Since May 6th, 2021, violence in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza has been renewed following the anticipated decision of the supreme court of Israel on the eviction of eight Palestinian families from Sheik Jarrah, a neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem. These evictions, if upheld, would be illegal under international law. The tensions also rose following the storming of the Israeli police force in Al-Asqa Mosque last Monday.
According to Thomas Woodley from Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East in an interview with Global Green News, the current situation is one “where Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza exchange fire because of the ongoing provocation of Israel’s broad dispossession of, and human rights abuses against Palestinians”.
In this conflict, casualties were felt on both sides but “Israel has much more lethal firepower,” indicated Woodley to Global Green News, “inflicting far higher death tolls, injuries, and a much larger scale of property destruction. The current flare up of violence is not a conflict between balanced sides, but a situation where a developed, sophisticated and highly militarized society chooses to inflict terrible violence on an impoverished, defenceless population with impunity”.
Quickly escalating to violence and confrontation between Palestinian militants and the Israeli police force, the international community has been quick to voice its concerns over the state of Israel’s abuses in human rights.
However, despite numerous statements from provincial Green party leaders, Annamie Paul, the leader of the Green Party of Canada, has made statements for de-escalation and peace, which have been deemed incomplete and insufficient by many. “While nobody would disagree with her proposals for de-escalation, restraint, and a call for peace negotiations, there is no call for accountability in her statements”, declared Woodley to Global Green News. “Paul condemns some of the violations of international law, but assiduously refuses to name the perpetrators of these abuses or the massive scale with which Israel is committing these abuses”, he added. “The occupation and ‘apartheid’ context of the current flare up is extremely relevant”, said Woodley, “and should very much colour Paul’s response to the day-to-day tragedies of the current flare up”. Paul also did not comment on the bombing of civilian apartments and press offices in Gaza by the Israeli government.
During her campaign, Paul put emphasis on the progressive aspect of the Green Party of Canada and took a strong stance against systemic racism and prejudice. Woodley explained to Global Green News that “Paul is extremely disappointing in the way she fails to acknowledge the power differential in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The BLM movement has changed the conversation, and people – especially supposedly “progressive” leaders like Paul – can no longer ignore systemic discrimination and dispossession; not in Canada, and not elsewhere. Her failure to call out Israeli abuses seems inconsistent with her purported stance against system prejudice.”
Underlining Woodley’s point, Rowan Gaudet, Interim National Coordinator at Independent Jewish Voices Canada, declared to Global Green News that Paul’s call for “peace diplomacy” falls short. “Even now that Israel has stopped its brutal bombing campaign of Gaza, the humanitarian crisis caused by the Israeli blockade continues”, said Gaudet to Global Green News. “In order to support justice, Paul must call for action, such as cutting arms sales to Israel or imposing sanctions. Her call for “peace diplomacy” falls flat; diplomacy will not end apartheid. Rather, if Paul is serious about peace, she must support calls to cut the sale of Canadian weapons which Israel used to decimate Gaza, and she must support calls to impose sanctions on Israel. If the Green Party wants to be seen as a progressive Canadian political party, it must act like one and stand against Israeli Apartheid”, said Gaudet.
The former head of the Canadian Green Party, Elizabeth May, spoke out against Israeli abuses and the lack of response from Canada in parliament on the 13th of May. “The increasing crisis in the Middle East is a danger to the region and beyond”, declared May. “This current crisis was provoked by the Netanyahu government and other extreme elements within settler groups; can Canada speak out clearly to defend the Palestinian people against annexation, against illegal settlements and illegal evictions?” she asked. She then declared the necessity to take sides in such circumstances. “We are hobbled when we limit our response to both sides must de-escalate”, said May. “True peace will never be achieved if we keep ignoring that one side is the occupier the other the occupied”. Woodley commented on impartiality as well with Global Green News, reminding us that “as Desmond Tutu said, ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor’”.
Both organizations finished by calling for the Canadian government to act on behalf of its citizens‘ demands. “In the midst of this crisis it has been important for us to show that we, like many Canadian Jews, are horrified by the aggressions of the apartheid Israeli state. Canadian citizens, both Jewish and non-Jewish, have a duty to call on Canada to cancel its support for Israeli apartheid, such as the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement and bilateral arms deals”, said Gaudet to Global Green News. “It is ridiculous to hope that the justice, peace, equality and security will come to Palestinians and Israelis without demanding accountability from Israel, the occupying power. Canadian leaders need to end Israeli exceptionalism, and advance a human rights-based approach to the conflict if they ever hope for the status quo to change”, concluded Woodley.