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Canada's backing of UN's 'anti-Israel' vote condemned by Jewish organizations

OTTAWA — For the second year in a row, major Jewish organizations are protesting Canada’s vote in favour of a UN resolution on Palestinian self-determination, arguing the resolution is one-sided against Israel.

The resolution passed 163-5, with only Israel, the United States, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Nauru voting against, and ten other countries abstaining.

The Jewish groups said the resolution “affirms Palestinian self-determination, while failing to affirm Jewish self-determination in the indigenous and ancestral homeland of the Jewish people.”

“We are dismayed by Canada’s decision to undermine its longstanding policy of rejecting one-sided and prejudicial anti-Israel resolutions at the UN,” said a statement from Michael Levitt, who stepped down as a Liberal MP this summer and is now president of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“By supporting this resolution, Canada is providing ammunition to those who seek to delegitimize and demonize the State of Israel, which ultimately sets back the prospects for peace in the region,” Levitt said.

B’nai Brith Canada and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs also condemned Canada’s vote.

“The Government of Canada has now doubled-down on its incomprehensible support for a resolution that simply expands the anti-Israel narrative within the United Nations system,” said Shimon Koffler Fogel, president of CIJA. He called it “an aberration in the voting pattern established and re-affirmed by successive Canadian governments for almost two decades until the Liberal government changed its vote last year.”

Every year, a large batch of resolutions on Israel are brought forward at the UN General Assembly. In 2004, the Liberals under Prime Minister Paul Martin announced they were reviewing Canada’s voting policy on UN Israel motions due to concerns over Israel being disproportionately and constantly singled out.

Starting in 2006 under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, Canada began voting against or abstaining on all such resolutions. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government continued that position until last year, when it voted in favour of a similarly-worded resolution supporting Palestinian self-determination. That resolution also condemned Israel as “an occupying power.”

At the time, many pro-Israel organizations criticized Trudeau, alleging he was trying to court support for his bid for a UN Security Council seat — a bid that failed in June. However, the 2020 vote appears to show this is now Canada’s position going forward under the Trudeau Liberals.

“Canada’s vote today is a reflection of our longstanding commitment to the right of self-determination for both Palestinians and Israelis,” said Canada’s UN Ambassador Bob Rae in his explanation of the vote to the General Assembly.

“From the time of the earliest resolutions of the Security Council on these issues, we have endorsed the principle of ‘two states for two peoples,'” Rae said. “While we do not agree with some elements of the preamble, Canada will support this resolution because of its focus on these important, core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Rae also said that Canada “does not and will not support any resolution that unfairly singles out Israel for criticism.”

“We will continue to oppose these resolutions and initiatives which do not speak to the complexities of the issues or seek to address the actions and responsibilities of all parties, including the destructive role in the conflict of such terrorist organizations as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah, that have refused to accept the legitimacy of the State of Israel and routinely use violence targeting civilians,” he said.

This explanation didn’t satisfy B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn, who noted it “detailed the many shortcomings of this resolution, and the unfair targeting of Israel – yet Canada then proceeded to vote in favour of the text.”

Even Ambassador Rae said he disagreed with the preamble of the resolution

“That decision is not only contradictory, it flies in the face of Canada’s principled opposition to other resolutions in the unbalanced Question of Palestine basket of resolutions that are tabled annually at the UN General Assembly,” Mostyn said.

In the House of Commons on Thursday, Conservative foreign affairs Michael Chong demanded an explanation for Canada’s vote.

“Today, the Liberal government voted against the state of Israel at the UN General Assembly for a second year in a row, contrary to our long-standing Canadian policy of opposing all resolutions that single out Israel, a policy that former prime minister Paul Martin had put in place,” Chong said.

“Even Ambassador Rae said he disagreed with the preamble of the resolution. Why did the government break with long-standing Canadian policy and vote against the State of Israel at the UN General Assembly today?”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland did not directly address the question in her response.

“Let me just be very clear: Israel is a close and important friend of Canada, and Canada will always stand with Israel,” she said. “Let me also be very clear to Jewish Canadians in my riding and across the country: We stand with them, particularly today when we are seeing an appalling rise in anti-Semitism here and around the world.”

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