By Yves Engler
Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record should disqualify it from a seat on the UN Security Council. Hopefully when member states pick amongst Ireland, Norway, and Canada for the two ‘Western Europe and Others’ positions on the Security Council they consider the international body’s responsibility to Palestinians. If they do it will be a rebuke to Canada’s embarrassing history of institutional racism against the Palestinian people.
Compared to Canada, Ireland and Norway have far better records on upholding Palestinian rights at the UN. According to research compiled by Karen Rodman of Just Peace Advocates, since 2000 Canada has voted against 166 General Assembly resolutions critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Ireland and Norway haven’t voted against any of these resolutions. Additionally, Ireland and Norway have voted yes 251 and 249 times respectively on resolutions related to Palestinian rights during this period. Canada has managed 87 yes votes, but only two since 2010.
In maybe the most egregious example of Ottawa being offside with world opinion, Canada sided with the US, Israel, and some tiny Pacific island states in opposing a UN resolution supporting Palestinian statehood that was backed by 176 nations in December 2017.
The only time since the end of the colonial period Canada has somewhat aligned with international opinion regarding Palestinian rights was in the 1990s and early 2000s under Jean Chretien. In the early 1990s Norman Finkelstein labeled Canada “probably Israel’s staunchest ally after the United States at the United Nations” while a 1983 Globe and Mail article referred to “Canada’s position as Israel’s No. 2 friend at the UN.” In the early 1980s Ottawa sided with Israel on a spate of UN resolutions despite near unanimity of international opposition.
In July 1980 Canada voted with the US and Israel (nine European countries abstained) against a resolution calling on Israel to withdraw completely and unconditionally from all Palestinian and Arab territories occupied since 1967. On December 11, 1982 the Globe and Mail reported that the “United Nations General Assembly called yesterday for the creation of an independent Palestinian state and for Israel’s unconditional withdrawal from territories it occupied in 1967. Israel, Canada, the United States, and Costa Rica cast the only negative votes as the assembly passed the appeal by 113 votes to 4, with 23 abstentions.”
Canada’s voting record on Palestinian rights at the UN is an abomination. It’s made worse by the fact that Canada contributed significantly to the international body’s role in dispossessing Palestinians. Canadian officials were important players in the UN negotiations to create a Jewish state on Palestinian land.
Lester Pearson promoted the Zionist cause in two different committees dealing with the British Mandate of Palestine. After moving assiduously for a US and Soviet accord on the anti-Palestinian partition plan he was dubbed “Lord Balfour of Canada” by Zionist groups. Canada’s representative on the UN Special Committee on Palestine, Supreme Court Justice Ivan C. Rand, is considered the lead architect of the partition plan.
Despite owning less than seven percent of the land and making up a third of the population, the UN partition plan gave the Zionist movement 55% of Palestine. A huge boost to the Zionists’ desire for an ethnically based state, it contributed to the displacement of at least 700,000 Palestinians.
Scholar Walid Khalidi complained that UN (partition) Resolution 181 was “a hasty act of granting half of Palestine to an ideological movement that declared openly already in the 1930s its wish to de-Arabise Palestine.”
Palestinians’ statelessness seven decades later remains a stain on the UN. Over the past year the Canadian government has devoted significant energy and resources to win a seat on the Security Council. In recent days, Canada’s foreign affairs minister has taken to calling individual UN ambassadors in the hopes of convincing them to vote for Canada.
To combat this pressure, a small group of Palestine solidarity activists has organized an open letter drawing attention to Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record. Signed by dozens of organizations, the letter will be delivered to all UN ambassadors in the hope that some of them will cast their ballots with an eye to the UN’s responsibility to Palestinians.
– Yves Engler is the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and a number of other books. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit his website: yvesengler.com.