Canada Abstains on UN Condemnation of Israeli Violence

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) says it is “disappointed by the Trudeau government’s decision to abstain on a UN General Assembly vote condemning Israel for its disproportionate violence against Palestinians in Gaza in recent weeks.”

Adopted by the General Assembly on June 13, the resolution text deplores the “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force by the Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and particularly in the Gaza Strip,” and calls attention to Israel’s use of live ammunition against civilian protesters, including children, medics and journalists. It also “deplores the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilian areas.”

The vote was initially bogged down by the United States, which attempted to add a paragraph explicitly condemning Hamas. That change was supported by 62 states in favour to 58 against, but 42 abstained, and it was rejected on procedural grounds. The original resolution, proposed by Algeria and Turkey, passed with 120 “yes” votes, 45 abstentions, and 8 “no” votes: the US, Israel, Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Togo and the Solomon Islands.

“It is disappointing that Canada was unable to take this simple stand for the sanctity of human life,” declared Thomas Woodley, president of CJPME.

In recent weeks, Israel’s violent repression in Gaza has led to the death of at least 129 Palestinians, and injured over 13,000. “Regardless of our relationship with Israel, we must be willing to condemn its senseless violence against civilian protesters,” continued Woodley.

By abstaining, Canada broke with its usual pattern of voting together with Israel and the US. The shift may reflect the Liberal government’s awareness of a strengthening of public opinion in Canada against Israel’s racist, apartheid policies.

CJPME points out that Palestinians in Gaza have been protesting Israel’s historic confiscation of their lands and livelihoods, as well as the hardships resulting from Israel’s 12-year blockade on the territory. Israel has been roundly criticized by human rights organizations around the world for its use of excessive and lethal force against Palestinian protesters.

Many observers are characterizing Israel’s actions as war crimes, such as the repeated us of lethal force in situations where Palestinian protesters pose absolutely no threat to the life or safety of anyone on the Israeli side. Israel has claimed that its actions are necessary to prevent Palestinians from breaking out of Gaza, but that excuse is increasingly rejected as its armed forces take advantage of a wide range of advanced military firepower to slaughter protesters.

Israel and its supporters argued against the UN resolution, claiming that the country is being “singled out” by the UN. But as CJPME points out, the opposite is true. Rather than being singled out for criticism, Israel is repeatedly shielded from criticism and sanctions at the UN. While the UN Security Council has imposed sanctions and punitive measures on other countries for far less, the UN repeatedly fails to intervene against Israel’s ongoing and illegal colonization of Palestinian territory in the West Bank, not to mention many other human rights violations.

Despite its brazen claim to be “the only democracy in the Middle East,” Israel continues to deny basic human and democratic rights to its own Arab and Muslim residents, as well as to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Refusing to live up to any standard of international law, Israel cannot legitimately claim to be a so-called “liberal Western democracy” as the CJPME points out. Instead, Israel acts like a rogue state, constantly violating human rights, while Canada joins with the US in giving it a free pass on the world stage.

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