Canada’s behaviour at the United Nations last week is being analyzed and found wanting by many Canadian Zionists. Canada abstained from a vote on a resolution that condemned Israel in a one-sided manner for the recent violence at the Gaza border.
The four-page resolution denounced the “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force by the Israeli forces.” The resolution passed 120-8, with 45 countries, including Canada, abstaining.
An American amendment that would have condemned Hamas for sending rockets at Israeli targets was defeated 78-58, with 26 abstentions. Canada voted in favour of the failed amendment.
According to Canadian Jewish News, Canada’s ambassador to the UN, Marc-André Blanchard, said the abstention was due to the resolution’s failure to explicitly name Hamas.
“Hamas has been oppressing Palestinians. Hamas and other terrorist groups have been inciting violence and hatred and this should be clear in the resolution. The resolution explicitly names Israel, while failing to name any other groups involved,” Blanchard said.
The question, then, is why Canada did not vote against, rather than abstain, as Shimon Koffler Fogel noted.
“Ironically, Ambassador Blanchard’s explanation of the vote made the most compelling case for why Canada should have joined with the U.S., Australia and Israel in voting against the resolution,” said Koffler Fogel, chief executive officer of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
The larger issue is that the United Nations, created with such idealism and optimism after the Holocaust and the Second World War, has become beholden to ideological blocs dominated by dictatorial regimes. In a world with no shortage of humanitarian catastrophes, the General Assembly’s time and resources are wasted with obsessive attention on Israel.
Additionally sad is that the superb, irreplaceable work done by so many subsidiary agencies of the UN suffers by association with the actions of the General Assembly.
Some have suggested, in light of the UNGA silliness, that democratic countries should withdraw and form their own alternative UN-type organization. Whatever value that might have, walking away is not the right choice. Canada and other countries with common sense foreign policies should remain as a voice of reason.
Which is all the more reason why our choice to remain silent on the latest anti-Israel resolution is the wrong one. If we are going to serve as best we can in a flawed assembly, the least we can do is stand up and be counted.
Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin was the first to use the term “genocide.” (photo by Moidov)
The word “genocide” was conceived by Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin to describe the attempt of the Ottoman Empire to efface Armenians from Turkish society. He articulated the empire’s actions as a specific category of crime – one that could be named, analyzed, resisted and penalized by the global community.
Lemkin was born in 1900 on a small farm near the Polish town of Wolkowysk. As a young man, he heard that as many as 1.2 million Christian Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire, the population of which was mainly Muslim. He also knew of the pogroms and violence against his own people, of course, but it was the situation of the Armenians that led him to the idea of a change in international law that could address such violence.
When the German army invaded Poland, Lemkin fled Europe for safety in the United States. He began teaching at Duke University and, in 1942, he joined the war department, where he documented Nazi atrocities. This led to the 1944 book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress, wherein Lemkin first introduced the word “genocide.”
“By ‘genocide,’ we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group,” Lemkin wrote. “Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. Genocide is directed against the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group.”
Lemkin later worked on the Nuremberg trials, where he succeeded in getting the word genocide included in the indictment. Genocide was not yet a legal term, however, and the verdict at Nuremberg set a precedent only for war crimes. While in Nuremberg, Lemkin learned of the death of his parents, who, along with 49 other family members, were killed by the Nazis.
Lemkin was determined to see genocide added to international law and, after his return to Europe, he began agitating for this at the meetings of the then newly established United Nations. His efforts to enlist the support of national delegations and influential leaders eventually bore fruit. On Dec. 9, 1948, the United Nations approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. As of December 2017, 149 states, including Canada, had ratified or acceded to the treaty.
Lemkin committed the rest of his life to convincing nations to pass legislation supporting the convention. He died in 1959, “impoverished and exhausted by his efforts,” according to Lemkin House, an American sanctuary for asylum seekers named in his honour.
At the 2005 World Summit, all member states of the United Nations endorsed the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, which Canada was instrumental in promoting – on paper, at least, it carries Lemkin’s vision forward.
“The international community,” states the doctrine, “through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means … to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity … we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner … on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”
This article was being written as almost one million Rohingya refugees were preparing to celebrate Ramadan in the camps of Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh – 700,000 of them have fled Myanmar since August 2017, running from what several international observers have called genocide. Yet Canada, and many others, including the UN, have shied away from using Lemkin’s term to describe the situation.
Modern Turkey still denies the Armenian genocide that was instrumental in inspiring Lemkin’s efforts. And, although some countries, notably Germany and Rwanda, have made attempts to deal with their past, with the crimes committed by their governments and civilians, the fight to prevent, identify, resist and respond effectively to genocide remains relevant.
