John Baird, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs is confirmed to deliver a keynote address at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy meeting taking place March 3 – 5, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
His presence there further cements the Harper government's uncritical support of Israel in face of its deteriorating record of massive human rights violations in Occupied Palestine. "Canada stands shoulder to shoulder with Israel," said Mr. Baird in November 2012. His invitation to address AIPAC reflects that this government's position has not altered in face of Israel's widening breaches of international and humanitarian law against the people and land of Palestine.
AIPAC, according to its own literature, is America's leading pro-Israel lobby working to enact public policy that enhances the U.S.-Israel relationship. In fact, AIPAC wields powerful influence over the U.S. political system to ensure that Israel's illegal, violent and racist human rights violations in Palestine can continue unchecked.
In contravention of international law, segregated, Jewish-only settlements continue to proliferate on stolen Palestinian land in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The Indigenous Palestinians are being forcibly displaced while their homes, olive groves and access to water are severely restricted. Over 600,000 colonial settlers, under watch of heavily armed Israeli occupation forces, ensure that a policy of illegal land theft and population transfer continues unabated.
Four million Palestinians are now living under an illegal, military occupation. Reported incidents of settler violence against Palestinians are increasing alarmingly -- up 149 per cent between 2009 and 2011. Just last month, on February 23, at least 25 Israeli settlers, some armed with machine guns and escorted by Israeli forces, attacked and injured eight Palestinians including three children in Qasra village, south east of Nablus.
The illegal separation wall continues to divide Palestinian communities, cuts Palestinians off from their agrarian land and, by snaking ever deeper into occupied Palestinian territory, annexes additional Palestinian land and grafts it onto a continually expanding Israel.
Peacefully demonstrating against these internationally condemned assaults on human rights and dignity are routinely responded to with tear gas, live fire and incarceration. Samer Issawi is refusing food and dying in an Israeli prison as he protests his illegal incarceration -- held without charges and without a trial under so-called "administrative detention." On February 24, news surfaced that 30 year-old Arafat Jaradat died while under Israeli interrogation. Preliminary reports describe shocking signs of beatings on his chest and shoulders, lacerations on the back, broken ribs and a fractured skull.
Palestinians living in Gaza continue to be traumatized by a punishing land and sea blockade imposed by Israel and as a result of regular violent military incursions involving the air force, navy and ground troops. Since the November 2012 ceasefire in Gaza, Israeli forces have injured 74 Palestinians and killed four Palestinians. There have been no Palestinian violations of the ceasefire.
These colonial atrocities continue in large measure because AIPAC helps ensure that the world community remains impotent whenever it wishes to censure Israel and hold it accountable to its international obligations. The U.S. reflexively vetoes UN Resolutions critical of fundamental Israeli human rights violations in Palestine. Canada is significantly complicit on account of its uncritical support of these policies, which further emboldens Israel's illegal and aggressive behaviours.
John Baird's presence at the upcoming AIPAC conference is disturbing in light of comments he recently made about Canada-Israel relations. "Simply put, Israel is worthy of our support because it is a society that shares so many values with Canada -- freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law." While these values may be enjoyed by a segment of Israeli society, they are definitely not extended to Palestinians residing in Israel, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
For many Canadians, the Harper government's unconditional acceptance and encouragement of Israel's deepening apartheid practices against the people and land of Palestine is morally and legally contemptible.
It is time for Canada to end our shameful complicity in the dispossession, oppression and occupation of the Palestinian people. "Israel has no greater friend in the world than Canada," says John Baird. In that case it is this government's duty to join the United Nations, the International Criminal Court and the international community in condemning Israel for repeated and flagrant violations of international law.
John 'Max' Soos has written this article on behalf of the Boycott Israel Apartheid Campaign (BIAC) in Vancouver, B.C.
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