We call on Canada to courageously work for a Gaza humanitarian ceasefire

Overwhelming support from UN General Assembly for immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza

On Tuesday, 12 December 2023, an Emergency Session of the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted for a resolution demanding “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza.

Click on the image below for the voting breakdown by country.

27 October UNGA vote was 120 Yes – 14 No and 45 Abstentions

Canada was one of many Western countries to move from an abstention in the 27 October 2023 General Assembly vote “calling” for a “humanitarian truce” to a positive vote in the new resolution “demanding” an immediate ceasefire.

A few hours before the vote, Canada issued a joint statement with Australia and New Zealand, available here. In it, the three countries stated they were

alarmed at the diminishing safe space for civilians in Gaza. The price of defeating Hamas cannot be the continuous suffering of all Palestinian civilians.

Media headlines stress isolation of US and Israel

The Guardian headline read, US increasingly alone in Israel support as 153 countries vote for ceasefire at UN (12 December 2023), with the under-banner stating:

Vote highlights a stiffening consensus for a ceasefire in the war, which has killed more than 18,000 Palestinians

A CBC headline declared, Global opinion of the Israel-Hamas war is shifting, and not in Israel’s favour (Kris Reyes, 14 December 2023).

Noting first that the federal government’s decision to back the resolution has led to tension within the Liberal caucus, Kris Reyes outlines the key role of public protest in the change of policy following Canada’s abstention in the 27 October vote:

It faced criticism for that decision, with growing protests across the country and worldwide calling for a ceasefire as harrowing images and stories of civilians killed have emerged.

Reyes quotes Canada’s UN Permanent Representative Bob Rae, speaking on Power and Politics after the vote.

We have to respond to that in a humanitarian way.

Rae added that the vote does not change Canada’s support for Israel’s right to exist or defend itself against Hamas.

Amendment criticizing Hamas

some friends of Israel have introduced amendments to, once again, condemn only one side but exonerate the other. – Pakistani Ambassador to the UN Munir Akram

The ostensible reason for Canada abstaining on the 27 October vote was the failure of its proposed amendment specifically condemning Hamas, with no reference to egregious Israeli actions. This time around, the amendment was co-sponsored by Austria and the United States and once again failed to receive the required two-thirds majority to pass.

Ceasefire.ca comments:

Canadians were saved from the humiliating spectacle of Canada yet again putting a one-sided political condemnation of Hamas ahead of the central issue before the UN General Assembly — securing a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

Instead, we can wholeheartedly applaud Canada’s YES vote as a belated recognition of the global imperative to end the bombing of Gazan civilians.

EU also seeing trend away from supporting Israel

Reporting on how EU members voted on the ceasefire resolution, the Guardian concludes:

Inside the EU, division on the issue continues but the trend away from supporting Israel is apparent.

Disconnect continues between US statements and Israeli war conduct

There were signs before the vote was called that President Biden might be tentatively moving towards a more critical posture towards Israel.

As the Guardian reported:

At a 2024 re-election campaign fundraiser in Washington he warned the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that he was losing international support for the war on Hamas — a danger that paradoxically now equally applies to Biden himself.

Likewise, the US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, tried to strike a balance between support for Israel and concern for Palestinian civilians, asserting Israel’s right to self-defence while also stating to the UN General Assembly:

Israel must avoid mass displacement of civilians in the south of Gaza, and it must ensure sufficient humanitarian assistance to those who have fled violence.

US National Security Advisor meets War Cabinet

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with the Israeli prime minister and cabinet members on 14 Dec 2023 in Tel Aviv. The Guardian reports that Netanyahu and his ministers told Sullivan  that Israel would fight until

absolute victory against Hamas.

They also warned Sullivan that the war could last

more than several months.

Despite these blunt Israeli comments, in a news conference on Friday Sullivan called his meetings with Netanyahu “very constructive,” saying that the war would shift from the current campaign of heavy, wide scale bombing and armoured ground operations to a new phase focused on precise targeting of Hamas leaders and on intelligence-driven operations.

He added:

The conditions and the timing for that was obviously a subject of conversation with Netanyahu, other Israeli government leaders and military commanders.

New evidence of Israeli war crimes in Gaza bombing

In the meantime a leaked US intelligence assessment revealed up to 45% of the 29,000 air-to-ground munitions that Israel has dropped on Gaza since 7 October have been unguided “dumb bombs.”

The Guardian comments:

The leak about the munitions contradicted claims by the US state department that it had no concerns and no assessment whether Israeli bombing could be in breach of international humanitarian law.

