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

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - News - PAUL LUNGEN plun­gen@thecjn.ca

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.

PMO PHOTO

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

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