Citing Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, the application contends that Bennett has violated international law.
A legal application has recently been filed with a Canadian federal court, requesting that former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett be prevented from visiting Canada.
The application was made by Palestinian-Canadian, Khaled Mouammar, along with various pro-Palestinian groups: Just Peace Advocates, Palestinian and Jewish Unity and the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute.
Citing Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, the application contends that Bennett has violated international law by encouraging and promoting the “expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian territories and Golan Heights”. Such perpetrators are formally prohibited from touching Canadian soil.
According to the application, “Mr. Bennett is scheduled to speak at an event in Toronto, Ontario, on June 14, 2023, and is expected to arrive in Canada at some date or time prior to June 14, 2023.”
Given this window of June is soon approaching and that Canadian Minister of Public Safety, Marco Mendocino—the main person the application calls on to deny Bennett entry to Canada—has made no public comment on the application itself, it’s at the moment unclear whether Bennett will be in Canada before Mendocino makes a decision.
At any rate, his scheduled speaking event, “The Road Ahead”, is but another attempt by the international pro-Israeli community to whitewash crimes against the Palestinian people.
What with the event’s polished advertising, including that it will be hosted by well-respected Canadian CEO of Indigo Books & Music, Heather Reisman, it hardly hints at criminality. Further, it is being held at an upscale Toronto venue and tickets are expensive (starting at $180 Canadian each), suggesting Israel is deserving of honor and prestige.
In reality, it is yet to be held accountable, in any legally substantive way, for the harm and destruction it has for decades inflicted on Palestinians.
Predictably pro-Israeli groups are not happy about the application. Michael Levitt, CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, describes it as “rife with false allegations” and a “smear campaign as part of a larger effort to vilify and delegitimize the State of Israel and intimidate Canadian Jews”.
Interestingly Levitt has made no public mention of what specific allegations in the application are “false”, which might otherwise lend some credibility to his outlandish claim that the application is an antisemitic “smear campaign”, and has much less commented on the illegality of the settlements themselves—the main reason for the application to begin with.
Even Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Melanie Joly, who throughout her office (beginning 2021) has remained mostly silent on Israeli crimes, issued a formal statement last February condemning the settlements.
Still worrisome is Mendocino, her Liberal Party of Canada and ministerial colleague, determining the merits of the application. In August of last year he wrongly implied Palestinian solidarity and human rights work, including strong but justifiable criticism of Israel, as “extremism”. How can he be expected to be fair and judicious on an application that harms Israel’s interests?
Making matters worse Mendocino served in office during Bennett’s prime ministership but never spoke against the settlements. If Canada, as it claims, is committed to advancing human rights globally, including but not limited to protecting Palestinians, then Mendocino has already failed as one of its governmental representatives.
Overcoming this involves more than vocal opposition to illegal Israeli settlements but, such as through imposing sanctions, concrete actions that pressure Israel to stop the development of the settlements. The sooner that happens the likelier more Palestinians will not be displaced from their homes, in West Bank and elsewhere, and there be a serious discussion about how to (materially) compensate Palestinians who—on account of such development—have and continue to experience this.
Related to this the application makes a pointed statement that’s rather instructive, namely that a “failure [by the Canadian government] to render a decision excluding Mr. Bennett from Canada effectively condones war crimes, which emboldens actors throughout the world to commit war crimes against innocent civilians.”
By the same token the international community, well beyond Canada, should discipline Israel. At the moment all too many countries—through diplomatic, financial and other relationships with Israel—effectively reward the state. As long as that continues it’s unlikely Israel will see itself as doing anything terribly wrong, let alone a routine perpetrator of human rights violations. From such an erroneous point of view, why would it see it necessary, morally or legally, to stop developing settlements?
Those who filed the application pick up the slack for Canada’s failure to take human rights seriously. If Canada were already doing that there’d be no need for the application, having instead implemented measures—perhaps alongside other countries—to pressure Israel to respect the lives of Palestinians.
Til then pro-Israeli groups will not think twice about hosting events where the likes of Bennett are speaking. Rather, they will stay confident knowing that the Canadian government, lax when it comes to opposing Israel’s crimes against Palestine, will keep its hands off the event.
Indeed this undermines any legitimate claim Canada has to be a true democracy, which does not discriminate as to who’s entitled to have the protections afforded by human rights. Speaking to TRT World, Shane Martinez—one of the Canadian lawyers representing those who filed the application—illuminates this well.
“[The application] calls upon Canada to uphold the rule of law,” said Martinez. “Where there is a reasonable belief that a person has committed or been complicit in war crimes, the law says they are inadmissible to Canada. We cannot have double standards when it comes to defending human rights.”
Avoiding this double standard and thereby hypocrisy means Canada, however much it has become accustomed to satisfying the interests of Israel, means turning Bennett away. Just societies do not accommodate war criminals.
– Paul Salvatori is a Toronto-based journalist, community worker and artist. Much of his work on Palestine involves public education, such as through his recently created interview series, “Palestine in Perspective” (The Dark Room Podcast), where he speaks with writers, scholars and activists. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.