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Chapter 26: Canada-Israel Relations

- “From the outset, Canadians were sympathetically disposed toward Zionism and Israel, and remain so today”
- “The late 1940s marked a positive turning point in Canada's attitude toward Jewish issues and Zionism”
- “Canada willingly played an important role in facilitating the adoption of the United Nations partition resolution”
- “Canada immediately recognized Israel and supported its admission to the UN”
- “External Affairs Minister Pearson helped end the 1956 Suez Conflict because of his personal commitment to Zionism”
- “Canada played an important role in trying to facilitate a peaceful settlement of the crisis that escalated into the Six-Day War”
- “Given its long and distinguished record of Middle East peacekeeping, Canada immediately volunteered to participate in the UN forces established after the 1973 Yom Kippur War”
- “Canadian policy under Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau was hostile toward the Arabs”
- “Canada adopted forceful legislation prohibiting Canadian companies from cooperating with the Arab boycott of Israel”
- “Canada is committed to moving its embassy to Jerusalem”
- “Canada supported Israel's efforts to drive the PLO out of Lebanon and secure its northern border”
- “Canada defended Israel's actions during the first Intifada”
- “Canada approached the Middle East refugee issue with sensitivity and evenhandedness”
- “It was appropriate for Canada to support the UN Security Council resolution criticizing Israel for the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada”
- “It is only by remaining evenhanded in the eyes of all parties that Canada can make a constructive contribution to the pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace”
- “Canada has consistently supported Israel at the UN and its associated agencies”
- “Canada supports a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel”
- “Canadian support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has contributed to solving the Palestinian refugee problem”
- “Canada unequivocally supports the call for a change in Palestinian leadership, reform of the Palestinian Authority, and an end to violence as a prelude to the creation of a Palestinian state”
- “Canada is an open, tolerant and democratic country where people feel free to express their opinions on the Middle East without fear of intimidation or recrimination”


MYTH

“From the outset, Canadians were sympathetically disposed toward Zionism and Israel, and remain so today”

FACT

Canadian Jewry has always been “a predominantly Zionist community,”1 much more so than its more politically diverse counterpart in the United States.

In their support for the pre-state Yishuv, Canadian Jews were joined by prominent Christian Zionists, whose commitment was based, in large part, on the prophesized Jewish restoration in their biblical holy land as a crucial step toward the fulfillment of Christian scripture.  Sympathy for Zionism was also linked to support for British imperial interests, with many Christian Zionists believing that “Palestine was the logical center of the British Empire, and could help form a confederation of the English-speaking world.” 2

Support for Zionist aspirations among the general public, however, was insignificant.  Much of Canadian society, as reflected through its mainstream religious denominations, remained largely indifferent to political affairs in far-off Palestine.  Still others, especially the Roman Catholic Church in Quebec, expressed parochial interest – relating to the status of Church institutions in the Holy Land – if not outright hostility toward Zionism and Jews in general, because of ancient theological stereotypes. 3

Canada’s Catholic Church, along with Anglicans, Unitarians and the United Church continue to articulate positions on the Middle East at variance with Israel’s, especially with regard to Jerusalem, human rights and Palestinian refugees. 4  Among Christian denominations, solid support for Israel today comes almost exclusively from the Evangelical community which, unlike its counterpart in the United States, remains relatively small, disparate and politically marginalized.5

Despite the pronounced biases of various faith communities and other special interest groups, survey data indicate that most Canadians are indifferent about the Middle East.  Even in times of crisis, when there was a danger that regional hostilities might escalate into superpower conflagration, upwards of two-thirds of Canadians continued to express sympathy for neither side or had no opinion.  Today, more than half (61%) of Canadians remain indifferent or non-committed while 19% identify themselves as having sympathy for Israel and 20% for the Palestinians.  Among those Canadians who consider themselves most familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, 32% express sympathy towards the Palestinians while only 26% are sympathetic towards Israel.6

MYTH

“The late 1940s marked a positive turning point in Canada’s attitude toward Jewish issues and Zionism.”

FACT

Canada adopted a policy of “none is too many” about the absorption of European Jews seeking refugee from Nazi persecution.7   The government of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, whether driven by anti-Semitic sentiment or a fear of the domestic political repercussions of large-scale Jewish immigration, was not prepared to deal with the issue.  Similarly, it “simply had no desire to get involved” in the controversy surrounding the British White Paper of 1939, which imposed severe restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine.8 

In response to a personal plea from a prominent member of Ottawa’s Jewish community to intervene in the debate over the White Paper on the side of the Zionists, Mackenzie King in late 1943 admitted that Canada has “a direct interest in the settlement of the Jewish problem on a basis which will provide permanent security for the Jewish people.”  But, he then hastened to add, “I believe the policy of the White Paper was directed not toward closing the doors of Palestine against further Jewish immigration but toward creating political conditions which would facilitate peaceful development of the Jewish National Home.”9

It was such convoluted logic, along with an unwillingness to challenge the authority of ‘Mother’ Britain that framed the Mackenzie King government’s decision-making concerning the Palestine question as the debate shifted from the region to London to the United Nations in New York.

