Palestine, International Law, and Territorial Annexation

Israel has been illegally occupying East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Syria’s Golan Heights since 1967. Israel later illegally annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 and the Golan Heights of Syria in 1981.

The occupation of these territories and the annexation of some of them have long been defined by the United Nations Security Council and International Court of Justice as flagrant violations of international law and the United Nations Charter.

The United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have indisputably documented that Israel has been committing war crimes and large-scale human rights violations in both annexed and occupied territories, and have further recognized that Palestinians are living under an oppressive Israeli apartheid system that is designated by the United Nations as a crime against humanity.

Colonial Settlements

Since 1967, Israel has illegally transferred more than 200,000 Israeli Jews into 12 colonial settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, 490,000 Israeli Jews into 256 colonial settlements and outposts in the occupied West Bank, and 23,000 Israeli Jews into 32 colonial settlements in the occupied Golan Heights of Syria.

By transferring more than 700,000 Israeli Jews into these 300 illegal colonial settlements, Israel is violating Article 49 of the Geneva Convention and is committing a war crime according to the International Criminal Court which is investigating Israel’s war actions in the occupied territories. This population transfer also shows that Israel’s objective is keeping these territories permanently occupied, and either de jure or de facto annexed.

Canada’s Foreign Enlistment Act makes it illegal to induce or recruit for a foreign military and Canada Revenue Agency guidelines state that “supporting the armed forces of another country is not” a charitable activity. Yet, according to 2017 statistics from the Israeli army, 230 Canadians served in the Israeli military, with periods of service usually lasting around two years, and some registered Canadian charities support the Israeli army.

Since 1967, indigenous Palestinian Semites in annexed East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank have had to face army and police shootings, settler assaults, deaths, injuries, mass arrests, evictions, home demolitions, land seizures, movement restrictions and intrusive surveillance. During 2021, Israeli occupation forces killed over 350 Palestinians – including 90 children, 60 women and 20 elderly – while injuring more than 16,000.

Currently, the Israeli occupation regime continues to detain 4,450 Palestinians, including 32 female prisoners, 160 children, and 530 administrative detainees are held without charge or trial.

So far this month in annexed East Jerusalem, more than 200 Palestinians have been wounded by police shootings and drones and more than 500 have been arrested; and the sanctity of and access to Muslim and Christian holy sites, the Al Aksa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, have been violated during Ramadan and Easter.

Canadian Double Standard

Canada was quick in imposing sanctions on Russia when it occupied and annexed Crimea in 2014 by banning the import, purchase or acquisition of goods from the region or from any person in that region. Canada did the same thing with respect to the on-going Russian occupation of the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk in Eastern Ukraine this year.

Successive Liberal, Conservative and Progressive Conservative governments have affirmed that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are illegal.

While Canada was quick to impose sanctions on Russia when it annexed Crimea in 2014, it has not taken any action since Israel annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights of Syria in 1980 and 1981 respectively.

While Canada recognizes that Israeli settlements are illegal, it still does business with them. The Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) that was renegotiated in September 2018 permits goods and services from illegal Israeli colonial settlements to enter the Canadian market tariff free.

UN Security Council Resolution 465 of 1980 and UN Security Council Resolution 2334, both adopted unanimously, instructed UN member states not to assist Israeli settlements, yet Canada continues to trade with them, even if it recognizes that they are illegal.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also affirmed that states have an obligation to ban imports from illegal settlements.

Business With Colonialism

  • By not banning goods from Israeli colonial settlements, and flagrantly allowing those goods to enter the Canadian market tariff free, Canada is undermining international law.
  • By trading with illegal Israeli colonial settlements Canada is providing them with support. By doing so, Canada is helping perpetuate the illegal situation.
  • By refusing to ban colonial settlement goods, Canada is contributing to their expansion by enabling Israel to consolidate its colonization of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights of Syria which is resulting in large-scale human rights violations of the indigenous Palestinian and Syrian Semites.

By continuing to trade with illegal Israeli colonial settlements, allowing Canadians to serve in the Israeli army and allowing tax deductible donations to be sent to the Israeli army, Canada is knowingly assisting apartheid Israel’s war crimes and the violation of Palestinians’ and Syrians’ human rights and fundamental freedoms, including their religious freedom.

Trade with illegal colonial settlements should not be taking place at all. The fact that it does take place means Canada is violating its international law obligations and reflects a double standard when compared to Canada’s prompt reaction to Russia’s occupation and annexation in Ukraine.

Canada must consistently abide by international law and help end apartheid Israel’s impunity in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. •

Khaled Mouammar is a Christian Palestinian Canadian who was forced to flee his hometown Nazareth in 1948. He is one of the founders of the Canadian Arab Federation and a former member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.