Canada reviewing HRW Israel report; others heap scorn

The Canadian government is “aware” of the recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that accuses Israel of a variety of violations, including crimes against humanity, and “we will review it closely,” a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada told The CJN.

Adding Canada’s long-held position on the Middle East conflict, spokesperson Grantly Franklin said: “Canada is firmly committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We continue to support 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.”

How seemingly damning the report is of Israel is expressed in its title: “A Threshold Crossed – Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution.”

It received wide media attention, even as pundits and pro-Israel activists lined up to discredit it as yet another broadside against Israel by a group with an agenda.

Released April 27 and two years in the making, the 213-page report is a scathing indictment that has sparked fierce reaction around the world. It charges that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians amounts to “apartheid;” calls for Israel to dismantle “all forms of systematic domination and oppression,” and asks foreign governments to impose sanctions and reconsider trade deals with the Jewish state.

The document states that while there are 6.8 million Jewish Israelis and the same number of Palestinian Arabs living under Israel’s control, “Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians.”

Israel’s “deprivations” regarding its treatment of Palestinians are “so severe, that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

In January, the human rights group B’Tselem became the first Israeli organization to echo the same sentiments when it issued a study titled, “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.”

Independent Jewish Voices Canada and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, both anti-Zionist, praised the report’s findings and called on Canada to take action on its recommendations.

“Successive Canadian governments have long viewed Israel’s 54-year abusive occupation as a temporary situation that a 30-year peace process will soon cure,” Farida Deif, Canada director of HRW, told the Globe and Mail. “It’s high time for the Trudeau government to acknowledge that Israeli authorities are committing crimes against humanity and leverage its close partnership with Israel to end these violations.”

In a statement to The CJN, Israel’s Embassy in Ottawa charged that HRW “continues its long-standing anti-Israel agenda, and these allegations are a testament to their work. For years, the organization has promoted boycotts against Israel. The rhetoric in this report is a reminder of its biased stance on the Israel-Palestine issue.”

While Israel is “by no means immune to criticism,” the HRW report was composed “by an individual with a very recognized bias against Israel and its history as a homeland for the Jewish people, a person who has for years called for the destruction of the single Jewish state, garnering the praise of terror organizations such as Hamas. (This) is a stain on Human Rights Watch itself.”

Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, the new chair of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group, told The CJN he “cannot imagine why Canada would take any interest whatsoever in the report or respond to it.”

He said he has not heard “anything from anybody on this. We are all focused on things that are much more important to Canadians.”

Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said HRW “has allowed its disproportionate fixation with Israel to distort its perception of reality, diminishing any constructive role it could play to advance peace.”

The report omits any Palestinian accountability for the current political impasse and treats the Palestinian leadership as “a passive party with no agency,” Fogel said.

It also attempts to impose a one-state solution, “which has proven to be undesirable by both Israelis and Palestinians,” Fogel said.

Moreover, HRW “has recklessly called on the Palestinian Authority to cease its security coordination with Israel, which would empower Hamas and endanger the lives of all the region’s inhabitants.”

Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Gerald Steinberg, former professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and head of the Institute for NGO Research in Jerusalem, dismissed the HRW report as “the same mix of shrill propaganda, false allegations, and legal distortions marketed by the NGO network for decades.”

Others have noted that the report’s lead author is Omar Shakir, who headed the HRW office in Israel until 2019. Reports said Shakir led HRW’s failed effort to press Airbnb and the FIFA soccer association to join the anti-Israel boycott.

In 2019, he was expelled from the country after a lengthy court battle that accused him of supporting boycotts against the Jewish state.

Steinberg said that for Shakir, the report is “revenge propaganda.”

In a statement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the report a “propaganda pamphlet,” accusing HRW of long-standing anti-Israel animus. It said the report has “no connection to facts or reality on the ground. The fictional claims that HRW concocted are both preposterous and false.”