MYTH

“Canada willingly played an important role in facilitating the adoption of the United Nations partition resolution.”

FACT

Mackenzie King’s first and lasting inclination was to stay clear of the Palestine debate.  He and his government “showed little interest in the area and were content to let the British govern Palestine and attempt to cope with an increasingly complex set of issues there… (Mackenzie King) greatly feared Canadian involvement in an increasingly violent conflict between the British, Jews and Arabs.”10

Canada’s policy of non-commitment was compromised by Britain’s decision to transfer the Palestine question to the UN in the spring of 1947.  Despite Mackenzie King’s wishes, Canada found itself thrust into the very heart of the debate.  The United States, intent on denying the Soviet Union a foothold in the strategically vital region, drafted Canada to a commission of “smaller powers with no history of Middle East interest” to recommend a resolution to the question of Palestine.  The Canadian delegation to the General Assembly had received explicit instructions from the Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister Louis St. Laurent to avoid any Middle East commitments or entanglements.  But the US maneuvered the Canadians into “a position where refusal to serve on the commission [the UN Special Commission on Palestine – UNSCOP] would have been awkward and embarrassing.”11

Having been forced onto a commission that it had not wanted to join, to deal with an issue that it had sought to avoid, the Mackenzie King government appointed Supreme Court Justice Ivan C. Rand to UNSCOP but designated him as a non-governmental representative free to use his independent judgment.  Therefore, Mackenzie King could claim that any decision reached by the Commission was not binding on his government.

The majority of UNSCOP members, including Justice Rand, recommended the partitioning of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, a proposal that senior officials in Canada’s Department of External Affairs came to view as the least objectionable of the options for resolving the Palestine question.  They recommended that Canada support the partition plan when it came before the General Assembly in November 1947 – a recommendation that was grudgingly accepted by Mackenzie King.12

In the final analysis, Canada’s support for partition was motivated primarily by the Prime Minister’s concern that the dispute between Washington and London about the Palestine issue would adversely affect negotiations toward forming the strategic North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).13 Canada was less interested in the specifics of the formula for addressing the Palestine question than in finding a compromise that its two major allies could live with.  This became an enduring feature of Canada’s Middle East policy.

MYTH

“Canada immediately recognized Israel and supported its admission to the UN.”

FACT

Having helped bridge the US and British positions on the Palestine debate, Canada then returned to the relative comfort afforded by strict adherence to a policy of non-commitment.  Ottawa withheld de facto recognition of Israel until December 1948.  Israel failed in its first attempt to gain admission to the UN because Canada abstained when the issue came to a vote in the Security Council.14  Canada granted de jure recognition only in May 1949, once the Jewish state had been admitted to the UN.15

MYTH

“External Affairs Minister Lester Pearson became involved in ending the 1956 Suez Conflict because of his personal commitment to Zionism.”

FACT

Pearson’s memoirs do reflect a deep and abiding affection toward the Holy Land – “the land of my Sunday School lessons.”16  Having said this, it was the pursuit of Canadian national interests, defined in terms of alleviating tension within the North Atlantic alliance resulting from US opposition to British and French intervention in the Suez Conflict (on Israel’s behalf), that motivated Pearson to spearhead the formation of the UN peacekeeping force that was interposed between Israeli and Egyptian armies (and for which Pearson won the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize).  It was enlightened national self-interest rather than Pearson’s personal inclination toward Zionism that drove Canada’s involvement in the Suez Conflict.17

MYTH

“Canada played an important role in trying to facilitate a peaceful settlement of the regional crisis that escalated into the Six-Day War.”

FACT

Lester Pearson, by then Canada’s Prime Minister, was unhappy with Secretary-General U Thant’s precipitous acceding to Egyptian President Nasser’s demand that UN peacekeepers be withdrawn from the Sinai in the spring of 1967.  Pearson believed that Thant could have played for time while a diplomatic solution to the festering crisis was formulated.  Pearson was also demonstrably angry over Egyptian moves to once again close the Straits of Tiran and the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping.  Beyond fearing that Israel would perceive the Egyptian moves as acts of war that would require a response likely to escalate regional tensions, Pearson also accurately recognized that the ease with which Nasser was violating the UN-brokered truce ending the 1956 Suez Conflict was severely undermining the UN’s credibility.18

Pearson was powerless, however, to convert his unhappiness with these developments into constructive diplomacy.  Instead, he adopted a position that accused Israel and the Arabs of being equally responsible for the outbreak of the 1967 hostilities, a moral equivalency that ignored the fact that Israel was merely exercising its legitimate right of self-defense in response to Arab casus belli.  The Canadian delegation at the UN Security Council made only half-hearted attempts to facilitate a diplomatic resolution to the crisis or to create an international flotilla to break the Egyptian blockade; though it is true that Canadian diplomats did actively participate in efforts to facilitate a consensus among Council members in support of Resolution 242 of November 1967.19

MYTH

“Given its long and distinguished record of Middle East peacekeeping, Canada immediately volunteered to participate in the UN forces established after the 1973 Yom Kippur War.”