At the same time The New Arab news outlet references a  report in the paywalled Financial Times based on analysis of publicly available satellite data and interviews with munitions experts. It has concluded that Israel is destroying Gaza at a faster rate than the WWII carpet bombing of Germany. In particular, the report found:

The depth of destruction caused by Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in less than seven weeks has been compared to the years-long Allied forces campaign on German cities during World War Two.

UNGA vote demanding a ceasefire must be followed up

After the vote, Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour said he and other UN ambassadors from the Arab Group and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will now consult with Security Council members about how to best implement the humanitarian ceasefire and try to negotiate the opening of multiple points of access to allow for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.

He added:

We need to have this ceasefire to allow this massive amount of humanitarian assistance to reach every corner of the Gaza Strip.

Israel apparently agrees to entry of aid into Gaza through second border crossing

half of the population are starving – Carl Skau, World Food Program

On the issue of desperately needed additional means of access for humanitarian aid into Gaza, Reuters reported on 15 December that

Israel has approved the entry of aid into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing, the Israeli prime minister’s office said on Friday.

Israel had previously agreed, as part of the hostage deal brokered and implemented last month, to allow the entry of 200 aid trucks per day. But the only crossing open, Rafah, could not accommodate more than 100 trucks per day.

Reuters further explains:

Kerem Shalom, on the border of Egypt, Israel and Gaza, is one of the main transit points for goods in and out of Gaza, allowing much faster transit than the Rafah passenger crossing a few kilometres away.

Israel had already agreed to allow trucks to be inspected at Kerem Shalom, but the trucks had previously been obliged to return to Rafah to cross into Gaza from Egypt, and aid groups had been calling for them to be allowed in directly through Kerem Shalom.

Good news but… – World Health Organization

The World Health Organization, while welcoming the announcement, warned that significant distribution issues remained inside the strip, where fuel is scarce and many roads are too damaged to use.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the OPT warns of public health disaster

We’ve got a textbook formula for epidemics and a public health disaster. – UN

Reuters is also reporting that Lynn Hastings, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, has warned that

Gaza faced a public health disaster due to the collapse of its health system and the spread of disease amid an offensive by Israel that has hit hospitals and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Hasting said that almost half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million was now in Rafah in the southern tip of the enclave to escape Israeli bombardment. She added:

This is leading to nothing but a health crisis.

Middle East experts warn of Gaza “genocide in the making”

As Israel continues its massive military assault on Gaza and world opinion continues to move strongly against it, a request has been made from regional experts to the UN.

The letter to the President of the UN General Assembly, dated 11 December 2023, begins:

We, a group of human rights advocates and experts from across the Middle East and North Africa, are writing to you today to request your immediate action to recognize and declare Israel’s atrocities during its military assault on Gaza as constituting a genocide in the making.

The letter outlines examples of “clear and unquestionable features of Israel’s genocidal action in Gaza,” namely:

  • Mass killing,
  • Forced displacement,
  • Deliberate mass starvation,
  • Destruction of vital infrastructure,
  • Denial of life saving and urgent critical health care,
  • Large volume of children killed,
  • Exponentially growing genocidal speech of incitement to kill and dehumanise the Palestinian population in Gaza (and elsewhere).

In the view of these experts, these acts together are

rendering Gaza uninhabitable and constitute a clear genocide in the making aimed at destroying a group in part or whole; creating conditions that would bring about the group’s collapse; and inflict serious physical or mental damage on the group.

The letter continues:

As members of the United Nations General Assembly, you have the duty to uphold the UN Charter and fulfill its mandate through the prevention of actions that aim to destroy the existence of a group of people in whole or in part.

The letter concludes:

We urge you to demand and work proactively to end the Israeli military assault on Gaza immediately, as well as ensuring the provision of international mechanisms to monitor, observe and ensure Israel’s compliance.

The letter has nearly 100 eminent signatories.

American Muslims call for Israeli accountability for war crimes

International law provides a pathway to peace and justice for Palestine and for Israel and preserves the fundamental principles of humanity for all mankind. – MPAC

For an extremely balanced and powerful statement from the American organization the Muslim Public Affairs Council, see Time to Demand Accountability for the War Crimes in Gaza (8 December 2023).

See also its 5 December statement MPAC Calls on Congress to Uphold First Amendment Rights of Free Speech in response to the passage by Congress of a resolution equating anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism.

New statement from Canadian and US experts on Palestinian rights advocacy and international law

We are particularly concerned that statements and campaigns that seek to draw attention to well documented breaches of international law have been characterized as antisemitic hate speech. – Alex Neve and 34 others

Former head of Amnesty International Canada Alex Neve and 34 other leading international law and human rights advocates from Canada and the US have just issued a statement underscoring the legitimacy and importance of raising concerns about occupation, apartheid, and genocide in Palestinian rights advocacy on university campuses and other settings.

