TO: Ambassador Marc-André Blanchard
466 Lexington Avenue, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10017
June 15, 2020
Dear Ambassador Blanchard,
As a leading human rights advocate and voice of the grassroots Jewish community, B’nai Brith Canada wishes to respond to your letter of June 10, 2020, addressed to the representatives of United Nations member states.
B’nai Brith Canada has supported Canada’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2021-2022, believing that Canada’s fair-minded voice can bring balance to this organization and strengthen the rules-based international order. This is particularly important in a period when the United Nations has chosen to take a decidedly anti-Israel stance.
We have welcomed statements in support of Israel by Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Minister Champagne, among other Canadian leaders. We believe that actions must comport with statements. Your letter places in jeopardy this commitment both to Israel and to the search for a just and durable peace that allows Israel to live in full security with its neighbours.
You mention the frustrations of Palestinians without paying equal heed to the frustrations of Jews and Israelis. This suggests that your letter is not intended to ensure balance in presenting the facts but, rather, to respond to a narrower audience critical of Israel and Canada’s Security Council candidacy. This lack of balance is unhelpful.
That there currently is no Palestinian state is attributable to Palestinian rejectionism and their inability to accept the concept of a Jewish state. This is the main impediment to progress and has put the peace process beyond the reach of even its most ardent supporters.
Since 1948, the Palestinians have had ample opportunities to establish their own independent state alongside the Jewish state of Israel – first under Yasser Arafat, then under his successor, Mahmoud Abbas.
For most Palestinians, the ‘occupation’ is not limited to the West Bank, but consists of “historic Palestine,” which includes the whole of Israel. For many – if not most – Palestinians, the ‘occupation’ as they choose to describe it began in 1948 when Israel was born, and only continued in 1967 when Israel took over the West Bank. By this yardstick, they won’t be satisfied by anything less than the elimination of the State of Israel.
In a speech on Palestinian TV in October 2013, Palestinian Authority leader
Abbas stated: “All Palestinian land is occupied — Gaza is occupied, the West Bank is occupied, the 1948 lands [i.e. Israel] are occupied, and Jerusalem is occupied.”
Indeed, the symbol of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement – which has been repeatedly condemned by Prime Minister Trudeau as antisemitic – does not show a map of the West Bank, but a map of all of Israel, the “liberation” of which is the real goal of the BDS campaign.
And there is no mistaking the meaning of the chant heard at virtually all pro-Palestinian rallies: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The river is the Jordan River, and the sea is the Mediterranean Sea. In other words, ‘Palestine’ is Israel.
The Palestinians memorialize the Nakba or “catastrophe” not to commemorate the 1967 Six-Day War, but rather to mourn the 1948 War that led to Israel’s establishment, a war in which Israel was forced to defend itself against invading Arab armies. For many Palestinians, the real ‘occupation’ began in 1948 with the establishment of Israel, not in 1967. That is the occupation they seek to end.
Understanding the Palestinians’ view of the occupation helps explain their rejection of numerous offers from Israel and the international community to create their own independent state living in peace, side-by-side with Israel (1937, 1947, 1967, 2000, 2008).
Had you mentioned this history, your letter would have included the balance so rightly necessary.
As others have pointed out, the term ‘annexation’ is not at the heart of the problem. Annexation implies the seizure of land that belongs to another country, like Russia did in Crimea. But the land in question was ceded to the Jewish nation in the San Remo Conference of 1920, then ratified by the League of Nations and affirmed by the United Nations.
Since the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, no nation has held legal claim to the land of Judea and Samaria except Israel. Although Jordan occupied this territory between 1948 and 1967, it has since abandoned its claim to it. It is false, then, to suggest that Israel has no legal rights to this land.
The truth is that Palestinian leaders have rejected every proposed configuration of territory for peace over seven decades — largely because, as many who are intellectually honest will admit, no borders that include a Jewish state are acceptable to them.
B’nai Brith Canada has long drawn attention to the anti-Israel bias in the United Nations system. We have repeatedly asked Canada to speak out forcefully at the one-side work of the United Nations Human Rights Council and its agenda item #7, unfairly targeting Israel. This bias places in jeopardy the moral authority of both the United Nations and the liberal democracies who believe in fairness and a fact-based approach to resolving difficult political issues such as those in the Middle East.
We have similarly shown evidence of the deficiencies in specialized organizations such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). It is troubling that you should reiterate Canada’s support for this flawed agency at a time when it is undergoing investigation for severe managerial deficiencies and while its school curricula facilitate incitement and hatred towards Jews and Israelis. Other donors, for these reasons, have already paused their support for this agency.
UNRWA perpetuates the problem, and is the only agency that allows for hereditary transmission of refugee status. B’nai Brith Canada continues to argue for the suspension of Canadian funding until UNRWA’s systemic problems are addressed. We have said that: “While supporting Palestinians most in need is a laudable goal, there is abundant evidence that UNRWA schools are indoctrinating Palestinian children toward antisemitism and eternal war, rather than peace and tolerance.” This is indisputable.
We have had no meaningful response from the Government of Canada about actions that are being taken to respond to these concerns. You, Ambassador, should be making the case for structural change to help resolve the plight of Palestinian refugees, not perpetuating a Canadian commitment to a flawed agency.
The problem lies not only with UNRWA. In a recent report, the highly respected research institute, NGO Monitor, details how UN-coordinated international funds earmarked for emergency responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are going to Palestinian organizations with links to terrorism. B’nai Brith Canada has repeatedly sought assurances that Canadian resources contributed through the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNRWA are not being spent in ways that undercut the principles for which Canada stands. So far, there have been no responses to these concerns that reassure us.
With all due respect, Ambassador, your letter could have brought balance and fairness – for which Canada has long stood – in its exploration of the key issues that challenge Israel and the Palestinians. This includes Palestinian leadership’s responsibility for its own tragic situation. In this respect, your letter is wanting.
While B’nai Brith Canada continues to support an innovative and thoughtful approach by Canada to the work of the United Nations and its agencies, we are firm in our belief that fairness to Israel must be an essential part of that approach and of finding a just and durable peace in the Middle East.
Michael Mostyn, B.A., J.D.
Chief Executive Officer
B’nai Brith Canada