FACT

Since taking office shortly after the Six-Day War, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau had expressed reservations about what he perceived to be the short-sighted liberal-internationalism that motivated Canada’s post-1945 approach to global affairs.  He encouraged a more rational assessment of the costs and benefits associated with policy decisions as well as a tighter linkage between foreign policy and domestic interests.20  This new approach had significant implications for Canada’s post-1973 Middle East policy.  Specifically, Trudeau questioned the benefit to Canada of participating in UN peacekeeping forces established in the Sinai and the Golan Heights in 1974 and 1975.  Trudeau ultimately agreed to contribute Canadian forces to the UN missions only under pressure from the United States.21

MYTH

“Canadian policy under Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau was hostile toward the Arabs.”

FACT

Trudeau periodically flirted with the idea of the Arab and Islamic countries of the Middle East and North Africa serving as a “counterweight” to United States and European influence on Canadian diplomacy and foreign trade.22  Following the Yom Kippur War, Canadian embassies and trade missions were opened in a number of Arab and Muslim capitals.  Although Canada imported no oil from the Middle East, there was an increasing tendency on Ottawa’s part to bow to Arab diplomatic pressure, including abstaining on UN resolutions critical of Israel that Canada had traditionally opposed.23

Canada’s approach to the Palestinian issue changed significantly under Trudeau.  Although Canada had always supported the according of individual rights to Palestinian refugees, Trudeau increasingly focused on the collective rights of the Palestinians as a people.  Canada also increasingly viewed the PLO as the political representatives of the Palestinians and invited it to participate in international conferences scheduled for Toronto and Vancouver.24

By the late 1970s and early 1980s, Trudeau permitted Canadian diplomats to initiate mid-level contacts with the PLO, and senior Canadian officials for the first time declared support for the concept of a Palestinian “homeland” within identifiable boundaries (the West Bank and Gaza Strip).25

MYTH

“Canada adopted forceful legislation prohibiting Canadian companies from cooperating with the Arab boycott of Israel.”

FACT

Seemingly embarrassed by anti-boycott legislation adopted by the provinces of Ontario and Manitoba, Trudeau allowed the introduction of federal legislation to prohibit Canadians and Canadian companies from cooperating with the Arab economic boycott of Israel.  However, when confronted with pressure from powerful corporate interests fearful of losing contracts in the Arab world, along with implied threats from Arab and Muslim countries to embargo trade with Canada, the Trudeau government backed off and allowed the legislation to die as Parliament was dissolved for the 1979 federal elections.26

MYTH

“Canada is committed to moving its embassy to Jerusalem.”

FACT

Progressive Conservative Party leader Joe Clark pledged during the 1979 federal election campaign to move Canada’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  However, once in office, Clark was forced by pressure from the business community, Arab countries and senior Canadian bureaucrats to rescind the embassy transfer.  Clark’s successors have shown no inclination to move the embassy.27

MYTH

“Canada supported Israel’s efforts to drive the PLO out of Lebanon and secure its northern border.”

FACT

Back in power, Pierre Elliott Trudeau on June 5, 1982, sent a letter to Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin counseling restraint in the face of escalating PLO terrorist attacks across the Lebanese border; Trudeau also cautioned that Israeli counter-terrorism policies had given “Israel’s friends certain cause for concern, to say nothing of its enemies.”  On June 9, Trudeau sent a second letter to Begin, expressing “dismay” over Israel’s incursion into southern Lebanon in hot-pursuit of terrorists. While he condemned “heinous acts of terrorism” and claimed to understand Israel’s “natural concern” for security, Trudeau nevertheless informed Begin that he could not “accept the proposition that the present military activities are justified or that they would provide the long-term security that you seek for the Israeli people.”28

The murder of Palestinian civilians by pro-Israeli Christian Phalangists in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps near Beirut in September 1982 elicited additional criticism of Israeli policy by the Trudeau government, including an implied threat to upgrade Canada’s relations with the PLO.

Overall, the Lebanon War prompted an incremental deterioration in Canadian-Israeli bilateral relations.29

MYTH

“Canada defended Israel’s actions during the first Intifada.”

