Following last week’s expiration of Canada’s five-year, $300 million aid package to the Palestinian Authority, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced that Ottawa would not renew its pledge prior to conducting “a dialogue to find out what their [the Palestinians’] priorities are.” To this end, Baird, who is on a 10-day trip to the Middle East, met with both PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad over the weekend in Ramallah.
The Canadian government began reevaluating its financial support for the Palestinians after the PA’s successful bid in November to upgrade its UN status to non-member state. Canada was one of only nine countries in the 194-country General Assembly to vote against the initiative, which Baird described at the time as “utterly regrettable.” After meeting with PA leaders on Saturday, Baird reiterated that both sides still maintain “some profound differences of opinion.”
“They know our views well,” Baird affirmed.
Under the stewardship of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, these “views” have transformed Canada into Israel’s most dependable ally, and, ideally, Ottawa would continue to demonstrate its resolute support for the Jewish state by conditioning aid to the PA on its fulfillment of various fundamental obligations critical to peacemaking, including, most obviously, immediately resuming negotiations with Israel without preconditions, the position advocated by the Middle East Quartet, consisting of the US, EU, UN and Russia.
In a perfect world, Canada would also stipulate, for example, that the PA renounce terrorism in all its forms (which would, parenthetically, preclude reconciliation with Hamas), in which respect the PA would be prohibited from allocating any Canadian funds for the purpose of glorifying “martyrs” or paying salaries to convicted Palestinian criminals and terrorists in Israeli jails, which. Despite the PA’s “severe” financial crisis, such expenditures account for as much as 6 percent of its total budget.
The PA would also be prohibited from pursuing claims against Israel at the International Criminal Court (as Israeli- Palestinian rapprochement will remain elusive so long as the PA continues waging a diplomatic war in international forums against its ostensible peace partner), and from indoctrinating Palestinian youth with a virile strain of anti- Semitism, often rooted in Islamic doctrine (such propagation of hate in official PA schools and media being the engine that fuels the conflict and renders coexistence impossible).
Even in an imperfect world, Canadian aid to the Palestinians would be linked to the PA’s implementation of sorely needed democratic reforms, including holding presidential elections for the first time in nearly a decade. The Palestinian leadership would also be expected to promote and uphold basic human freedoms, in particular the right to dissent, rather than routinely cracking down on journalists and incarcerating Palestinians for “crimes” such as “insulting” Abbas.
Injustices like these make a mockery of the nearly $20m. the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has disbursed over the past four years to the PA as part of its ongoing “Support to Public Prosecution Services” program, which “aims to promote a fair and effective criminal justice system that protects the human rights of Palestinians,” and of the $50m. CIDA is spending on a “Courthouses Construction Project,” meant to “improve the Palestinians’ access to justice.”
Nor did any of CIDA’s $5m. “Judicial Independence and Human Dignity” program; $7m. “Access to Justice” initiative; and $11m. “Capacity Development in Forensic Science and Medicine” project – together implemented “to promote human rights as key aspects of the [Palestinian] justice sector” – prevent a Palestinian court from recently convicting Anas Ismail of “libel and slander” and sentencing him to six months in prison for “Liking” a Facebook posting critical of a PA official.
Canadian foreign aid to the Palestinians would also be conditioned, normally, on the PA’s ability to show a modicum of progress toward achieving financial self-sufficiency – an obvious prerequisite for statehood – rather than perpetually being on the verge of bankruptcy and thus constantly having to beg the international community for more money. In this respect, it seems that Canada’s $30m. contribution over the past five years to the “Palestinian Reform and Development Plan Trust Fund,” geared towards “allow[ing] the Palestinian Authority to strengthen its fiscal position to become more efficient and accountable,” has equally had none of the desired effects.
But in our less than imperfect world, diplomatic pressure, primarily from Arab countries, precludes Canada from using its financial leverage to extract minimal concessions from, or to induce rudimentary changes within, the PA, and likely even from taking the eminently reasonable step of curtailing future aid to the Palestinians in response to their intransigence, and given its dubious effectiveness.