Matthew Gindinis a freelance journalist, writer and lecturer. He is Pacific correspondent for the CJN, writes regularly for the Forward, Tricycle and the Wisdom Daily, and has been published in Sojourners, Religion Dispatches and elsewhere. He can be found on Medium and Twitter.
Orit Sulitzeanu, executive director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centres in Israel. (photo from Facebook)
Orit Sulitzeanu, executive director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centres in Israel, was invited to address the United Nations on March 29 about the issue of combating sexual harassment in the workplace. She presented Israel’s precedent-setting voluntary code against sexual harassment.
“We started working on this several years before the current #MeToo campaign,” Sulitzeanu told Israel21c. “The code is an interesting idea that could be adapted and implemented in other places in the world.”
Based on the Israeli law against sexual harassment in the workplace – be it an inappropriate look, remark, touch, text message or worse – the code provides concrete details on how to implement the regulations, which Sulitzeanu compares to “a quilt with a lot of patches missing.”
For example, the law requires every business or organization with more than 10 workers to designate a special ombudsman to deal with sexual harassment complaints, but it doesn’t specify details about training and supporting this ombudsman.
The Association of Rape Crisis Centres turned to the Standards Institute of Israel four years ago to help add definitions and explanations to the laws after winning a tender from the Israeli Ministry of Economics to draft a voluntary code to give managers a more exact tool for avoiding and handling sexual harassment incidents.
With this funding and additional funding from groups including the Hadassah Foundation in the United States, Israeli labour law experts from women’s organizations worked for two years on guidelines.
“We also developed, with Dr. Zeev Lehrer from Tel Aviv University’s department of gender studies, a tailor-made intervention that enables us to specifically understand the special characteristics of sexual harassment in a specific organization and then develop a prevention program suited to the organization,” said Sulitzeanu.
The priority is to introduce the voluntary code against sexual harassment in local municipalities, businesses and organizations that the association identifies as high risk – such as the military, police, healthcare organizations, airlines, media outlets and first-response networks – because of vulnerability factors such as big gaps in age and gender (usually, older men supervising young women), nighttime working hours and frequent operations outside the office environment.
The municipality of Ra’anana was the first to adopt the voluntary code for its thousands of workers, followed by a high-tech company (EIM). Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency response network, will adopt it next.
A leader in this area
Sulitzeanu’s invitation to the UN has its roots in a co-sponsored resolution that Israel spearheaded in March 2017, titled “Preventing and Eliminating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace,” in light of statistics showing that up to 60% of women worldwide have experienced harassment.
The resolution condemns sexual harassment in all forms, especially against women and girls, and emphasizes the need to take measures to prevent and eliminate it, raise awareness, educate, promote research, and collect and analyze data and statistics.
“Israel succeeded in passing this resolution in the UN and that positioned Israel as a leader in this area,” said Sulitzeanu. “That’s why they called me to talk about the voluntary code.”
As far as she knows, no other country aside from Australia has any similar code of conduct to address sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Just as Israel is the start-up nation for technology and science, we are also the start-up in social initiatives,” she said.
Israel’s voluntary code also applies to situations such as child athletes traveling to competitions accompanied by adult coaches, doctors and physical therapists. Sulitzeanu saw the danger inherent in such circumstances long before this year’s revelation of sexual abuse by the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team doctor.
“It’s not enough to talk about the law in at-risk organizations,” she said. “Some have a known subculture of sexual harassment and need tailor-made interventions.”
Sulitzeanu expects employers to be eager to embrace the code in order to avoid lawsuits and the loss of productivity that comes from sexual harassment allegations due to absences, emotional stress and office gossip.
“This is a precedent-setting way to deal with the problem,” she said. “I hope the government will compel every municipality to have this code, and I hope all organizations at risk will also adopt it. It is not complicated or expensive and it makes your workplace a caring, safe place for employees.
“Once these guidelines are embedded in the DNA of the organization, they become easy to implement.”
The Standards Institute of Israel will conduct an inspection of each participating workplace every two years to determine if the standards set out in the code are being upheld.
Israel21c is a nonprofit educational foundation with a mission to focus media and public attention on the 21st-century Israel that exists beyond the conflict. For more, or to donate, visit israel21c.org.
