Justin Trudeau’s Curious Politics at the UN – Redux

Dec. 2, 2020

By DOGAN D. AKMAN

Successive Canadian governments, including the current one, never cease to refer to Israel as their strong ally and close friend.

Yet, on Nov. 19, Canada voted, for the second consecutive year, in favour of a United Nations resolution titled “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.”

The preamble of the resolution, as are all such anti-Israel UN measures, refers to all sorts of international instruments, conferences, and whatnot to assert “the need for respect for and preservation of the territorial unity, contiguity and integrity of all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.” As well, it:

• “Reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine; and

• “Urges all states in the region and the specialized agencies and organizations of the United Nations system to continue to support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination.”

This is an absurd resolution.

First, no country, including Israel, has denied the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

Second, none of the emanations of the UN system need to support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination, since Israel and the United States, besides proposing and signing the Oslo Accords as the step towards Palestinian self-determination, offered two peace treaties with very generous terms in 2000 and 2018.

Third, the Palestinians have, to date, rejected every single peace offer that would have enabled them to become an independent state.

Fourth, the Palestinians never stopped claiming their entitlement to the entire territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Fifth, as a matter of fact and law, the Palestinians do not have legal title to any of the so-called “Palestinian territory,” including any part of Jerusalem, save for personal land owned by individual Palestinians.

Finally, the lands in question are and remain set aside for the Jewish people pursuant to Article 80(1), Chapter XII of the United Nations Charter.

This article recognizes the continuing validity of the “Mandate for Palestine” established by the League of Nations, which incorporated the terms of the Balfour Declaration of 1917. It goes beyond that to establish an internationally recognized right of the Jewish people – as the people indigenous to the lands covered by the Mandate – to establish their Jewish homeland which, in 1948, became the State of Israel.

As a matter of fact, to this very day, the Jewish people are entitled to settle on any part of this land.

Yet, the UN resolution Canada favours makes no mention of the inalienable legal rights of Israel and of the Jewish people to the lands in question.

Neither does it require – nay, demand – that the Palestinian people, in the early realization of their right to self-determination, cease to engage in terrorism against Israel and school their children to hate Jews and Israelis.

It does not call on Palestinians to take every confidence-building initiative towards negotiating a peace treaty with Israel in good faith, without making egregious claims that would lead negotiations nowhere.

Finally, it does not call for abiding by the terms of the Oslo Accords, and in particular, by the formal written assurances and undertakings given by former PLO leader Yasser Arafat to the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in consideration of the accord, which have never been honored.

Why would Canada vote for this anti-Israel, mendacious and misleading resolution? Perhaps Canada’s explanation of its vote, known as an EOV, can shed some light.

“While we do not agree with some elements of the preamble, Canada will support this resolution because of its focus on these important, core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the EOV states.

The assertion that Canada disagrees with some elements of the preamble is an understatement if ever there was one. Surely the government has an obligation to identify these elements, and the same obligation to identify the substantive parts of the preamble with which it agrees.

One may wonder that if Canada does not agree with the entirety of the preamble, why bother voting for the resolution itself?

Finally, the government’s indifference to the misstatement of the law with respect to the alleged illegal occupation is shocking – particularly since Canada’s official position has always been that in the context of the two-state solution, and in accordance with section 80(1) of the UN Charter, the boundaries of each state have to be determined through negotiations.

Nevertheless, the EOV goes on to state: “The vote today is a reflection of our longstanding commitment to the right of self-determination for both Palestinians and Israelis.” 

Yet, the resolution is silent on Israel’s self-determination.

And if the Palestinians have not secured self-determination, is that Israel’s fault? The alleged illegal occupation has nothing to do with it.

Adds the EOV: “Canada will support this resolution because of its focus on these important core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

This is surely nonsense. The only issue addressed in this resolution is Palestinian self-determination, implicitly twinned with the pre-requisite of ending the so-called illegal occupation of “Palestinian Territory.”

The government then grandly states: “We will continue to oppose resolutions and initiatives which do not speak to the complexities of the issues.” The resolution it supported can hardly be characterized as speaking to the complexity of any issue.

Would Canada vote for this kind of resolution against any other of its strong allies and close friends? I think not.


Dogan Akman
Dogan Akman

Dogan D. Akman is an independent researcher and commentator. He holds a B.Sc. in sociology, an M.A. in sociology/criminology and an LL.B in law. He held academic appointments in sociology, criminology and social policy; served as a Judge of the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, and was Crown Counsel in criminal prosecutions and in civil litigation at the Federal Department of Justice. His academic work is published in peer-reviewed professional journals while his opinion pieces and other writings are to be found in various publications and blogs.

