Canada abstains from anti-Israel vote at UN

Canadian Ambassador to the UN Marc-André Blanchard gives his explanation of vote in front of the UN General Assembly. (UN/YouTube)

Some Canadian Jewish groups are criticizing the government for not defending the Jewish state with enough force, after Canada abstained from an anti-Israel vote at the United Nations, while others said it was a strategic decision.

On June 13, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution condemning the recent violence in the Gaza Strip. Canada abstained from voting on the resolution, although it supported a failed U.S. amendment that condemned Hamas for its actions.

The version of the resolution that passed chastised some of the actions mentioned in the proposed American amendment – most notably, the firing of rockets on Israeli civilian targets. However, the amendment mentioned Hamas by name, whereas the resolution does not.

The resolution does mention Israel by name. It deplores the use of any excessive force by Israeli forces and demands that Israel refrain from such actions.
The resolution passed with a vote of 120-8, with 45 countries abstaining. The amendment, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass, was defeated with a vote of 58 against, 62 in favour and 42 abstentions. *


In his official “explanation of vote” before the General Assembly, Canadian Ambassador to the UN Marc-André Blanchard described how Canada thought the resolution was incomplete because it failed to explicitly name Hamas.

“Hamas has been oppressing Palestinians. Hamas and other terrorist groups have been inciting violence and hatred and this should be clear in the resolution. The resolution explicitly names Israel, while failing to name any other groups involved,” he said.

Avi Benlolo, the president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, has mixed feelings about Canada’s votes at the UN.

“One of course was in favour of the American resolution, which I think was the correct approach, and one of course was an abstention, and so that one we obviously do not agree with. We believe that Canada should’ve voted against, in defence of Israel, an allied nation of Canada,” he said.

Hamas and other terrorist groups have been inciting violence and hatred and this should be clear in the resolution.
– Marc-André Blanchard

Benlolo said he is concerned that Canada is slipping with respect to its voting record and that the government’s attempt at taking a balanced perspective is coming at the cost of compromising Israel’s security.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), agrees.

“The government’s decision to abstain is deeply troubling and disappointing, given that it flies in the face of Canada’s long-stated commitment to oppose efforts to isolate Israel. By failing to vote against the resolution, the government abandoned that pledge,” he said. “Ironically, Ambassador Blanchard’s explanation of vote made the most compelling case for why Canada should have joined with the U.S., Australia and Israel in voting against the resolution.”

He said that CIJA has heard from many Jewish community members who are upset about the vote.

Canada’s support for Israel is clear and long-standing, so it should not be judged by any one vote.
– Karen Mock

“While endeavouring to be as constructive as possible, we will be carrying their message, in clear and unequivocal terms, to key government officials in Ottawa. When Israelis are targeted, whether it’s rockets from Gaza or diplomatic assaults by corrupt regimes at the UN, Canada must stand with its ally Israel,” said Fogel.

Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, said that his organization is “disappointed by Canada’s abstention on a one-sided resolution that blames Israel for defending its sovereignty against rioting and attacks in Gaza. The vote failed to name the true threats to Palestinian and Israeli lives – Islamic Jihad and Hamas terrorists.”

However, Karen Mock, the president of JSpace Canada, a progressive Zionist organization, is not as concerned with how Canada voted on the resolution.

“Canada’s support for Israel is clear and long-standing, so it should not be judged by any one vote. Canada is walking a diplomatic tightrope to regain a spot on the security council, which will allow Canada to do far more good than on the sidelines,” she said.

Mock also pointed out that once it was clear which way the vote was going, there was no point in Canada voting in favour of the resolution. She said that strategic voting will put Canada in a position to play a stronger role in the peace process going forward.

* An earlier version of this story had incorrect vote counts for the amendment.