs and International Development