קנדה תקלוט כאלפיים פליטים מישראל. (צילום: Wikimedia Commons)
ראש ממשלת ישראל, בנימין נתניהו, הוכיח שוב כי המדיניות שלו היא לא מדיניות באמת, וכי הוא משנה את דעתו על הזמן. וזאת בהתאם לכיוון שאליו נושבת הרוח. כך גם החלטתו האחרונה לשלוח למעלה משישה עשר אלף פליטים- מסתננים מאפריקה (ממדינות ארתיריה וסודן) שביקשו מקלט בישראל, למספר מדינות במערב. בהן לדבריו גרמניה, איטליה וקנדה. ולטענתו לאחר שכביכול הוא הגיע להסכם עם נציבות הפליטים של האו”ם בנוגע למשלוח המסתננים למדינות אלה, למרות שלהן לא היה ידוע על כך. מענין!
לפי ההסכם עם האו”ם 16,250 מבקשי מקלט מישראל יקלטו במדינות המערב. ישום ההסכם יבוצע בשלושה שלבים ויתפרש על פני חמש שנים תמימות. ובמקביל כ-16,250 מהפליטים יקבלו מעמד חוקי בישראל. הם יפוזרו באופן מאוזן ברחבי ישראל. וכן תוקם אף מינהלה מיוחדת שתעסוק בשיקום אזור דרום תל אביב הרעוע (וזאת על חשבון ההשקעה במתקן חולות לכליאת הפליטים שיסגר).
לאחר הודעתו כי הגיע להסכם ותוך שעות ספורות ביטל נתניהו בעצמו את החלטתו הקודמת, והחליט שלא לשלוח פליטים מישראל למדינות המערב. ומדוע? זאת לאור זעם במפלגות הימין בישראל שהביעו התנגדות נחרצת כי בעקבות החלטת נתניהו להעברת למעלה משישה עשר אלף הפליטים למערב, יקלטו במדינה השאר – כשמונה עשר אלף פליטים-מסתננים.
בקנדה החליטו שלא להמתין להחלטותיו התמוהות של ראש ממשלת ישראל וכיאה למדינה הקולטת כל הזמן הגירה ממדינות מצוקה, הוחלט לקלוט כאלפיים פליטים-מסתננים מישראל. וזאת במהלך עצמאי ללא בקשה של ממשלת ישראל, שהחליטה לפני מספר חודשים לגרש את הפליטים האפריקנים מישראל בחזרה לאפריקה. הארש ז’אסוול, עוזר מיוחד לשר ההגירה, הפליטים והאזרחות של הממשלה הקנדית, אחמד חוסיין, מסר את ההודעה הבאה בנושא: “הממשלה שלנו כבר הוכיחה שהיא מובילה עולמית לקבל בברכה פליטים שנמלטים ממלחמות ורדיפות. ישוב פליטים אלה הוא חלק בהמסורת ההומנטרית הגאה של קנדה. אנו מוכחים שוב כי יש לנו אחריות משותפת לסייע לאלה שנעקרו, שהם נרדפים ומרביתם זקוקים להגנה ועזרה. אנו עוקבים מקרוב אחרי המתרחש בישראל, ונמצאים בקשר ישיר עם ממשלת ישראל. הגענו להסדר עם הרשויות בישראל להשעות את גירושם ומעצרם של פליטים שהגישו בקשה לעבור לקנדה, בעזרת נותני חסויות פרטיות מקנדה – עד לשיושלם הטיפול בעניינם. אנו ממשיכים ביחד עם נותני החסויות הפרטיות שיתכן ובקשותיהם מושפעות ממה שקורה בישראל. נציגות של משרד ההגירה, הפליטים והאזרחות הקנדי בתל אביב, יספק מכתבים למבקשים בקרב הפליטים להגר לקנדה, במסגרת החסויות הפרטיות, כדי לאשר שבקשותיהם נמצאות בהליך של אישור על ידנו. הם יוכלו להציג את המכתבים האלה בפני הרשויות בישראל. נכון לשלושים ואחד בדצמבר אשתקד אנו מטפלים בקרוב לכאלפיים בקשות של פליטים אפריקנים לעבור מישראל לקנדה, כאמור במסגרת נותני חסויות פרטיות מקנדה. וללא קשר במקביל, אנו ממשיכים בהתאם להכרזת ממשלת קנדה, בקליטת כארבעת אלפים פליטים מאריתריה, עד לסוף הנה הנוכחית”.
לדברי סוכנות האו”ם לפליטים השוכנת באוטווה, יש הסכם שקנדה תקלוט השנה לא פחות מכעשרת אלפים פליטים. באופן כללי יתכן שחלקם של פליטים אלה יגיעו אפילו מישראל.
