Ot­tawa backs Is­rael at UN, then gives UNRWA $25M

The Canadian Jewish News (Montreal) - - News - PAUL LUNGEN plun­gen@thecjn.ca, TORONTO

Dur­ing the 2015 fed­eral elec­tion cam­paign, Justin Trudeau’s Lib­er­als chal­lenged the Con­ser­va­tive claim that its sup­port of the State of Is­rael was un­matched by any other po­lit­i­cal party. Not so, ar­gued the Lib­er­als. They, too, would back Is­rael through thick and thin.

Last week, the Trudeau gov­ern­ment put its Mid­dle East pol­icy on dis­play in two fo­rums con­nected to the United Na­tions. Ear­lier in the week, Canada voted against or ab­stained in a se­ries of anti-is­rael res­o­lu­tions brought be­fore the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly in its an­nual binge of Is­rael-bash­ing. In do­ing so, it mir­rored the votes taken by the pre­vi­ous Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment of prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper, which had billed it­self as one of Is­rael’s staunch­est friends.

But only days later, the gov­ern­ment an­nounced it would re­store fund­ing – sub­ject to cer­tain safe­guards – to the UN Re­lief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which pro­vides ser­vices to Pales­tinian refugees. Ot­tawa pledged $20 mil­lion for ed­u­ca­tion, health and so­cial ser­vices, while an­other $5 mil­lion was ear­marked for help to those af­fected by the Syr­ian civil war.

Harper’s gov­ern­ment had cut all an­nual fund­ing to the agency.

Crit­ics as­sailed the move to resume fund­ing UNRWA, not­ing that it had re­peat­edly been linked to Ha­mas, the Pales­tinian ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion, and that teach­ers and other UNRWA staff had been post­ing anti-semitic ma­te­rial on­line, along with praise of Hitler and sup­port for the Pales­tinian side in their con­flict with Is­rael.

In an­nounc­ing the al­lo­ca­tion, In­ter­na­tional Development Min­is­ter Marieclaude Bibeau said, “Mil­lions of Pales­tinian refugees across the Mid­dle East have the right to re­ceive ba­sic ser­vices such as health care and to send their chil­dren to school.

“We want to see Pales­tinian refugee chil­dren in class­rooms where they can learn uni­ver­sal val­ues of tol­er­ance and re­spect. Vul­ner­a­ble Pales­tini­ans de­serve all the op­por­tu­ni­ties they can to con­trib­ute pos­i­tively to their com­mu­ni­ties and Canada’s fund­ing will help to bet­ter the lives of mil­lions of refugees.”

The al­lo­ca­tion an­nounce­ment in­cluded as­sur­ances from the gov­ern­ment that it would in­clude “ro­bust over­sight mech­a­nism and an en­hanced ac­count­abil­ity net­work,” such as “screen­ing of UNRWA staff, strong anti-ter­ror­ism pro­vi­sions in the fund­ing agree­ment and train­ing of UNRWA em­ploy­ees on ap­pro­pri­ate and neu­tral use of so­cial me­dia.”

Lib­eral MP An­thony House­fa­ther said that the “is­sues sur­round­ing UNRWA are far more grey [than the UN votes], as all other G7 states fund UNRWA and not even Is­rael has en­cour­aged us not to fund UNRWA.

“In 2010, Canada cut fund­ing… in light of con­cerns re­lated to is­sues such as links to ter­ror­ist groups and bias shown by UNRWA staff. A num­ber of th­ese con­cerns were le­git­i­mate and needed to be ad­dressed. Other G7 coun­tries made the de­ci­sion not to cut fund­ing but rather to work with UNRWA to ad­dress those con­cerns that were le­git­i­mate. Th­ese coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States, have asked Canada to join them in fund­ing UNRWA, but to also join them in en­sur­ing that strict com­pli­ance mea­sures are in place along with ro­bust ac­count­abil­ity re­quire­ments.”

He added: “After ex­ten­sive re­view and due dili­gence, Canada agreed to pro­vide fund­ing for one year but has in­sisted on the strictest mon­i­tor­ing and ac­count­abil­ity from UNRWA that has been re­quired by any coun­try.… This is a one-year fund­ing agree­ment. Canada will re­view re­sults achieved based on this con­tri­bu­tion be­fore de­ter­min­ing whether to fund UNRWA next year.”

Friends of Si­mon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter CEO Avi Ben­lolo said: “While FSWC views this re­newed part­ner­ship with con­cern, all in­volved par­ties have taken a mea­sured and seem­ingly re­spon­si­ble ap­proach. FSWC will con­tinue mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion on the ground.”

The Con­ser­va­tive critic for in­ter­na­tional development, Dean Al­li­son, said the fund­ing an­nounce­ment “is a very trou­bling one.

“UNRWA schools have been used on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions as stor­age fa­cil­i­ties for Ha­mas rock­ets to be used against Is­raeli civil­ians. Ha­mas has launched thou­sands of rock­ets ex­clu­sively in­tended to kill Is­raeli

civil­ians, and it has been ver­i­fied that some of the rock­ets have come from UNRWA sites.

“It is also well doc­u­mented that UNRWA em­ploy­ees and fa­cil­i­ties have served as breed­ing grounds for anti-is­rael and anti-semitic sen­ti­ments pro­mot­ing vi­o­lence and ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­ity. Known ex­am­ples and ev­i­dence come from UNRWA op­er­ated schools where teach­ers have been known to pro­mote hate and in­tol­er­ance to­wards Jews, and en­cour­ag­ing chil­dren to stab and kill Jews in pur­suit of ji­had and elim­i­nat­ing Is­rael as a coun­try,” he said. “In their pur­suit of a UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil seat, the Lib­er­als have com­pro­mised Mid­dle Eastern se­cu­rity even fur­ther while risk­ing Cana­dian tax dol­lars fall­ing into the hands of ter­ror­ists. This has hap­pened be­fore with UNRWA, and the risk of it hap­pen­ing again is too great for the gov­ern­ment to take.”