Complex Yet Critical: Where Does the Jewish Community’s Relationship with the Trudeau Government Stand?

Dec. 1, 2020

By ZACHARY ZARNETT-KLEIN

The multicultural mosaic of Canadian society is a critical pillar, one that makes our country unique. It adds to the vibrancy and richness of the fabric of our great nation. However, it also results in ongoing complexity as communities navigate their relationship with each other and with the federal government.

It’s first important to recognize that the Jewish community, like other ethnocultural groups in Canada, is not monolithic. To assume so would be to take a reductionist perspective. The pursuit of unity of purpose, despite disparity of opinion, is a lofty yet laudable objective.

On Nov. 25, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed human rights advocate and former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler to the newly-created post of Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism.

Based on Cotler’s impressive body of work in law, academia, and politics, he’s an excellent, unifying choice. I want to fully acknowledge the importance of this announcement. While we wait to learn details of his mandate, we should watch his work closely and contribute when possible.

However, I cannot help but be troubled by this announcement’s timing, as it comes on the heels of Canada’s jarring vote at the United Nations on an Israel-related resolution.

Each year, the UN General Assembly considers the same basket of 20 or so motions on the “Question of Palestine,” but which serve to single out Israel, apply an unfair double-standard in assessing its policies, or worse.

One such resolution, which Canada approved, affirms Palestinian self-determination, but without reference to the same rights for Israel, and defies Jewish connections to what it classifies as “East Jerusalem,” including the Western Wall.

The vote marked the second consecutive year that Canada opposed Israel on this key resolution, while supporting Israel on most others.

This was a break from 14 years of Canadian foreign policy that refused to support UN motions singling out Israel, and which the Trudeau government upheld during its first term. Many community members feel betrayed by this policy reversal, since Liberal candidates in the last election promised to keep with this longstanding government position.

At this juncture, it is appropriate to consider where the Jewish community’s relationship stands with the federal government. On one hand, Cotler’s new post is good news. On the other, some might view this gesture as a cynical attempt to regain Jewish trust, after strong disappointment from a broad coalition of Jewish advocacy groups and community members with Canada’s UN vote reversal.

To navigate this relationship going forward, it’s important for us to own our end of the partnership. First, I would argue that based on Jewish history, including the Holocaust, it is often difficult for Jews to be fully trusting of government actions, especially after that trust is tarnished. I am hopeful that through this new post, more Canadians will become aware of key aspects of Jewish history, and that governments will become more sensitive to the caution inherent in our trust.

It is also important that our community be empowered and know our worth. We are worth, simultaneously, having our past recognized and our future protected. Grassroots community members deserve greater opportunities for direct engagement with government officials as a complement to the commendable advocacy work undertaken by Jewish organizations. We should feel supported unreservedly, without grounds for doubt in the government’s intentions.

Finally, it is important to remind ourselves of the inextricable link between the Holocaust, antisemitism, and the modern State of Israel. Israel’s founding and continued vitality represent a haven for Jews around the world. Any attempts to recognize the impact of the Holocaust and antisemitism are half-hearted without support for the State of Israel. This is the message we should continue to convey to our elected officials and to our neighbours.

Canadian Jewry’s relationship with the government of Canada is both complex and critical, and vice-versa. Despite challenges, we must not walk away, and we trust that our partners likewise engage in good faith. Let’s continue striving for better.


Zachary Zarnett-Klein
Zachary Zarnett-Klein

Zachary Zarnett-Klein is a university student from Toronto. His passions include community involvement, civic engagement, and human rights.

Calling all Canadian and Israeli R&D, Tech Companies

Nov. 30, 2020

The National Research Council of Canada and the Israel Innovation Authority have placed a call for Canadian-Israeli collaborative Research and Development project proposals for the 2020-2021 year. Although this call will help fund proposals related to any technological or market area, applicants in the following sectors are highly encouraged to apply:

– Health & bio-sciences
– Digital technologies
– Agricultural & agri-food technologies
– Clean & low carbon economy technologies

To be considered for funding, applicants must form a consortium comprising of one Canadian small or medium-sized enterprise (SME), and one Israeli R&D-performing company.

For over 30 years, Canadian and Israeli partners have worked closely together, achieving great success in various R&D fields. This strong partnership is now more important than ever, as we face the COVID pandemic, alongside a rapidly changing climate, and various other global challenges.

In combining efforts, Canadian and Israeli R&D partners can rise above with new ideas and technologies, and help in global efforts facing these challenges.
Deadline for proposal submissions is Jan. 21, 2020.