במרכז לענייני ישראל והיהודים בקנדה הזדרזו לברך את שר ההגירה, הפליטים והאזרחות הקנדי, אחמד חוסיין, על הסכמתו כביכול לקלוט פליטים מישראל. במרכז אמרו והוסיפו עוד כי: “ישובם מחדש של מבקשי מקלט מישראל, הוא אתגר בינלאומי המצריך פתרון בינלאומי. ואכן קנדה נטלה על עצמה תפקיד מוביל בנשיאה באחריות הבינלאומית לישובם מחדש”.
Maung Zarni, right, with a 67-year-old Rohingya man from Maungdaw, who had been a leader at a township level in former prime minister Ne Win’s early days, when Rohingyas were recognized as an ethnic community with full citizenship rights. (photo from Maung Zarni)
Calls are mounting to recognize Myanmar’s violent campaign against the Rohingya as genocide. At the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 12, Yanghee Lee, special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, said she is “becoming more and more convinced that the crimes committed … bear the hallmarks of genocide and call[s] in the strongest terms for accountability.”
Nearly 800,000 Rohingya have fled state-sanctioned and -organized violence in Myanmar (Burma) since August 2017, after the government – blaming an alleged attack on Myanmar’s security forces by Rohingya militants – initiated a brutal campaign of arson, murder and systematic rape and torture against the civilian Rohingya population in Rakhine state. The violence follows decades of oppressive measures against the Rohingya, which, in recent years, have included restrictions on education and medical care, deliberate starvation, state-imposed birth control, property seizure, and removal of citizenship and civil rights.
“These human rights violations constitute nothing less than a slow-burning genocide,” human rights activist Maung Zarni, founder of the Free Burma Coalition, told the Jewish Independent.
With respect to the situation in Myanmar, for months terms like “atrocities,” “military crackdown” or “state-sanctioned violence” have been used to describe it, instead of using the word “genocide.” The UN has previously called what is happening in Myanmar, a majority Buddhist country, whose dominant ethnic group is Bamar, “ethnic cleansing.”
There have been some exceptions to the hesitancy to call the government’s actions genocide. For example, French President Emmanuel Macron called it that last September. And independent tribunals and experts like the International State Crime Initiative and the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal have also called it genocide. But the media and other international organizations have generally not been using the word.
“There is a high barrier for the use of the term genocide, and I think this is correct,” said Rainer Schulze, professor of modern European history at the University of Essex and founder of The Holocaust in History and Memory journal, speaking at the Berlin Conference on Myanmar Genocide Feb. 26, which the Jewish Independent attended. “We should not use the term genocide lightly. Not every human rights violation, ethnic cleansing or forced resettlement is a genocide. The Genocide Convention gives us a very clear definition, but, with regards to the Rohingya, it is appropriate and must be used.”
Gianni Tognoni, general secretary of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal in Rome, agreed. “The UN has been playing with names,” he said at the conference. “To declare something as genocide is to declare it as something intolerable for the international community. Instead, this is delayed.”
“Governments, in general, are very reluctant to use the term genocide for fear that it could damage diplomatic initiatives to secure peace or damage bilateral relationships,” Kyle Matthews, executive director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University, said in conversation with the Independent. “In some cases, governments have refused to label atrocity crimes as a genocide for fear it would force them to take a stronger response, such as intervening militarily.”
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the UN in 1948 obliges signatories to take concrete steps to respond to genocide. As of December 2017, 149 states had ratified or acceded to the treaty, including Canada. In 2005, all member states of the UN endorsed the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, a doctrine Canada was instrumental in promoting. The Canadian government continues to avoid the term genocide, however – although it has taken some steps towards addressing the situation.
“I would say the Canadian government has been one of the most responsible and thoughtful governments in trying to find a solution to protect the Rohingya minority in Myanmar and in neighbouring countries,” said Matthews. “Ottawa has appointed Bob Rae as special envoy to the prime minister to help identify different policy options and strategies for engaging the government of Myanmar. Ottawa also recently imposed economic sanctions on leading figures in Myanmar’s military.”
On Feb. 16, the federal government imposed sanctions, under Canada’s new foreign human rights legislation, against Maung Maung Soe, a high-ranking member of the Myanmar military. “What has been done to the Rohingya is ethnic cleansing,” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told CBC in a statement that did not use the word genocide. “This is a crime against humanity.”
