UPDATED: Diplomats decry West Bank annexation plan, more security rethinking, Saudi debts and the PM’s “pregnant pause”

Former diplomats urge PM Trudeau to condemn Israeli annexation plans

In an Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, delivered on 1 June and publicly released the following day, over 50 retired Canadian diplomats, including many ambassadors and three former Liberal ministers, urged him to defend Canada’s historical commitment to multilateral institutions and international law by “speaking loudly and clearly” against Israel’s proposed ‘annexation’ of significant parts of the Occupied Palestinian West Bank.

The letter reads in part:

The unilateral annexation of territory is strictly prohibited under international law. This is a centrepiece of the Charter of the United Nations, San Francisco, 26 June 1945, and has been consolidated by treaties and resolutions, judicial rulings and scholarly writings ever since.

CBC journalist Evan Dyer was the first to report on the Open Letter. See: Ex-ministers, ambassadors call on Trudeau to push back against Israeli annexation plan: Diplomats warn that ‘territorial conquest’ in the Middle East is a program for disaster (cbc.ca, 2 June 2020).

See also: Dozens of former Canadian diplomats urge Trudeau to speak out opposing Israel’s annexation plans (Peter Larson, canadatalksisraelpalestine.ca, June 2020).

Whither Canada?

In our May 22nd blog post on this issue, we reported that, while a spokesperson from Global Affairs Canada had expressed Canada’s “deep concern” over “unilateral” annexation, the “read-outs” provided to the media of the recent conversations between Prime Minister Trudeau and the Israeli leadership did not include any mention of the proposed annexation.

However, after the Open Letter had been made public, the Prime Minister himself addressed the issue, denouncing Israel’s plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, and relating that he had expressed Canada’s disagreement over the proposed annexation directly to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the country’s “alternate” prime minister under a power-sharing agreement:

I’ve been very direct with the Israeli leaders…. We deplore such actions, which are going to delay any prospect of lasting peace in the Middle East.

See: Israeli, Chinese polices ‘concern’ Canada, undermine freedom, says Trudeau (Mike Blanchard, nationalnewswatch.com, 2 June 2020)

One of the signatories to (and coordinators of) the Open Letter, RI President Peggy Mason observed:

The fact that the Prime Minister only shared his Israeli government rebuke with the Canadian public after the Open Letter brought renewed media scrutiny speaks volumes. It is long past the time for more of the Canadian media to gather up their courage and report on Israeli international law transgressions as forthrightly as Evan Dyer (CBC) and Mike Blanchard (Canadian Press) have done in this instance.

For the full text of the Open Letter (in English and French), including the list of signatories, click Annexation Open Letter.

More media focus on Open Letter over the June 6 weekend

On Sunday 7 June 2020 the Toronto Star carried the following editorial: Canada must speak louder on Israel’s dangerous plan (Star Editorial Board, thestar.com, 7 June 2020). It stated in part:

Until this past week, however, the Trudeau government was conspicuously quiet on the issue, so much so that a group of 58 former Canadian diplomats and politicians, including four former Liberal ministers, signed a letter urging the prime minister to find his voice.

That prompted Trudeau to do what he should have done earlier — speak directly to the issue and uphold Canada’s commitment to international law.

Most importantly, the editorial called for further Canadian government action:

…other countries, including Canada, owe it to Israel to warn in the strongest terms that he is leading his country down a destructive path.

For the full Toronto Star editorial click Canada must speak louder on Israel’s dangerous plan (Star Editorial Board, thestar.com, 7 June 2020)

Exciting new developments in “rethinking” security

Oxford Research Group launches first-ever Sustainable Security Index

We are pleased to report some exciting new developments in the area of “rethinking security” or what we have identified as the need to “shift” from a competitive, arms-racing model of defence and security to a positive vision of sustainable peace and common security.

The first is a new report, the Sustainable Security Index Report, from the Oxford Research Group. Its Global Security Consultant is Bradford university professor of peace studies Professor Paul Rogers, a leading analyst who frames issues in terms of “international peace and security” rather than evoking the prevailing military and national security models that have proven so catastrophically counter-productive in the 21st century.

The authors of this groundbreaking report, which launches the Sustainable Security Index, are Abigail Watson, Alasdair Mckay and Oliver Scanlon.  In their words:

The Sustainable Security Index is the first global ranking to measure the true drivers of instability. The Index highlights why states need to move beyond a narrow understanding of security to an integrated approach that addresses the key drivers of instability: (1) unsustainable environmental policies, (2) poor governance and inequality and (3) over reliance on military force.