FACT

In an interview with CBC TV in late December 1987, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said that Israeli soldiers were demonstrating “restraint” in their response to widespread Palestinian rioting; he also declared “false and odious” attempts to compare Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with that of the apartheid regime in South Africa.30  Even as Mulroney was defending Israel’s actions, External Affairs Minister Joe Clark was vigorously criticizing the Jewish state’s handling of the Intifada, charging that Israeli soldiers had instituted a policy of collective punishment against the Palestinians, including withholding food and medical supplies from refugee camps.  Clark also implied that Israel was the stumbling block to Middle East peace.  It was such excessive, unfair and un-contextualized criticism of Israel, rather than Mulroney’s sensitivity toward the challenges confronting the Jewish state, that framed Canada’s policy response to the first Intifada.31

MYTH

“Canada approached the Middle East refugee issue with sensitivity and evenhandedness.”

FACT

As holder of the gavel for the multilateral working group on Middle East refugees, Canadian officials exhibited a determination to avoid the pitfalls endemic to the highly volatile issue.  Nevertheless, there were problematic tendencies apparent in Canada’s handling of the refugee issue. One of the most serious of these tendencies was that of accepting core aspects of the Palestinian narrative about the causes of the Palestinian refugee problem, including misinterpreting UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (December 1948) as granting an absolute “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to Israel. Also problematic was Canada’s practice of defining the refugee issue exclusively in terms of its Palestinian component, ignoring the fact that some 800,000 Jews fled Arab and Muslim lands in the years following Israel’s founding. A just and viable settlement of the regional refugee problem will require a flexible and realistic approach that takes into account both Jewish and Palestinian concerns.32

MYTH

“It was appropriate for Canada to support the UN Security Council resolution criticizing Israel for the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada.”

FACT

Canada’s support for UN Security Council Resolution 1322 (October 7, 2000) was inconsistent with its commitment to oppose declarations in international institutions that unfairly criticize Israel and seek to isolate her. The resolution placed the onus of responsibility for diplomatic stalemate and renewed bloodshed primarily on Israel. It also speciously equated the morality of premeditated Palestinian terrorism against Israelis and Israel’s legitimate acts of self-defense. MP Stockwell Day, then leader of the Canadian Alliance Party, condemned Canada’s vote as “unbalanced,” “one-sided,” and “embarrassing and unsettling.”33  Influential Canadian Jews felt that, with its vote, Canada’s Liberal government had abandoned both Israel and a Canadian Jewish community that had for decades been solidly supportive of the federal Liberal Party.34

MYTH

“It is only by remaining evenhanded in the eyes of all parties that Canada can make a constructive contribution to the pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace.”

FACT

The overwhelming (89%) majority of Canadians want their government to adopt a balanced perspective toward the Arab-Israeli conflict, expressing support for neither side.35  This evenhandedness, however, is compromised by specific aspects of Canada’s Middle East policy, which predetermine the outcome of negotiations in favor of the Palestinians.  Among these problematic aspects are Canada’s refusal to recognize Israel’s presence in areas of Jerusalem beyond the Green Line, and its designation of Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as contrary to international law and an impediment to peace.  Such positions are inconsistent with Canada’s belief that a lasting settlement can be achieved only through the process of direct, bilateral negotiations involving the parties to the conflict.36

MYTH

“Canada has consistently supported Israel at the UN and its associated agencies.”

FACT

Throughout much of the 1950s and 1960s, Canada joined the United States and most other Western democracies (then constituting the majority in the UN General Assembly) in supporting Israel and opposing resolutions unfairly critical of her.  However, especially after the Yom Kippur War, Canada began to abstain on anti-Israel resolutions.37 

By the late 1980s, Canada was routinely voting for or abstaining on UN resolutions that were overtly biased against Israel or failed to take into account the broader context within which events were unfolding (i.e., premeditated terrorist attacks that provoked Israeli military responses).  This pattern has continued to the present day.  In the 58th UN General Assembly (December 2003), Canada voted for a total of 14 resolutions critical of Israel and abstained on four others.  Canada did not support Israel’s position on any General Assembly resolution.  It also supported one, and abstained on two other one-sided anti-Israel resolutions adopted by the 58th General Assembly sitting in Emergency Special Session.38

Canada has often worked quietly behind-the-scenes in international institutions to temper the inflammatory wording of anti-Israel resolutions and to ameliorate Israel’s isolation in those institutions.  For example, Canada consistently lobbied for the repeal of the infamous “Zionism is Racism” resolution.  It was also instrumental in formulating a consensus among European countries in favor of Israel’s admission to the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) regional bloc, thereby ending the anomaly of Israel being the only full UN member-state denied membership in a regional group.39