The sanctions impose a “dealings prohibition,” which freezes an individual’s assets in Canada and renders them inadmissible to enter Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Matthews said there is much more that we could be doing. Speaking at the Berlin conference, he said, “Broader economic sanctions have to be done immediately. We should look at travel restrictions. We need to demand humanitarian access to Rakhine state [where the remaining Rohingya live, access that is currently denied by Myanmar]. We need to do more economic naming and shaming of who is associating with the regime. Myanmar embassies around the world should be protested.” The government should issue a travel advisory, he said, warning “you are going to a state that is now committing genocide.”
Matthew Gindinis a freelance journalist, writer and lecturer. He writes regularly for the Forward and All That Is Interesting, and has been published in Religion Dispatches, Situate Magazine, Tikkun and elsewhere. He can be found on Medium and Twitter.
Richmond Jewish Day School vice-principal Lisa Romalis addresses a delegation of United Nations ambassador on Nov. 13.(photo from RJDS)
India Cultural Centre of Canada / Gurdwara Nanak Niwas in Richmond hosted 11 United Nations ambassadors on Nov. 13. These diplomats represented Finland, Ghana, Guatemala, Jordan, Mali, Mauritania, Peru, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Vietnam and Canada. And they took time to meet with local residents, including representatives from Richmond Jewish Day School.
The ambassadors were in Vancouver for the Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial summit. While here, they met with the Gurdwara Management Committee (GMC) and members of the Highway to Heaven Association (HHA). Richmond’s Highway to Heaven is home to more than 20 places of worship, representing many different faiths, including Sikhism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and others.
An outstanding feature of this event was when two educators – Sukaina Jaffer, vice-principal of Az-Zahraa Islamic Academy, and Lisa Romalis, vice-principal of RJDS, stood up, holding hands, and spoke about their students’ common activities.
The UN ambassadors, led by Marc-André Blanchard, ambassador of Canada to the UN, were keen to learn about the multiplicity of religious groups represented on this small stretch of No. 5 Road and their concerted efforts in promoting harmony and unity in diversity. They were impressed with the concept of the HHA, where people from different ethnic and religious groups come together to practise their faith and live as peaceful neighbours.
The UN ambassadors commended members of the HHA and GMC and, on behalf of cultural centre chair Asa Singh Johal, Balwant Sanghera, a member of the GMC and chair of the HHA, thanked the ambassadors for taking the time to meet.
The human consequences of implementing the recent United Nations resolution about Israel would be devastating, say American representatives of Israeli schools, synagogues and other institutions in parts of Jerusalem that Israel captured in 1967.
UN Security Council Resolution 2334, adopted Dec. 23 with the United States abstaining, asserted that all “Israeli settlement activities” in “the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” are “a flagrant violation of international law.” It stated that Israel must “immediately and completely cease” such activities and also take action to “reverse negative trends on the ground.”
A number of major Jerusalem neighbourhoods are situated in what the UN calls “East Jerusalem,” which is the area that Jordan occupied following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Nineteen years later, those sections of the city were reunited with the rest of Jerusalem as a result of the 1967 Six Day War.
One of those neighbourhoods is French Hill, a major urban area located in the northeastern part of the city. “I live in French Hill,” award-winning Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi told JNS.org. “So the recent UN resolution has criminalized me and my family as occupiers.”
“I’m not illegal, and I’m not a ‘settler,’” said historian Maurice Roumani, a professor emeritus at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who resides in Armon HaNetziv (East Talpiot), a neighbourhood in eastern Jerusalem with a population of 14,000. “These artificial definitions by the UN do not reflect reality.”
The institutions that could be adversely affected if the UN resolution leads to international boycotts or other actions include the Ilan Residential Home for Handicapped Young Adults and the Beit Or Home for Young Autistic Adults, both of which are located in the Gilo neighbourhood; forests and housing projects sponsored in and around Jerusalem by the Jewish National Fund (JNF); and portions of the Hebrew University campus. Even the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives might be affected.
“My grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents, going back seven generations, are buried on the Mount of Olives,” Washington, D.C.-based attorney Alyza Lewin told JNS.org. “Does the UN propose to ban Jews from using the oldest and largest Jewish cemetery in the world? The notion that Israel is violating international law by burying its dead on this sacred spot is unthinkable.”
Could members of the British family find themselves accused of fostering the “illegal occupation” of eastern Jerusalem? Princess Alice of Battenberg, a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, is buried in a small Christian cemetery at the foot of the Mount of Olives. A number of British royals have visited her gravesite over the years, including Prince Charles during his trip to Israel last October.
There also are Arab residents in a number of across-the-line Jerusalem neighbourhoods, including Givat HaMatos, Gilo and Neve Yaakov. “Some of my neighbours [in French Hill] are Arab Israelis,” Halevi noted. “Are they occupiers, too, or is it only the Jewish Israelis? Now that I am officially outside of the law according to the UN, I imagine that anything can happen.”
