Canada expresses its concern over Israel’s ‘punitive measures’ against the Palestinian Authority

Canada rebuked Israel’s newly formed government for what it called “punitive measures” against the Palestinian Authority, while at the same time, noted that it continues to support the Jewish state at the United Nations.

“We are deeply concerned by the punitive measures taken against the Palestinian Authority, which were recently announced by the Government of Israel, as well as the impact of those measures on the region’s stability and the prospect for a two-state solution,” said a statement issued by Global Affairs Canada on Jan. 16.

“Canada continues to oppose unilateral actions undertaken by either Israel or the Palestinian Authority which contribute to the hardening of positions and are unhelpful to the cause of peace.”

Although Global Affairs’ statement reiterates Canada’s support for the United Nations’ International Court of Justice, Canada in fact recently opposed a UN motion asking the court to assess the legality of Israel’s occupation of “territories seized in 1967.”

The  resolution was passed Dec. 30, 2022, by a vote of 87 in favour and 26 against with 53 abstentions. Canada, the United States, Australia, Austria, Germany and Italy were among the nations that opposed the resolution.

After the UN vote, Israel’s recently elected far right-wing government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, voted to withhold $39 million in tax revenue it would have usually transferred to the Palestinian Authority. Some of the money was transferred to a compensation fund for victims of terrorism.

The cabinet also voted to cut the tax revenues used for compensating the families of Palestinians who participated in violent attacks. As well, a freeze on Palestinian construction was enacted in parts of the West Bank and VIP travel privileges for some PA officials were revoked.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, says Global Affairs Canada’s statement shows that a “double-standard is being applied.”

“On one hand, the Canadian government has repeatedly expressed its opposition to attempts by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to inappropriately exploit international instruments like the International Court of Justice in its effort to isolate or delegitimize Israel; however, Canada appears to offer no reaction or consequences when the PA follows through with such ploys,” Fogel said in an email to The CJN.

“Yet when Israel responds, Global Affairs is ready with some type of publicly expressed criticism. Israel has limited measures available to signal its dissatisfaction with decisions by the Palestinian Authority. “

Canada should be supporting Israel in its efforts to halt payments to the families of Palestinians who are imprisoned, injured or killed in attacks on Israelis, Fogel wrote.

“If anything, Canada should be adding its voice to those who oppose the Palestinian ‘pay for slay’ program that effectively incentivizes Palestinians to undertake terrorist activities.”

Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Ya’ara Saks say Global Affairs’ statement does not reflect a change in Canada’s support for Israel, however. In an email to The CJN, they point to Canada’s consistent support for Israel at the United Nations,—including the Dec. 30 vote.

“These are concrete actions showing Canada’s continued opposition to Israel being unfairly singled out in the world of nations,” the MPs wrote. 

“Canada also has consistently embraced the position that a two-state solution is the best alternative for maintaining a Jewish and democratic Israel living in safety and security alongside a Palestinian state and we must continue to work towards that solution.”

Ben Murane, executive director of the New Israel Fund of Canada, agrees that the statement is in line with Canada’s traditional policies on Israel.

“The statement is consistent with Canadian values and every past Canadian government’s policy to safeguard Israel’s security and respect the rights to self-determination of the Palestinian people,” he said in an interview.

“Israel’s new government is taking a major change from the previous governments with a lot of harmful actions. Most Canadians would agree that not inflaming the conflict is important.”

JspaceCanada, New Israel Fund and other progressive Zionist groups are organizing a vigil outside the Israeli Consulate in Toronto on Jan. 21 to protest the government’s recent decisions, Murane said.

“The vigil shows that Canadian Jews care about democracy and equality in Israel, and that message can and should be seen by not only Israelis who are living in Israel who are looking to global Jewry for support, it should also be seen by the Canadian government that the Jewish community at large is not behind the worst actions of this particular Israeli government, and the rest of Canadian Jewry should also see the diversity of political opinion within the community.”