For more info, or to apply, visit: https://nrc.canada.ca/en/irap/about/international/index.html?action=view&id=79
Israel link: https://innovationisrael.org.il/en/opencall/canada-israel-2020-21-call-for-proposals

Canada Repeats Last Year’s UN Vote on Palestinian Self-Determination

Nov. 20, 2020

By RON CSILLAG

In a repeat from a year ago, Canada has voted for a United Nations resolution that refers to “occupied Palestinian territory” – including east Jerusalem and its holy Jewish sites.

Canada voted for the annual resolution on Nov. 19. The measure was adopted 163 to five at the UN’s Third Committee and will now go to the General Assembly for a final vote.

Titled “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” the resolution was opposed by Israel, the United States and the Pacific island nations of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Since 2006, over Liberal and Conservative governments, Canada had voted against the measure and has generally sided with Israel or abstained in its votes on the basket of about 20 resolutions introduced at the UN annually this time of year on “The Question of Palestine.”

But a year ago, Canada’s abrupt about-face on this one resolution sent shock waves through the Jewish community and strained relations with Israel. Canada’s move was widely denounced in Israel advocacy circles and was seen as all the more dramatic because it skipped over abstention and went to support.

Others questioned whether it meant a shift in Canada’s Middle East policy.

At the time, Israel said it had no advance warning of Canada’s change of vote, adding that it was considering lodging a formal complaint against Canada.

Entitled the “Right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” the resolution stresses “the need for respect for and preservation of the territorial unity, contiguity and integrity of all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”

It further “reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine; [and] urges all States and the specialized agencies and organizations of the United Nations system to continue to support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination.”

In a joint statement the day after Canada cast its ballot, Jewish advocacy groups expressed their “deep disappointment,” saying the resolution fails “to affirm Jewish self-determination in the indigenous and ancestral homeland of the Jewish people” while “intentionally erasing historical Jewish connections to Jerusalem – including the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site.”

In its explanation of its vote, Canada said it is a “strong ally and close friend of Israel” and is “committed to the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian State, living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel.”

This country’s support for the resolution “is a reflection of our longstanding commitment to the right of self-determination for both Palestinians and Israelis,” said the explanation, known as an EOV.

The resolution focuses on two issues, the EOV stated: “The right of self-determination of the Palestinian people, and the need for all countries to do what they can to support the successful creation of a Palestinian state, living in peace and security with its neighbour Israel.

“From the time of the earliest resolutions of the Security Council on these issues, we have endorsed the principle of ‘two states for two peoples.’ While we do not agree with some elements of the preamble, Canada will support this resolution because of its focus on these important, core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The EOV said Canada “does not and will not support any resolution that unfairly singles out Israel for criticism. Our votes on these resolutions across the UN system reflect this principle. We will continue to oppose these resolutions and initiatives which do not speak to the complexities of the issues or seek to address the actions and responsibilities of all parties, including the destructive role in the conflict of such terrorist organizations as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah, that have refused to accept the legitimacy of the State of Israel and routinely use violence targeting civilians.

Canada said it welcomes the recent announcement by the Palestinian Authority to resume coordination with Israel. “We continue to insist that real progress will depend on mutual recognition and trust, and a firm rejection of extremism and terrorism. We know that lasting peace and security starts with direct talks, and the concessions and compromise that always accompany successful negotiations. Canada urges both sides to return to negotiations.”

In a statement, newly-elected Liberal MP Ya’ara Saks (York Centre) defended the government’s voting record on Israel at the UN: “The systematic singling out of Israel at the UN is unfair and unjust, which is why we have the strongest record of any Canadian government in opposing the annual UN resolutions that single out Israel, having voted against almost 90 percent of them since 2015. We are the only Western country alongside the U.S. that systematically votes against these resolutions.

“Israelis and Palestinians want and need a resolution to the conflict firmly rooted in the principle of ‘two states for two peoples.’ Their future depends on it and the new developments of the recent accords show us what can be achieved when states work together.

“The Canada-Israel relationship is stronger and deeper than can be defined by one vote. It is an unbreakable bond that makes both countries better, safer, and more prosperous,” said Saks. “That’s why the government is right now engaged in Canada-Israel collaboration and innovation, and increasing our efforts internationally to promote Holocaust remembrance and combat the global rise of antisemitism.

“I’ve made our community’s position clear to the government, and will always work to further strengthen the Canada-Israel relationship,” Saks stated.

Three days before the vote, Canada’s major Jewish advocacy groups, B’nai Brith, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC), and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, urging Ottawa to return to its “principled and unequivocal opposition” to this year’s batch of resolutions.

The day after Canada cast its ballot this year, Michael Levitt, president and CEO of FSWC, stated, “We are dismayed by Canada’s decision to undermine its longstanding policy of rejecting one-sided and prejudicial anti-Israel resolutions at the UN. By supporting this resolution, Canada is providing ammunition to those who seek to delegitimize and demonize the State of Israel, which ultimately sets back the prospects for peace in the region.”