Possible international action against those sections of Jerusalem would cut across Jewish denominational lines, affecting Orthodox and non-Orthodox institutions alike.
The Masorti movement – the Israeli branch of Conservative Judaism – sponsors a school and synagogue in French Hill, a school in Gilo and synagogues in the Ramot neighbourhood and the Jerusalem satellite community of Ma’ale Adumim. “The UN resolution is indiscriminate and historically obtuse,” said Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, who is one of the most prominent Conservative rabbis in the United States.
מועצת הביטחון של האומות המאוחדות שהכריזה בשבוע שעבר כי ההתנחלויות של ישראל בשטחים אינן חוקיות. (צילום: UN/Manuel Elias)
ראש ממשלת קנדה לשעבר, סטיבן הרפר, יוצא נגד החלטת מועצת הביטחון של האומות המאוחדות שהכריזה ביום שישי בשבוע שעבר כי ההתנחלויות של ישראל בשטחים אינן חוקיות ויש לפנותן. כידוע ארה”ב נמנעה בהצבעה ולא הטילה וטו כך שנסללה הדרך לקבל את ההחלטה נגד ישראל וההתנחלויות. לעומת זאת ממשלת קנדה ברשות ג’סטין טרודו, בחרה עד כה שלא להגיב כלל להחלטת מועצת הביטחון. אם זאת סביר להניח שטרודו התומך בפתרון שתי המדינות בוודאי היה מישר קו עם מועצת הביטחון.
הרפר בעצם הגיב בחשבון הטוויטר שלו לתגובה של הנשיא הנבחר של ארה”ב, דונאלד טראמפ, שאמר בטוויטר כי לאור החלטת מועצת הביטחון את הדברים הבאים: “בנוגע לאו”ם – הדברים יראו אחרת אחרי ה-20 בינואר”. כידוע טראמפ יכנס לתפקידו בבית הלבן ב-20 בינואר 2017 (כ-90 אלף גולשים אהבו את דברי טראמפ). הרפר תמך בתגובת טראמפ להצבעה והודה על על התנגדותו הפומבית להחלטת מועצת הביטחון (כ-2,500 גולשים תמכו בדברי הרפר)”.
בתגובה לדברי הרפר הגולשים באינטרנט מיהרו להביע את עמדתם בעד ונגד. להלן שלוש תגובות “מעניינות ונאורות” התומכות בדברי הרפר, שמוכיחות שוב באיזה תקופה אנו נמצאים, כאשר אנשים מרשים לעצמם להגיד הכל. אחד הגולשים כתב: “קנדה צריכה מספר התקפות טרור מאסיביות. אולי זה יעורר את האידיוטים שיבינו עם מה ישראל צריכה להתמודד מדי יום מול האיסלאם”. גולש אחר: “אובמה מראה את צבעיו האמיתיים בנוגע לאו”ם המושחת והפוך. אני שמח שהוא עוזב”. ועוד גולש: “זו הנקמה של אובמה כיוון שמורשתו לא אומרת כלום אחרי ה-20 בינואר. טוב להרפר. עתה היכן טרודו עומד?”
משחקים בלגו: העירייה מצאה דרך להתקרב לתושבים
בוונקובר כמו בערים אחרות אין קשר חם בין העירייה לתושבים המקומיים, שממעטים להגיע למפגשים משותפים. בהנהלת העירייה של ונקובר הגיעו למסקנה שצריך למצוא דרך להתקרב אל תושבי העיר. לאחר בדיקות מקיפות שונות שכללו בין היתר משאל לתושבים באינטרנט, נמצא הפתרון המיוחל: קוביות לגו. מתברר שמשחק הלגו יוצר קשר בלתי אמצעי ומתמשך בין הצדדים שמשתתפים בו. מועדון הלוגו של ונקובר הובא בסוד העניין והפך לשותף מרכזי בפרוייקט החדש בין העירייה לתושבים. המועדון אחראי מעתה על אספקת חמישים סטים של קוביות למפגשים בין שני הצדדים. חברי המועדון בונים דגם ראשוני של נשוא הפגישה למשל מרכז קניות חדש, והמשתתפים שיושבים סביב שולחן גדול, ממשיכים בבניית הפרוייקט וכל מה שסביבו, תוך כדי שיחה. בהנהלת העייריה מציינים שהלוגו מאפשר לתושבים להיפתח יותר בקלות לנושאים שונים, ומספר התושבים שמגיע למפגשים הולך וגדל. בהם צעירים ובני נוער שהעייריה חפצה לשמוע גם את דעתם בנושאים שונים ובעיקר אלה הקרובים להם.
