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Statement by Ambassador Bob Rae at the UN General Assembly Session on the continuing devastating violence in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza

New York, 20 May 2021

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No issue since 1945 has preoccupied this Assembly more than of the Israeli and Palestinian issue. Canada has played an active role since the earliest days of the conflict. We supported the principle of two states for two peoples.  We led in the establishment of the Suez peacekeeping force in 1956, and have worked hard since that time to address the underlying causes of the conflict, and we remain ready and willing to respond to the needs of the parties, in the interests of peace and security.

Canada is profoundly troubled by the ongoing violence in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel.

The conflict has led to significant civilian loss of life. The toll – particularly on women and children – has already been too great. Canada joins its allies and friends in urging utmost restraint by all sides and strongly supports the work of the United Nations and other countries aimed at negotiating a ceasefire and restoring calm.
Thousands of lives have been lost since 1945. These lives are not just numbers.  They are real people, with families, hopes and dreams. Their loss should move us all to action.

We call for an immediate de-escalation, protection of civilians, and an end to all violence. We call for a resolution of the underlying causes of the conflict. We call for peace, mutual recognition, and mutual respect.

Mr. President, let me be clear, Canada stands firmly with both the Israeli and Palestinian people in their right to live in peace, security, with dignity, without fear, and with their human rights fully respected.

We strongly support the work of the United Nations, Egypt, Jordan, and the United States to negotiate a ceasefire and to maintain the freedom of religion and belief at the holy sites in Jerusalem.

The indiscriminate barrage of rockets fired by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad into Israel are completely unacceptable and must cease immediately. They put the safety of civilians and security of airspace and shipping lanes at great risk. The material and financial support to these groups, listed as terrorist organizations by Canada, must end.

We strongly support Israel's right to live in peace with its neighbours within secure boundaries, and its right to assure its own security. This right also comes with the immense responsibility and obligation to act in accordance with international law. The use of force has led to significant civilian loss of life and we continue to urge utmost restraint, and repeat our call for a ceasefire.

We are also profoundly concerned about the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

In the last few days, and amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we have more than 70,000 Gazans living as Internally Displaced Persons – IDPs – many of whom have been forced to take refuge in UNRWA schools, under dire conditions.

Civilians in Gaza are currently facing shortages of medicine, food, fuel, and other essentials of life. We recognize that Israel has allowed the entry into Gaza of humanitarian convoys and we urge all parties to continue to facilitate the safe movement of humanitarian supply into Gaza, and to ensure it reaches the most vulnerable.

It is completely unacceptable to see health care and humanitarian workers and facilities under fire. Every effort should be made to ensure their safety and security. International humanitarian law must be respected by all parties.

Canada also reiterates the fundamental importance of protecting journalists and press freedom. Journalists and media workers are the cornerstone of any fair, strong and vibrant society and must be free to do their work without fear. Any violence against journalists is completely unacceptable, especially in volatile contexts where they are risking their lives to do their jobs.

Furthermore, Canada remains gravely concerned by the continued expansion of settlements, demolitions, and evictions, including the ongoing cases in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan. These actions impact families and livelihoods, do not serve peace, and are a violation of international law. Consistent with our longstanding position, Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967. We must do everything we can to achieve a negotiated agreement that will settle the issues still in dispute.

Mr. President,

Regrettably, and connected to the current situation in the region, Canada has observed an increase of hatred, including antisemitism, Islamophobia and Anti-Arab sentiments, at home and around the world.

It is our collective responsibility to fight hatred and condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

Canada is committed to standing against hatred and discrimination in all their forms and is committed to working with our domestic and international partners to promote and defend pluralism, inclusion and human rights at home and abroad.

Let me assure you, Mr. President, that Canada is committed to the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel. We will always support efforts for a two-state solution. Canada remains firmly committed to advancing democracy, human rights, equality, inclusion, and international law at home and around the world.

For decades, this conflict has caused much pain to both Palestinian and Israeli families and impacted the social fabric in the region. Mutual recognition and respect are critical foundations for a lasting peace. Canada urges all members of this auspicious UN General Assembly to remain engaged on efforts that can bring a peaceful and a sustainable resolution to this devastating conflict.

Thank you

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