Shimon Koffler Fogel, CIJA President and CEO commented: “The government of Canada has now doubled down on its incomprehensible support for a resolution that simply expands the anti-Israel narrative within the United Nations system – an aberration in the voting pattern established and re-affirmed by successive Canadian governments for almost two decades until the Liberal government changed its vote last year.”

Notwithstanding other “praiseworthy” initiatives by the Liberals, this vote “will undermine the Jewish community’s confidence in this government – its willingness to stand by its principles as they relate to Israel, as well as its relationship with the Jewish community here in Canada.”

Wondered B’nai Brith Canada’s CEO Michael Mostyn, “Does support for this resolution bring us any closer to a durable and sustaining peace?”

In its own statement, the progressive group JSpaceCanada, sounded a different tone, saying Canada “has once again demonstrated that supporting Israel and recognizing the rights of Palestinians are not mutually exclusive. This year, Canada reiterated its opposition to the annual slate of anti-Israel resolutions, while also re-affirming its support for Palestinian self-determination. While imperfect, the resolution Canada voted for signals that the two-state solution remains a key priority for Canadian foreign policy. With the looming threat of annexation and continued impasse on peace negotiations, it is critical that the international community advance the need for a just peace based on mutual recognition.”

Montreal-born Hillel Neuer, head of UN Watch in Geneva, employed stronger language, saying the Liberal government “has joined the jackals at the UN” by voting for the resolution.

Israel’s embassy in Ottawa had no comment when asked for its position on the Nov. 19 resolution.

The day before that vote, Canada sided with Israel on a UN resolution that recognizes Palestinians’ sovereign rights to natural resources on the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The measure calls on Israel, “the occupying Power,” to “cease the exploitation, damage, cause of loss or depletion and endangerment of natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.”

The resolution was approved by a vote of 156 to six. Opposing it were Canada, Israel, the United States, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Nauru.

Earlier this month, Canada voted with Israel on five Palestinian-related resolutions and abstained on two others.

MP Levitt Quits Politics to Take Over FSWC

Aug. 5, 2020 –

Toronto-area Liberal Member of Parliament Michael Levitt has announced he is retiring from politics to become president and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC).

Levitt has represented the riding of York Centre since 2015, when he defeated Conservative Mark Adler. He was re-elected in last year’s federal vote. His final day as an MP will be Sept. 1.

In a message to his constituents posted on Facebook, Levitt said the job of MP in Ottawa took a toll on his personal life.

“It hasn’t been without consequence to those I love most, and while it is an incredible privilege to serve the people of York Centre, I know deep down that now is the time for me to put family first and come back home, both physically and mentally,” he said.

Despite that, he said he “loved every minute” of political life. “…it has been the adventure of a lifetime.”

Among a handful of Jewish MPs, Levitt chaired the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group; the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development; and the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights.

He will replace Avi Benlolo as head of the FSWC. No reason was given for Benlolo’s departure from the organization earlier this summer.

“FSWC is excited to welcome Michael Levitt as President and CEO,” the group’s chair, Fred Waks, said in a press release. “As the Member of Parliament for York Centre, Michael is deeply rooted in the community and his work in the fields of foreign affairs and human rights has garnered him respect from advocates at home and abroad. His distinguished career advocating for human rights, and his support for Israel and the fight against antisemitism, bring a high level of leadership and profile to our organization. We could not be more excited for the future.”

As an MP, Levitt frequently spoke out on Israel and issues of concern to Canada’s Jews, co-sponsoring a 2018 bill to make May of each year Canadian Jewish Heritage Month.

He was visible when Canada said it would adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, and he often addressed anti-Jewish incidents in the country.

But Levitt found himself on the defensive last autumn when Ottawa abruptly changed its vote on a resolution at the United Nations to oppose Israel, which filed a diplomatic complaint against Canada.

Levitt was also a member of the Raoul Wallenberg Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights. Before entering politics, he helped found the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee.

In the FSWC statement, Levitt said he plans “to continue the organization’s proud legacy and the work I’ve done over the past five years in fighting antisemitism and promoting human rights, including bringing a renewed focus to the issue of systemic racism in Canada and how we can work together to address it.”

His appointment earned praise from former justice minister and international human rights advocate Irwin Cotler, who said Levitt’s “extensive experience and expertise dovetail perfectly with the mission and purpose of [FSWC], acting on the universal lessons of the Holocaust – combating racism and antisemitism and safeguarding Israel and the Jewish people.”

According to iPolitics, Levitt’s departure will trigger the first byelection of the current Parliament and will be the first during the COVID pandemic.

– CJR Staff