Is­rael’s am­bas­sador to Canada, Rafael Barak, ap­peared to take com­fort in as­sur­ances that Canada would mon­i­tor how the money was spent. In a re­lease, the em­bassy stated, “Is­rael is con­fi­dent that Canada’s con­tri­bu­tion through UNRWA is aimed to of­fer hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance to Pales­tini­ans in need. We feel re­as­sured that Canada re­mains mind­ful to Is­raeli con­cerns and will keep a close eye on where Cana­di­ans’ money is go­ing, this due to past ex­pe­ri­ence when UNRWA schools were used to hide mis­siles and weapons for Ha­mas and other ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions, and se­nior mem­bers of UNRWA use and abuse the or­ga­ni­za­tion, in or­der to in­cite vi­o­lence against the State of Is­rael and its cit­i­zens.”

Nev­er­the­less, in Is­rael, David Bedein, direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Near East Pol­icy Re­search, pointed out that UNRWA had been caught di­vert­ing funds to Ha­mas and that a doc­u­men­tary aired last sum­mer showed stu­dents at UN schools in Gaza voic­ing their sup­port for ISIS.

A Cen­ter for Near East Pol­icy Re­search re­port pub­lished last week that stud­ied 110 text­books used in UNRWA schools in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem be­tween 2014 and 2016 re­ported they “adopt a three­fold at­ti­tude of dele­git­imiza­tion, de­mo­niza­tion and in­doc­tri­na­tion to fu­ture war for the de­struc­tion of the State of Is­rael.”

“There is no ra­tio­nal rea­son in the world for Canada or any na­tion to dump cash on UNRWA, which will sim­ply wind up in the cof­fers of Ha­mas,” Bedein said.

In Canada, David Cape, chair of the Cen­tre for Is­rael and Jewish Af­fairs (CIJA), said the or­ga­ni­za­tion sup­ported hu­man­i­tar­ian aid for those in need, such as those caught in the Syr­ian civil war, but “we con­tinue to have se­ri­ous reser­va­tions about UNRWA, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that is im­pli­cated with ter­ror­ist groups such as Ha­mas. Ha­mas is no­to­ri­ous for di­vert­ing funds and ma­te­ri­als pro­vided by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity in­tended for hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to ter­ror­ist pur­poses.”

CIJA said it ap­pre­ci­ated that the gov­ern­ment put in place mea­sures to en­sure ac­count­abil­ity and over­sight of the funds. “We will con­tinue ad­vo­cat­ing for strong, con­crete ac­count­abil­ity mea­sures to en­sure that Cana­dian aid is be­ing used to ad­vance peace and im­prove the qual­ity of life for Pales­tini­ans with­out put­ting at risk the se­cu­rity of Is­raelis.”

B’nai Brith Canada ex­pressed “out­rage” at the fund­ing de­ci­sion.

“To turn over $25 mil­lion in aid to an agency that has sup­ported the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity’s sus­tained cam­paign to re­write Judeo-chris­tian his­tory, in­cite vi­o­lence, and dele­git­imize the state of Is­rael is an in­sult to Cana­dian tax­pay­ers,” said CEO Michael Mostyn. “While the gov­ern­ment is in­tro­duc­ing anti-ter­ror­ism pro­vi­sions, which is com­mend­able, there is no men­tion of pre­vent­ing in­doc­tri­na­tion and in­cite­ment, which fre­quently leads to vi­o­lence. In­cite­ment has been one of the pri­mary com­plaints the world has had in re­gards to UNRWA, and it has not been ad­dressed in this an­nounce­ment.”

Hil­lel Neuer, executive direc­tor of the Geneva-based UN Watch, said he’s “deeply con­cerned about this de­ci­sion. Al­though the Cana­dian and French gov­ern­ments claim that this is about help­ing, the re­al­ity is that UNRWA is a po­lit­i­cal weapon aimed at Is­rael, in which the Arab regimes have for decades been ex­ploit­ing Pales­tini­ans as pawns in a po­lit­i­cal cam­paign to erase Is­rael’s in­ter­na­tional le­git­i­macy and to sus­tain griev­ances.

“UNRWA is not about re­solv­ing prob­lems or set­tling refugees. On the con­trary. It is about per­pet­u­at­ing con­flict and griev­ances,” he said.

Neuer noted that UN Watch had re­ported on dozens of Face­book and other In­ter­net posts by UNRWA per­son­nel prais­ing ter­ror­ism, at­tack­ing Jews, ap­plaud­ing and quot­ing Hitler. Th­ese find­ings, which are “sys­tem­atic and per­va­sive,” have been re­ported to UNRWA and “UNRWA does noth­ing,” he said.

He called on Canada to sup­port an in­quiry into UNRWA teach­ers’ in­cite­ment to anti-semitism and racism. How­ever, Neuer, said he was pleased with Canada’s vot­ing record on Is­rael dur­ing the UN’S “leg­isla­tive sea­son.”

Canada’s vot­ing record un­der Trudeau matches that un­der the Harper gov­ern­ment, as well as that of the cur­rent U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion, he stated.

PMO PHOTO

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau speaks to the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly on Sept. 20.

Hil­lel Neuer

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