While resisting calls to boycott the Durban World Conference Against Racism (September 2001) to protest its overt anti-Israel and anti-Jewish tone,40 Canada did make a symbolic statement by sending a lower level delegation.41 In addition, Canadian diplomats participated in efforts to counter attempts by Arab, Islamic and Non-Aligned countries to have excessive and hateful language included in conference statements and, in the end, Canada was one of only two countries (along with Australia) to formally register reservations about the Middle East provisions of the final conference communique.42

At the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) in 2002, Canada responded to Israel’s demand for fair treatment by joining Guatemala in opposing a call by the CHR to send a one-sided delegation to investigate allegations of Israeli human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.43

In January 2004, Canada joined Israel, the United States and some 30 other democratic states in objecting to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) considering the loaded and prejudicial request from the UN General Assembly to comment on the “legal consequences” of Israel’s West Bank security fence.  Although it expressed concern about the fence’s extension into areas that Canada considers “Palestinian land,” Canada nevertheless felt the dispute over the fence could only be addressed in direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations based on the formula outlined in the “road map” for peace. Canada also expressed concern about the impact on the ICJ’s credibility of its intruding in complex political disputes that cannot be resolved through judicial action, especially those in which one of the parties (in this case, Israel) refuses to recognize the Court’s authority.44

We are then left with the paradoxical situation in which Canada is seen to be taking important steps in support of Israel’s goal of ending its isolation and discriminatory treatment in international institutions, even as Canada continues to vote for, or abstain, on unconstructive, inflammatory and prejudicial anti-Israel resolutions adopted routinely by those same institutions.

MYTH

“Canada supports a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

FACT

Since 1948, Canada refused to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, choosing instead to situate its embassy in Tel Aviv.  While initially hoping that the partition plan’s idea of “internationalizing” the entire city might yet prove possible, Canada ultimately took the position that “internationalization should be imposed, where necessary, solely for the protection of the holy places.”45  Canada joined most countries in a conspiracy of silence regarding Jordan’s activities in the Old City between 1949 and 1967, including the violation of its commitment to grant Jews access to their holy places and the willful neglect and desecration of many of those institutions.

Since Jerusalem’s reunification in the 1967 Six-Day War, Canada supported UN General Assembly resolutions that ruled Israel’s annexation invalid and called on Israel to refrain from any measures to alter the status quo in the city.  Canada forbade its representatives from engaging in official activities related to Israeli institutions or individual Israelis beyond the Green Line; no such restrictions were imposed on contacts between Canadians and Palestinians or Christians in those areas.46

Canada’s position concerning Jerusalem is inconsistent.  While Canada calls for a negotiated settlement, it prejudges the outcome of those negotiations by denying Israeli claims to any part of the Old City or eastern Jerusalem.

MYTH

“Canadian support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has contributed to solving the Palestinian refugee problem.”

FACT

Canada was present at UNRWA’s birth in December 1949; indeed, the agency’s first director was a Canadian.47  From an initial 1950 contribution of $750,000, Canada in 2003 contributed nearly $10 million to UNRWA, mainly through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).  Canada also contributes generously to emergency campaigns to augment UNRWA’s operational budget. 

Nevertheless, Canada’s support for UNRWA has become an issue of considerable controversy in recent years.  An increasing number of Canadians are asking how UNRWA is spending Canadian public funds, and whether the agency’s activities are consistent with Canadian values.

In June 2003, Jason Kenney, Member of Parliament from the (then) opposition Canadian Alliance Party, demanded that UNRWA be held to “genuine accountability”: “Too many of the [UNRWA] camps have become breeding groups for anti-Semitic propaganda and terrorist activity that has resulted in the murder of hundreds of innocent civilians.”  Kenney also demanded reform of the UNRWA-sponsored educational system in the camps.  Finally, Kenney announced plans to introduce to Parliament a Private Member’s Bill calling for UNRWA accountability and linking Canadian contributions to the agency to the increased transparency and the implementation of meaningful reforms.48

Canadians are also increasingly asking for greater accountability from CIDA with regard to its direct and indirect contributions of development assistance to the Palestinian Authority areas.  On March 10, 2004, Elinor Caplan, a Member of Parliament from the governing Liberal Party posed the following question to Aileen Carroll, Minister for International Cooperation:  “Could the minister assure my constituents and all Canadians that the federal government’s humanitarian and development funding directed to assist and improve the lives of Palestinians and the funding for the United Nations refugee relief association, the aid programs of UNRWA, which is intended for humanitarian assistance, is not being diverted to the Palestinian Authority for unauthorized uses that do not support peace?”49

When UNRWA was created, the expectation was that the refugee problem would be quickly solved in the course of peace negotiations and that the Palestinian refugees would be repatriated, resettled in Arab states, or financially compensated for their lost property.  Israel expressed a readiness to repatriate a limited number of refugees on humanitarian groups and family reunification, but the Arab states refused to discuss peace or resettle any of the refugees.  They simply insisted that Israel unconditionally allow all refugees to “return.”