צים מרחיבה את השירותים באוקיאנוס האטלנטי כולל קנדה וארה”ב
חברת הספנות הישראלית צים החליטה להרחיב את שירותיה באזור האוקיאנוס האטלנטי, שכוללים גם את קנדה וארה”ב. כל זאת לשפר את שירותי הפריום בין החופים המזרחיים של קנדה וארה”ב עם ארצות הים התיכון – איטליה וצרפת.
השינויים שכוללים הוספת הקווים עם הפעלת חמש אוניות יבואו לידי ביטוי החל מחודש אפריל 2017. הנמלים בארה”ב אותם יפקדו האוניות הם: ניו יורק, נורפולק וסוואנה. ואילו בקנדה מדובר בנמל של הליפקס. הנמל בהפליקס נחשב לאחד החשובים ביותר בקנדה והוא משמש לנקודה המוצא המרכזית של קנדה לספינות שמפליגות לאירופה. אגב רבים מהמהגרים לקנדה נחתנו לראשונה בנמל הליפקס.
In a rare venture into current events, the head of Yad Vashem has spoken out about the urgency of humanitarian disaster in Syria. After the forces backing Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad succeeded in taking the rebel-controlled areas of Aleppo last week, murderous retribution unfolded and terrified residents fled for their lives.
Avner Shalev, chair of Yad Vashem, said “the global community must put a stop to these atrocities and avert further suffering, as well as provide humanitarian assistance to the victims seeking safe haven.”
It is not insignificant that the head of the world’s leading Holocaust museum and memorial would be moved to speak out on the subject. The atrocities the world is seeing stir memories of the past. No history is precisely like other history, obviously, and making direct comparisons can be unhelpful. Yet, after the Second World War, as the extent of the Holocaust became understood, international agencies, nations and individuals committed to a future free of those sorts of atrocities. Those promises have been betrayed too many times in the seven decades since, most recently in Syria.
When we look back in history, we ask, why didn’t this party or that country do more? Why was this or that allowed to happen? How did the world not step in sooner, when evidence began to mount about the rising danger of authoritarianism? Questions and answers are easier in hindsight. Yet there can be no doubt that Syria has presented especially difficult choices, even for actors who want to do the right thing.
U.S. President Barack Obama has insisted through the years of the Syrian civil war, which began at the time of the Arab Spring in 2011, that there was no military solution to the problem; that diplomacy had to prevail. He may have been correct that there was no military resolution. There are multiple bad guys in this fight – Assad’s regime, backed by Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, on one side, and al-Qaeda and ISIS on the other. And, on the third side – because this is, vexingly, a multiple-sided conflict – is an amalgam of defectors from the Syrian military, Kurdish militias, and other anti-Assad forces who may have democratic and pluralist intents. Or, were they to be victorious – which now seems unlikely in the extreme – they could split among themselves, their only cohesion perhaps being the glue of opposition to Assad. By one count, what we call the Syrian civil war is as many as 10 separate conflicts. The United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar have provided some support to the rebels, but it has been unreliable and uncoordinated. Estimates of the number of civilians and fighters killed range from 312,000 to more than 400,000.
Civilians casualties have been enormous, with all sides indiscriminately attacking civilian targets. Torture and extrajudicial killings typify the regime’s approach to war. Assad’s forces have also been accused of deliberately targeting medical installations and personnel. When the United Nations was able to secure humanitarian aid routes within Syria to provide food and medicine, the regime ensured that aid reached government-controlled areas and prevented aid from reaching rebel-controlled areas.
Negotiations have gone nowhere, because Assad is determined to hold on to power no matter how much of his population dies in the process, and he has powerful military friends in Russia and Iran who back his iron fist. The opposition is unequivocal that Assad must be deposed. There is no room for negotiation.
And so, the matter has come down to military might, with the last stronghold of the opposition crushed in recent days. Assad has now regained control of almost all the population centres of the country, with the rebels limited to peripheral enclaves.
In the process of the civil war, half of Syria’s population has been uprooted – six million people are displaced internally and another six million have been made refugees, with global implications, as European, American and other politicians have exploited fears of radicalization among refugees to advance their own xenophobic agendas. The effect may ultimately unravel the entire European Union.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah has been significantly strengthened and ISIS, which has suffered in Syria, will likely turn its attentions to more fertile ground elsewhere. The murderous Assad regime is more secure than it has been in years. Russia is ascendant in the region and globally. The United States has been chastened, and the incoming president is, characteristically, belligerent in rhetoric but anti-interventionist in expressed policy, which indicates nothing if not pandemonium in future U.S. approaches.
