By RON CSILLAG
The voices of Canadians opposing Israel’s plan to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank continue to get louder.
Earlier this month, hundreds of professors of Jewish Studies in North and South America, Europe, and Israel, including about a dozen in Canada, signed a letter opposing the Likud government’s plan.
On June 19, three Jewish organizations released a letter, sign by 58 prominent Canadian Jews, urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “to speak out strongly” against Israel’s annexation plans.
The letter was sponsored by three Canadian progressive Zionist organizations: The New Israel Fund of Canada, JSpaceCanada, and Canadian Friends of Peace Now. The organizations say they “share a commitment to seeking peace for Israelis and Palestinians via a negotiated two-state solution.”
The Likud government’s stated intention to annex swaths of the West Bank “assails not only Palestinian rights and national aspirations but also Israel’s founding values as outlined in its Declaration of Independence, the letter stated.
It added that the unilateral annexation is “illegal under international law” and “could provoke a new cycle of violence, lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, jeopardize peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, undermine Israel’s security, and further destabilize the region.”
The signers said they support Canada’s long-standing policy of support for a negotiated two-state solution “that upholds the right of both peoples – Jews and Palestinians – to self determination and to live in peace and security.”
Those who signed the letter comprise prominent rabbis, former diplomats, academics, authors, and human rights advocates. They included Jon Allen, a former Canadian ambassador to Israel; Prof. Robert Brym of the University of Toronto; Rabbi Baruch Friedman-Kohl, Rabbi Emeritus of Beth Tzedec Synagogue in Toronto; Julius Grey, a human rights lawyer in Montreal; Stephen Lewis, former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations; and Bernie Farber, former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress and now co-founder and publisher of the CJR.
The letter from the professors, which was posted online in English, Hebrew and Arabic, warned that the “most likely outcomes of annexation will be further unequal distribution of land and water resources on behalf of illegal Israeli settlements, more state violence, and fragmented Palestinian enclaves under complete Israeli control.
“Under these conditions, annexation of Palestinian territories will cement into place an anti-democratic system of separate and unequal law and systemic discrimination against the Palestinian population,” the letter went on.
Among the Canadian signers were: Naomi Seidman, Rebecca Comay, Rachel Seelig and Willi Goetschel of the University of Toronto; Carol Zemel, Stuart Schoenfeld and Ian Balfour of York University; Roy Shukrun of McGill University; Mira Sucharov of Carleton University (and a CJR contributor); and Meir Amor of Concordia University.
Also this month, four former cabinet ministers from the Jean Chretien era were among 58 one-time Canadian diplomats and politicians who added their names to a letter calling on Trudeau and his government to show stronger resistance to Israel’s annexation plans.
Among the signatories are former ambassadors to Israel who served under both Liberal and Conservative governments, as well as many other diplomats who represented Canada in the Middle East.
“Territorial conquest and annexation are notorious for contributing to fateful results: War, political instability, economic ruin, systematic discrimination and human suffering,” the letter warned.
It was signed by former Liberal cabinet ministers Lloyd Axworthy, André Ouellet, Alan Rock, and Sergio Marchi. It was also endorsed by former Canadian ambassador to Israel James Bartleman, and more than two dozen former ambassadors.
As previously report by the CJR, no major political party in Canada supports Israel’s pledge to unilaterally annex West Bank territories.
“Canada remains firmly committed to the goal of achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. We have long maintained that peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties,” a Global Affairs Canada spokesperson told CBC News.
He added: “Canada is very concerned that Israel moving forward with unilateral annexation would be damaging to peace negotiations and contrary to international law. This could lead to further insecurity for Israelis and Palestinians at a critical time for peace and stability in the region.”
Trudeau telephoned both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “Alternate Prime Minister” Benny Gantz on May 18 in a call described as customary following the creation of Israel’s new government.
It was not known whether Trudeau addressed annexation in the call. But in a later statement interpreted by some as a soft rebuke to annexation, the prime minister’s office said: “In these times of uncertainty, our commitment to international law and the rules-based international order is more important than ever.”
Netanyahu told a Likud Party meeting on May 25 that his July 1 deadline for starting the process of absorbing some West Bank lands into Israel proper will not change.
The area in question is about 30 per cent of the land between Israel’s internationally-recognized border and the Jordan River, including the Jordan Valley.