The Arab position has not changed, and UNRWA has essentially become an international welfare agency for the Palestinians.  Even after the implementation of the Oslo agreements in the 1990s, which put more than 98% of the Arab residents of the territories (including a vast majority of the refugees) under the authority of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority (PA), and the contribution of billions by the international community to aid the Palestinians, UNRWA remains responsible for meeting the basic needs of the refugees. Rather then empowering the Palestinians, UNRWA instead exacerbates their dependency on international assistance and perpetuates a sense of helplessness that is increasingly manifested in hatred against Israelis.50

Evidence uncovered by the Israeli military reveals that many of the UNRWA-administered refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have become hotbeds of Palestinian violence and terror against Israelis, and UNRWA vehicles have been used to smuggle weapons and terrorists past Israeli checkpoints.51  UNRWA officials have maintained a “hear no evil, see no evil” policy while terrorists live in UNRWA-administered camps, plan attacks, hide weapons and recruit members.52 

Through their actions and their statements, senior UNRWA officials directly help perpetuate an atmosphere of hatred against Israelis.  Take, for example, UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen’s baseless accusation that Israeli forces had “massacred” Palestinian civilians in the Jenin refugee camp in April 2002.  Even when confronted with incontrovertible evidence that no such massacre had occurred, Hansen firmly refuses to retract his accusations or temper the remarkably undiplomatic and inflammatory nature of his characterization of Israeli policies and practices.53

As a major stakeholder in UNRWA, Canada has both a right and an obligation to ensure that assistance to the institution is being used in ways consistent with its mandate and with the values of fairness and evenhandedness that Canadians want to project to the international community through their foreign policy.54

MYTH

“Canada unequivocally supports the call for a change in Palestinian leadership, reform of the Palestinian Authority, and an end to violence as a prelude to the creation of a Palestinian state.”

FACT

While generally supportive of President George W. Bush’s June 24, 2002 call for a fundamental change in Palestinian leadership, Canada joined much of the European Union in declaring that it was not Canada’s business to tell the Palestinians who their leaders should be, and in continuing to recognize Yasser Arafat as the elected representative of the Palestinian people.55 As a supporter of the road map for peace, however, Canada has endorsed the document’s call for democratization, modernization, an end to terrorism, and a viable negotiated settlement with Israel based on the two-state formula referred to in Bush’s speech.

“Israel’s values are Canada’s values.”

— Prime Minister Paul Martin
 November 14, 2005

 

MYTH

“Canada is an open, tolerant and democratic country where people feel free to express their opinions on the Middle East without fear of intimidation or recrimination.”

FACT

While Canadians are justifiably proud of the strength and inherent goodness of their multicultural democratic society, there are emerging patterns of behavior with regard to the domestic Middle East debate that are disquieting.  In particular, there has been an increase in the number and severity of anti-Semitic incidents that have been linked to Arab or Muslim Canadians and their supporters, or are generally perceived as responses to ongoing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.56  In demonstrations in front of the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa and the Israeli Consulates in Montreal and Toronto, elements of the pro-Palestinian community, including extreme leftists and anti-globalizationists, have publicly called for “Death to the Jews” (not merely “Death to the Israelis”).  In some isolated incidents, these demonstrators have turned to violence in confrontations with pro-Israel supporters demanding the democratic right to express their opinion as well.57

At Montreal’s Concordia University, a September 2002 lecture by Benjamin Netanyahu, organized by the Hillel Jewish students’ movement (with the full knowledge and cooperation of the university administration) was cancelled because of rioting by a broad coalition comprised of anti-Israel, anti-American and anti-globalization students and outside agitators.58  Shortly thereafter, two members of the federal New Democratic Party and a prominent leftist activist, all outspoken Israel detractors, were invited to Concordia to address the Middle East situation.  This violated a moratorium on public discussion of the issue imposed by the university after the Netanyahu riots and compelled the university to obtain an injunction to force the program off campus.59

The militant, pro-Palestinian student government at Concordia subsequently voted to strip Hillel of its privileges as a university club due to its alleged “political activities” in support of Israel on campus. Hillel and its supporters were forced to initiate legal action to counter this outrageous move.60 At other Canadian universities and colleges, Jewish students wishing to express their love of Israel, and non-Jewish students and faculty members simply demanding adherence to the fundamental academic principle of an informed and respectful consideration of competing viewpoints,61 were being confronted by Arab and pro-Arab forces determined to stifle any voices but their own.62

The expressions of overt anti-Israel sentiment on Canadian campuses, and in Canadian society generally, are still nowhere near the crisis proportions reported in parts of Europe today. Nevertheless, a society’s unfair treatment of its Jewish (and by extension, pro-Israel) community is often symptomatic of more fundamental problems that could have serious adverse implications for other ethno-cultural and faith communities, and indeed, for Canada’s democratic ethos generally.


