By Rifat Audeh
A plastic bullet struck the side of my chest, which was protected by my life jacket, and then fragmented into pieces. The commandos firing would eventually restrain, blindfold and kidnap me and hundreds of other passengers from dozens of countries, including Canada, and illegally detain us incommunicado. They would do this after killing nine fellow civilians immediately and injuring dozens more, while a tenth wounded civilian would stay in a coma and die 4 years later.
On May 31st, the world commemorated the tenth anniversary of this Israeli attack (in international waters) on the humanitarian Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The Flotilla aimed to break the inhumane Israeli blockade imposed on the people of Gaza, described as collective punishment and therefore illegal according to international reports and scholars, including a UN panel of experts. Two other Canadians and myself were aboard the main ship attacked, the Mavi Marmara.
Ironically, on the day of the attack, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was in Canada, meeting with former Canadian PM Harper and other governmental officials. Yet despite this, the Conservative government did not demand our release nor was there any condemnation of Israel’s piracy against Canadians and other internationals, as we explained to the public in an open letter to Stephen Harper at the time.
To the contrary, the Canadian government implicitly justified Israeli actions against its own citizens. The timid visit I received by embassy representatives at the prison along with fellow Canadians, was punctuated by the fact that they had no response to my question of what the Canadian government will do about our illegal kidnapping and detainment.
If it was not for immense Turkish political pressure on Israel, there is no doubt in my mind that our government would have left us in an Israeli prison indefinitely. This was further confirmed to me when I visited our embassy in Jordan a while after my release when an embassy representative sadly defended Israeli actions even more vociferously than the Israelis themselves.
After the ascendance of the Liberals to power, I was hopeful that this foreign policy will change, and that our government would adopt an approach consistent with international law and human rights, particularly in relation to Palestine. In retrospect, I confess that I was quite naive.
In one of the first set of UN General Assembly sessions in the post-Conservative era, the Trudeau government voted against UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/71/98, a resolution that emphasizes “the right of all people in the region to the enjoyment of human rights as enshrined in the international human rights covenants”. The same resolution demands that Israel, as the occupying power “cease all practices and actions that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people”.
Shamefully, this pattern of voting against the human rights of Palestinians and against upholding international law has continued ever since then, with Canada either voting against such resolutions or abstaining, thus isolating itself from the vast majority of the world.
A recent exception to this policy of blindly siding with Israel -at the expense of Palestinian human rights- took place in November, when Canada supported a UN resolution endorsing Palestinian self-determination. Yet PM Trudeau was quick to reassure pro-Israelis that this vote does not represent a shift from Canada’s support to Israel.
This is why many critics have speculated that the only reason Canada voted with the majority in this instance, is to try and secure a seat on the UN Security Council. The UN ambassadors will soon select new members to the UN Security Council, and there are bids by Canada, Ireland and Norway for “a place at the table”.
Accordingly and for the reasons shown above, I have signed a letter to the UN Ambassadors and a petition against Canada joining the UNSC. Although the council is clearly deficient already in many ways, this does not negate the fact that in addition to this, our country has clearly not earned its stripes to gain ascension to it.
In 2018, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister stated that the country’s presence on the council can be “an asset for Israel”, while hypocritically stating in the same speech: “Nor can we stand idly by when human rights are violated, wherever that may be.” Well, unless they are Palestinian human rights of course.
– Rifat Audeh is a lifelong human rights activist and award-winning filmmaker. His writings have appeared in various media outlets and he has a Masters’s degree in Media and Journalism. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.