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Harper’s “Sickening” Speech in Israel

Harper’s “Sickening” Speech in Israel

Canadian PM Stephen Harper proudly pontificated before the Israeli Knesset about the shared values between Canada and Israel, “the most natural of allies”. He boasted of the pride he felt for what Israel had “accomplished here”, of Israel’s “courage in war… generosity in peace, and of the bloom that the desert has yielded” of course “under [Israeli] stewardship”. Ignoring for the moment, the racist presupposition of Harper’s comments, let us address the shared values.

Of course Harper is right to comment on the shared values between the two States. After all, both are responsible for Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing. Official Canadian policy is to: (a) continue to ignore our State-led ethnic cleansing efforts of First Nations, Aboriginal and Metis Peoples, and (b) refuse to account for such atrocities, the consequences of which affect daily living to this very day. Israeli policy, according to the terrorist-funded human rights organizations Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Israel’s own B’Tselem, is to systematically cleanse Palestinians located West of the Jordan River. Evidence of both is overwhelming and our collective refusal to hold both States to account is a reflection of our own principles.

Without sifting through the voluminously abysmal human rights record of Israel, let us cut to the judgment of perhaps the most respected international body in the World. Ten years ago, the World Court, based in the Hague, delivered its judgment on the so-called “final-status issues”. There are four, but a fifth should be added:

1) borders,
2) settlements,
3) Jerusalem,
4) refugees and the right of return, and
5) water.

Borders

Israel’s position on Gaza and the West Bank is that they are “disputed territories” and as a result, require diplomatic negotiation, which of course the Palestinians a.k.a. “terrorists” are not prepared to engage in. According to the World Court however, these are not “dispute territories”. A fundamental bed-rock principle of international law (a peremptory norm) is that it is inadmissible to acquire territory by war. The World Court went on to state that Israel acquired territory on which to build settlements and advance its border in the June 1967 War, and as a result, the acquisition of such territory is illegal; it is “Occupied Palestinian Territory”. This is the unanimous decision of a very conservative World Court – these are not “disputed territories” these are “Occupied Palestinian Territories” and Israel has no legal claim to them.

Settlements

Pursuant to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, it is illegal for an occupying power to transfer its population to occupied territory. According to the World Court, the West Bank and Gaza are occupied territory under international law and as a result, every single settlement is illegal under international law. That includes every new settlement going up each time a US Secretary of State leaves Israel following a diplomatic media blitz. The World Court cited the UN Security Council, which called the settlements a “flagrant violation” of international law. The World Court was unequivocal.

Jerusalem

Israel’s position is that East Jerusalem is that it is a part of its “eternal and undivided capital” and that “under no circumstances will we give up any of East Jerusalem”. The World Court is clear on this issue as well – No. East Jerusalem was acquired by Israel during the 1967 War, and it is inadmissible to acquire territory by war. As a result, East Jerusalem is “Occupied Palestinian Territory”.

Harper referred to Israel as the “only country in the Middle East” that respects the “rule of law”. Not according to the World Court. These so called complex “final-status issues” are not complex, they are not open to debate, they are not disputed. To illustrate how uncontroversial these issues are, most World Court decisions are close. In its decision on whether nuclear weapons are illegal under international humanitarian law (because by definition they do not discriminate between civilians and combatants) there was a close vote: 8 to 7.

On these “final status issues”, the World Court was unequivocal: the vote was 14 to 1. The judge from the UK, Rosalyn Higgins is Jewish by birth and pro-Israel, but on these issues she sided with the majority; because these issues are not controversial, they are fundamental principles of international law. One cannot acquire territory through war. One cannot transfer their population to occupied territories.

The one dissenting judge called his statement a “declaration” not a “dissent”. Thomas Buergenthal from the US opened his declaration by stating “there’s much in the majority opinion with which I agree” and on the basic, most elementary question of the conflict, the settlements, he states the he agrees with the majority: under Article 49, the settlements are illegal under international law. As a result, on the three biggest of these “final status issues” there is zero controversy, the vote of the highest judicial body in the World is unanimous. There is not sufficient time or space to explore the final two issues, suffice it to say that the World Court was unequivocal on these issues as well.

So what is the “moral imperative” that we support the “Jewish State” as Harper put it. The World Court is unequivocal in its position on the two-state settlement. The World Court is unequivocal about the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” which Israel illegally occupies, including East Jerusalem. The World Court is unequivocal about the illegal nature of the settlements. Harper repeatedly referred to the United Nations. Of note is the disgraceful way in which Canada, under Harper’s leadership, has thrown its hat in with Israel, the US, and a couple of Pacific Island Nations in the yearly vote on settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For over 30 years humanity has voted on this and for 30 years the vote has been about the same, the entire World on one side with Israel, the US and a few Pacific Island Nations on the other side. And now Canada, under the guidance of Harper, has decided to throw its vote in to support Israel and its illegal territorial acquisitions.

As Harper so eloquently puts it, “it is nothing short of sickening”.

by Rajinder Sahota

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