Sources:
1 Zachariah Kay, Canada & Palestine: The Politics of Non-Commitment (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1978).
2  Ibid, 10.
3  Michael Brown, Jew or Juif: Jews, French Canadians and Anglo-Canadians 1759-1914 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1987); Esther Delisle, The Traitor and the Jews: Anti-Semitism and Extremist Right-Wing Nationalism in French Canada, 1929-1939 (Toronto: Robert Davies Publishing, 1993).
4  “(Canadian Jewish) Congress pulls out of interfaith meetings, Canadian Jewish News, April 18, 2002; David Taras, “A Church Divided,” in The Domestic Battleground: Canada and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1989): 86-101.
5  Paul Lungen, “Evangelical Christian spawns support for Israel,” Canadian Jewish News, January 2, 2003.
6  Based on a nationwide random survey of 1,508 Canadian conducted from December 5, 2002-December 15, 2002, by GPC International (Ottawa).
7  Irving Abella and Harold Troper, None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe 1933-1948 (Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1982).
8  Zachariah Kay, Canada & Palestine: The Politics of Non-Commitment (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1978): 65.
9  Ibid, 66.
10  David J. Bercuson, Canada and the Birth of Israel (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985).
11  Ibid.
12  Ibid.
13  Ibid.; Zachariah Kay, Canada & Palestine: The Politics of Non-Commitment (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1978).
14  David J. Bercuson, Canada and the Birth of Israel (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985).
15  Ibid.; Zachariah Kay, Canada & Palestine: The Politics of Non-Commitment (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1978).
16  Lester B. Pearson, Mike: The Memoirs of the Rt. Hon. Lester B. Pearson, Vol. II (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973): 213; Anne Trowell Hillmer, “’Here I am in the Middle’: Lester Pearson and the Origins of Canada’s Diplomatic Involvement in the Middle East,” in The Domestic Battleground: Canada and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, edited by David Taras and David H. Goldberg (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1989): 125-143.
17  For a different take on Pearson’s role in establishing the UN force, see “General, not Pearson, created peacekeeping,” National Post, July 11, 2002.
18  Lester Pearson, Mike: The Memoirs of the Rt. Hon. Lester B. Pearson, Vol. II (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973); Michael B. Oren, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002): 123-126.
19  See the comments of Canada’s former ambassador to Israel, Vernon Turner, in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242: A Twenty-Five Year Retrospective, edited by David H. Goldberg (Toronto: Foundation for Middle East Studies, June 1993).
20  Ivan Head and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, The Canadian Way: Shaping Canada’s Foreign Policy 1968-1984 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1995).
21  Janice Gross Stein, “Canadian Foreign Policy in the Middle East after the October War,” Social Praxis 4:3-4 (1976-1977): 277-280.
22  Ivan Head and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, The Canadian Way: Shaping Canada’s Foreign Policy 1968-1984 (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1995).
23  Janice Gross Stein, “Canadian Foreign Policy in the Middle East after the October War,” Social Praxis 4:3-4 (1976-1977): 280-284.
24  David H. Goldberg, Foreign Policy and Ethnic Interest Groups: American and Canadian Jews Lobby for Israel (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990): 106-112.
25  Paul C. Noble, “Where Angels Fear to Tread: Canada and the status of the Palestinian people 1973-1983,” in Canada and the Arab World, edited by Tareq Y. Ismael (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1985): 107-149.
26  Howard J. Stanislawski, “Ethnic Interest Group Activity in the Canadian Foreign Policy-Making process: A Case Study of the Arab Boycott,” in The Middle East at the Crossroads, edited by Janice Gross Stein and David B. Dewitt (Oakville, Ontario: Mosaic Press, 1983): 200-220.
27  George Takach, “Clark and the Jerusalem Embassy Affair: Initiative and Constraint in Canadian Foreign Policy,” in The Domestic Battleground: Canada and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, edited by David Taras and David H. Goldberg (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1989): 144-166.
28  Cited in Canadian Middle East Digest, September-October 1982: 1.
29  Ronnie Miller, From Lebanon to the Intifada: The Jewish Lobby and Canadian Middle East Policy (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1991).
30  CBC Television transcript, December 21, 1987.
31  David H. Goldberg and David Taras, “Collision Course: Joe Clark, Canadian Jews, and the Palestinian Uprising,” in The Domestic Battleground: Canada and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1989): 207-223.