The world has failed the people of Syria – and, as a result, the world is a far more dangerous place.
Significant blame for this disaster must be placed on the United Nations, the primary bodies of which are hobbled by the control of despots who owe more to Assad’s governance style than to the vision of the idealists who founded the organization. While there are agencies under the UN umbrella that do superb work, its governance structures are so dysfunctional that talk of a replacement body must continue in earnest.
The least the world should be able to do now is pressure the emboldened government of Assad to allow humanitarian aid to reach those who need it and allow his citizens to move to places of safety. Then, the world should reflect on the lessons of this catastrophic experience and promise, yet again, not to let such a thing recur. What we’re doing isn’t working. To prevent recurrence, we need to stop pursuing the definition of insanity, which involves doing the same things and expecting a different result.
The Canadian government has announced that it will resume funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The government made the announcement last week, allocating $20 million to UNRWA’s budget and an additional $5 million to support the emergency appeal issued by the organization in order to aid Palestinian refugees affected by the catastrophic war in Syria.
In a statement, the government said, “with this funding, Canada joins all other G7 countries in supporting UNRWA’s efforts to meet the ever-increasing needs of Palestinian refugees, assists in providing basic services for vulnerable people, and contributes to some stability in the region.”
Canada’s previous Conservative government backed away from supporting UNRWA, reducing funding from $32 million in 2007 to $19 million in 2009 and, in 2010, cutting funding entirely. The justification at that time was that UNRWA has ties to the terrorist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
The $20 million just announced is expected to support health, social services and education “for millions of vulnerable Palestinian refugees,” according to Ottawa. But the announcement comes just days after renewed reports that raise concerns about the more than 200 Palestinian schools sponsored by UNRWA, which teach students between first and ninth grade.
One expert on the subject told a conference organized by the Centre for Near East Policy Research (CNEPR) this month that the textbooks reflect the educational principles introduced by Yasser Arafat when the Palestinian authority gained control over the education system in the West Bank and Gaza, and have not been cleansed of hate, antisemitism and incitement. Participants in the conference obtained textbooks from the warehouse that supplies Palestinian schools and they claim the books still encourage a violent struggle for the liberation of “Palestine,” which is defined to include all of present-day Israel, the rejection of historical facts about Jewish holy places and the demonization of both Israel and of Jews.
A spokesperson for UNRWA outright rejects the accusations, saying that two significant analyses of textbooks, including one by the U.S. Department of State, debunked the assertions of incitement in the curriculum. However, David Bedein, director of CNEPR, said he was prepared to present the U.S. government with evidence that contradicts the state department’s findings but told the Jerusalem Post he was rebuffed by the White House.
These conflicting reports are disconcerting. It should be possible for funders who send hundreds of millions of aid dollars to find out for sure whether their money is funding genocidal incitement. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs is certainly correct in declaring that donor countries “have a responsibility to ensure that aid is used for the purpose for which it is given, and we are pleased Canada has taken the lead in establishing a robust accountability protocol.”
In announcing the renewed funding, the federal government promised “there will be enhanced due diligence applied to UNRWA funding … accompanied by a very robust oversight and reporting framework, which includes regular site visits and strong antiterrorism provisions.”
This would be a positive step, to say the least. It would also be a positive step if these Canadian funds do actually provide health, education and social services to people who need them. But this, too, will be difficult to discern. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that an analysis by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicates that the Palestinian Authority budgets about $75 million a year to support Palestinian terrorists – about 16% of foreign donations the PA receives. A lack of transparency about where the rest of the money goes means the world has been unable to determine how much money is lining the pockets of cronies of the dictatorship and what proportion is making positive social and economic contributions in the lives of Palestinians. Notably, the Palestinians receive more international aid per capita than any other people in the world – by far. Even as the catastrophe in neighboring Syria has seen 250,000 killed and 6.5 million refugees displaced, Syrians receive $106 per capita in international aid, while Palestinians receive $176.
One could argue whether Canadian funds are needed by the Palestinian Authority at all. And, clearly, we cannot be entirely confident that funds are going to the places they are intended. But, if the Canadian government does indeed follow the money, as promised, and determines whether it is making life better for Palestinians or is instead inciting terrorism, this might finally answer some questions that today seem subject to accusations and denials. That would be money well spent.