Minimally, what Ottawa should, however, do is to reallocate funds away from two specific areas; namely, disbursements to Hamas-ruled Gaza and to The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
WITH RESPECT to Gaza, the situation is clear-cut, albeit harsh. In 2005, Israel uprooted every single Jew from the Strip, thereby handing Gazans, on a silver platter, the opportunity to build a better future for themselves under the self-autonomy they purportedly craved. Instead, they chose backwardness and endless war by “democratically” electing in January 2006 the Hamas terror organization. Gaza’s predicament, therefore, is of its people’s own doing; a culpability which, so long as they continue to embrace a genocidal entity’s murderous doctrine, a reality corroborated by poll after poll, renders them unworthy of tens of millions of dollars in Canadian assistance.
In fact, given Gazan Palestinians’ overwhelming support for violence (a study by the Arab World Research and Development organization following November’s eight-day conflict between Israel and Hamas found that 88% of Gazans agreed that “armed struggle, as adopted by Hamas, is the best means of achieving Palestinian independence”), it is shocking that Canada allocated approximately $10m. to reconstruction projects in the Strip in the immediate aftermath of Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009.
Canadian taxpayers should not have been, and should never again be, forced to foot the bill (eg. $4m. for an “Emergency Removal of Rubble and Other Hazards” program) for rebuilding a terror enclave, especially following a war necessitated by Hamas’ yearslong indiscriminate firing of rockets into the civilian centers of Canada’s most steadfast Middle Eastern ally.
Lastly, cutting off financial aid to Gaza would marginalize Hamas, while making clear to the Palestinian people that they will be held to account for their decisions.
Which brings us to UNRWA, whose contribution to prolonging the Israeli- Palestinian conflict cannot be overstated.
UNRWA, unlike the UN Refugee Agency, which is mandated with protecting the rights of all non-Palestinian refugees, is unique in that it deals exclusively with Palestinians who, as a matter of fact, are not even refugees at all.
Yet by expanding the original definition of “refugee” – one which, to this day, still applies to all non-Palestinians – to include the descendants of Palestinians displaced in the 1948 Arab- Israeli war, UNRWA effectively transformed Palestinian refugee status into a hereditary trait, a proto-genetic dependency to be passed onto each subsequent generation.
As a result, while approximately 750,000 Palestinians were displaced in 1948 – a number comparable to the 800,000 Jews driven out from Arab countries and subsequently resettled in nascent Israel – today there are some five million Palestinian “refugees” living in makeshift cities throughout the Middle East, including in the Palestinian territories. (That a Palestinian teenager living in the West Bank or Gaza could be considered a “refugee” evidences the delusion inherent to the alleged “Palestinian refugee crisis.”) In the not-too-distant future, there will literally be tens of millions of Palestinian “refugees” – none of whom were alive in 1948 – being taken care of by UNRWA from cradle to grave.
In this respect, UNRWA was not conceived to solve the Palestinian refugee situation, but rather to perpetuate it indefinitely. This inexcusable state of affairs persists not only unabated by the international community but, indeed, abetted by it to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Meanwhile, millions of Palestinians are reduced to a collective diplomatic weapon against Israel, purposely kept in a stateless state of limbo and denied basic human rights in every country they are located, save and except, ironically, in Israel. The exploitation of these Palestinians, not by the Jewish state but by the Arab-Islamic world, is one of the greatest human tragedies of our time; an unprecedented sham perpetrated to further anti-Zionist ideological objectives.
Most perverse is that the Palestinian leadership is foremost responsible, having exponentially exacerbated the refugee situation through its consecration of the so-called “Right of Return,” which would see millions of Palestinians flood Israel, thereby erasing its Jewish character. The PA’s promotion of, and stubborn adherence to, the completely irrational “Right of Return” will continue to constitute an insurmountable obstacle to peace until such time that the myth of the Palestinian refugee is laid to rest.
The best way to do this is to stop funding UNRWA. To this end, while Canada has already committed $15m. to UNRWA for 2013, on top of at least $45m. from 2009-2012, moving forward it has the opportunity to be the first country in the world to speak the truth about UNRWA’s nefarious policies – and then to refrain from funding them.The writer recently made aliya from Canada.. He can be reached at