32  David H. Goldberg and Tilly R. Shames, “The ‘Good-Natured Bastard’: Canada and the Middle East Refugee Question,” Israel Affairs, Vol. 10: Nos. 1&2 (Autumn/Winter 2004): 203-220.
33  “Day hits Liberals over Mideast,” Toronto Star, October 31, 2000.
34  “J’accuse…! Canada’s UN vote unconscionable,” Canadian Jewish News, October 19, 2002. 
35  Based on a nationwide random survey of 1,508 Canadians from December 5, 2002-December 15, 2002, by GPC International (Ottawa).
36  “Canada and the Middle East Peace Process: Canadian Policy – Key Issues,” Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/peaceprocess/keyissue-en.asp
37  Janice Gross Stein, “Canadian Foreign Policy in the Middle East after the October War,” in Social Praxis 4:3-4 (1976-1977): 280-284.
38  David H. Goldberg, “A disaster in the making at the UN,” Canadian Jewish News, February 12, 2004.
39  “Canada deserves credit too,” Canadian Jewish News, March 23, 2000.
40  “Jew hatred the order of the day at WCAR, Mr. Manley should stay home,” Canadian Jewish Congress News Release, August 28, 2001.
41  “B’nai Brith Canada applauds decision by Manley to avoid Durban Conference,” B’nai Brith Canada News Release, August 30, 2001.
42  “Canada Unable to Join World Conference Against Racism Consensus,” Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade News Release No. 129, September 8, 2001.
43  Ron Csillag, “Leaders laud Canada’s voting record at UN,” Canadian Jewish News, April 24, 2002.
44  “Written Statement of the Government of Canada to the International Court of Justice,” January 30, 2004  http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/peaceprocess/canadian_ICJ_Submission_29jan04-en.asp
45  David J. Bercuson, “Canada and Jerusalem: An Historical Overview,” Middle East Focus 4:3 (Spring 1981): 9-10.
46 Joseph Brean, “Grieving family upset envoy not sent to West Bank,” National Post, February 7, 2004.
47  Zachariah Kay, The Diplomacy of Prudence: Canada and Israel, 1948-1958 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996): 24-28.
48  “Notes for remarks by Jason Kenney, MP, to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, regarding the situation of Palestinian refugees,” June 24, 2003.
49  Hansard, March 10, 2004.
50  Claudia Rosett, “Insane Asylum Policy,” Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2003; Allison Kaplan Sommer, “UNRWA on Trial,” Reform Judaism 31:2 (Winter 2002): 39-42, 93.
51  Herb Keinon, “Shin Bet documents terrorists’ misuse of UNRWA facilities,” Jerusalem Post, December 11, 2002.
52  For the official defense of UNRWA’s position, see Paul McCann, “The facts about UNRWA,” Jerusalem Post, April 22, 2002; Peter Hansen, “Setting the record straight,” Ha’aretz, April 23, 2002.
53  Andrew Srulevitch, “A civil servant’s ‘neutrality’,” Jerusalem Post, November 10, 2003; Peter Hansen, “That’s not bias, that’s my job,” Jerusalem Post, November 15, 2003.  See also the sometimes acrimonious exchange between Hansen and members of Canada’s Parliament in a session of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, November 5, 2003.
54  “UNRWA’s Accountability,” Canada-Israel Committee communiqué, December 19, 2002.
55  “Chretien, Bush split over future of Arafat,” National Post, June 27, 2003.
56  Melissa Long, “Anti-Semitic hate crimes on rise, says B’nai Brith,” Toronto Star, March 12, 2004.
57  Sheldon Kirshner, “Jewish-Arab relations in Canada feeling strain of Mideast conflict,” Canadian Jewish News, November 30, 2000.
58  “What a university is for,” Montreal Gazette (editorial), September 10, 2002; Jonathan kay, “Netanyahu is the victim,” National Post, September 10, 2002.
59  Bram Eisenthal, “Anti-Israel speeches in Montreal,” Jewish Tribune, November 28, 2002.  For a defense of the proposed program by one of its participants, NDP MP Svend Robinson, see “Shame on Concordia University,” Globe and Mail, November 25, 2002.
60  Janice Arnold, “Concordia Hillel sues student union for $100,000,” Canadian Jewish News, January 2, 2003; Francine Dube, “Anti-Semitism has no place on campus: judge,” National Post, February 12, 2003.
61  Tia Goldenberg, “A marketplace of ideas, not a monopoly,” Ottawa Citizen, November 19, 2003; Ed Morgan, “Campus hate laws are a shield, not a sword,” Canadian Jewish News, March 3, 2004.
62  Heather Sokoloff, “Hate crime feared as Jewish structure ruined,” National Post, October 16, 2003; Christine Boyd, “Pro-Palestinian conference sparks U of T controversy,” Globe and Mail, November 28, 2003; Joseph Hall, “Touchy campus politics… Mideast politics divide groups,” Toronto Star, February 9, 2004; “’Heckler veto’ muzzling campuses,” Toronto Star, March 1, 2004; Peter Caulfield, “Israeli ambassador gets mixed reception on Vancouver campuses,” Canadian Jewish News, March 11, 2004.

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