It ranks 155 countries based on their contributions to global security and seeks to instigate a conversation around how to measure and change policies which exacerbate, rather than alleviate, the drivers of conflict.

The Index report explores three key stories based on the data findings:

  1. Global insecurity often impacts poorer countries disproportionately – despite the fact they often contribute the least to its creation. Richer countries, with the power to drive change towards more sustainable global security, should take greater responsibility to do so.
  2. Examining the bottom 15 in the Index reveals the continued failures of international intervention and highlights the need for a new approach to tackling global insecurity.
  3. While the international community may be increasingly recognising the need to address climate change, national spending patterns reveal it also needs to significantly offset its wider contribution to global insecurity.

For the full report, click: Sustainable Security Index Report (oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk, 31 May 2020).

Redefining national security for the post-pandemic world

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former director of policy planning in the U.S. State Department (2009-2011), CEO of the think tank New America, Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, and the author of Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family, writing for the Project Syndicate since 2006, is the author of a trenchant commentary: Redefining national security for the post-pandemic world (project-syndicate.org, 3 June 2020). In language that complements the UN 2030 agenda for fostering peace and sustainable development Slaughter writes:

Three decades of efforts to broaden the definition of “national security” have largely failed, and it is time to try a new approach. Thinking instead in terms of global security would expand policy discussions beyond national governments and lead to a stronger emphasis on making societies more resilient.

She goes on to argue that, instead of widening our definition of national security, we need to start narrowing it. That means distinguishing national security from global security and putting military security in its place alongside many other equally important but distinct priorities.

After examining the broad array of civilian actors that would necessarily be involved in building global security, she concludes:

Traditional military security is ultimately focused on winning. But many global threats primarily call for greater resilience – that is, less winning than withstanding. As Sharon Burke of New America has argued, the goal is more to build security at home than to destroy enemies abroad.

For the full article, click Redefining national security for the post-pandemic world (Anne-Marie Slaughter, project-syndicate.org, 3 June 2020).

More government-facilitated loans for unpaid Saudi LAV bills

Canadian Press reporter Geoff Robins, in a June 8th article (also carried under a paywall by the Globe and Mail), revealed that the government of Canada is apparently covering for huge debts racked up by the government of Saudi Arabia with respect to their notorious 2014 contract to purchase up to $14 billion of Canadian-made so-called “light” armoured vehicles over the next ten years. Robins writes:

Last fall, the federal government used a rarely used report to Ottawa’s export finance agency to provide $650 million in support to the defence contractor who was building combat vehicles for Saudi Arabia, an aid that came as Riyadh lagged behind on the payment of these machines.

The support, in the form of a repayable loan, was provided to General Dynamics Land Systems Canada last September through the Canada Account, according to Export Development Canada (EDC).

Experts assume the fall 2019 loan was intended to help General Dynamics deal with cash flow problems caused by the Saudis who have repeatedly failed to make payments on the LAV contract.

Cesar Jaramillo, reflecting the views of a coalition of civil society organizations including Amnesty International, the Rideau Institute, and his own organization, Project Ploughshares, asks the question of the hour:

How is it justifiable for the Canadian government to intervene with a huge loan to General Dynamics Land Systems Canada (GDLS-C), the Canadian subsidiary of a major U.S. defense company, General Dynamics Corp, which last year reported revenues of more than US$39 billion and a profit of more than US$3.4 billion?

Post-script — a different view of the Prime Minister’s “pregnant pause”

Most readers will by now know of the 21 seconds that passed between CBC reporter Tom Parry‘s question — on Trudeau’s reaction to the gassing of peaceful protestors in Washington, D.C. to make way for a Trump photo op — and the Prime Minister’s answer.

We at ceasefire.ca do not shy away from harsh criticism of the Prime Minister when warranted, as anyone familiar with our blog will know. But on this occasion we believe the general media view that he was ‘at a loss for words’ is mistaken. The Government of Canada has determined that direct criticism of President Trump, however satisfying in the moment, is almost always not worth the potential damage to Canada it might elicit from a man that many commentators have labeled a “malignant narcissist”.

So the Prime Minister chose instead to let his silence do the talking. Watch the video again and see if you agree.

Of course the broader issue at play here is the unconscionable economic dependence of our country on one other, the United States. Any serious Canadian rethinking of security — which we continue to call for — must make greater economic diversification a key part of building a sustainable green economy going forward. – RI President Peggy Mason

Whither Canada?

To help prepare the way for an urgently needed fundamental reimagining of Canada’s role in building a genuinely global security architecture, we reaffirm our call for all-party and civil society virtual consultations to begin on the establishment of a Canadian International Centre for Peace, Order and Good Government.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Global Affairs Building)



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