The statement begins:

As lawyers and legal scholars with expertise in relevant areas of law, we provide the following clarification of certain legal issues that have arisen in the context of efforts to restrict or even punish Palestine solidarity advocacy on university campuses and in other settings.

Canadian public reaction to Canada’s ceasefire resolution support

To cite just one of the many Canadian organizations welcoming Canada’s change of vote, the National Council of Canadian Muslims called the UN vote a “milestone” that needs to translate into

the reality of action and deeds.

Their action email following the vote carries the subject line “Calling For a Ceasefire Was Step One,” and its concluding sentence reads:

Now, it is essential that Canada take action on yesterday’s vote and put pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government to end the bombardment of Gaza.

Ceasefire.ca comments:

We wholeheartedly agree with the NCCM statement. Now is the time for sustained pressure from all of Israel’s allies who cast a YES vote at the UN.

New report calls for halt to Canadian arms exports to Israel

Canada must immediately halt all arms transfers to Israel – Project Ploughshares

On 14 December 2023 Project Ploughshares released an extremely timely and pertinent report entitled Fanning the Flames: The grave risk of Canada’s arms exports to Israel (Kelsey Gallagher) calling for Canada to immediately halt all transfers of weapons to Israel.

damning evidence of war crimes – Amnesty International

Against the backdrop of “damning evidence of war crimes in Israel’s bombing campaign,” the report outlines the “substantial risk” that Canadian military goods could contribute to such abuses in Gaza.

The report states:

Of particular significance is Canada’s supply of military components to the United States, some of which are later supplied to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). These Canadian-made components include some integrated into the Israeli F-35I Joint Strike Fighter, which has reportedly been utilized in the ongoing bombardment of Gaza.

Noting that Dutch civil society organizations in November launched a legal challenge against the Netherlands for supplying F-35 components to Israel, the report cites a call from Human Rights Watch that same month that Canada

should suspend military assistance and arms sales to Israel so long as its forces commit wide-spread, serious abuses amounting to war crimes against Palestinian civilians with impunity.

The report then cites a statement by Human Rights Watch Canada that “the risks of war crimes being committed are very real” and that

if Canada knowingly continues to contribute to these attacks by supplying arms to Israel, it can be considered an accomplice to war crimes.

In an interview with the Globe and Mail about the report, Kelsey Gallagher added:

The gravity of this situation calls for immediate action to ensure Canada is meeting its domestic and international obligations to mitigate the risk of contributing to … violations of international humanitarian law, including possible war crimes, in Gaza.

No additional reviews by GAC since onset of Gaza military operation

As we have previously reported, Canadian officials recently stated that they had conducted no additional reviews on Canadian military exports to Israel since the operation in Gaza began. This inaction flies in the face of conclusions reached by Global Affairs Canada in an earlier report where

GAC had … determined that providing equipment used in airstrikes to end-users who had repeatedly violated IHL while conducting airstrikes would be barred under Article 7(3) of the Arms Trade Treaty.

Ceasefire.ca comments:

We have been calling for Canada to halt its arms exports to Israel since a similar call to the UK government was made by experts in early November. This report, specifically implicating Canadian military exports in Israeli air strikes, adds further urgency to that call.

Canada joins 14 other countries and EU in condemning West Bank violence

343 violent attacks, killing eight Palestinian civilians, injuring more than 83, and forcing more than 1,206 Palestinians from their homes – Joint statement

On 15 December 2023, Canada, 13 other Western countries and the EU issued a short joint statement calling on Israel to

take immediate and concrete steps to tackle record high settler violence in the West Bank.

Canada and the others expressed “their grave concern” about the record number of attacks and the resulting deaths, injuries, and dislocation of Palestinians, and “strongly condemned” them.

Reiterating their position that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal under international law and reminding Israel, as the occupying power, of its duty to protect the civilian population in the West Bank, the statement concludes:

While we welcomed the Government of Israel’s statement on this issue on November 9 where it conveyed that action would be taken against violent perpetrators, proactive steps must now be taken to ensure the effective and immediate protection of Palestinian communities. Words are important, but must now be translated into action.

EU foreign policy chief advocates real consequences for Israel

On 11 December 2023, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was “alarmed by the violence in the West Bank by extremist settlers” and condemned the Israeli government’s decision to approve 1,700 more housing units in Jerusalem in violation of international law.

Unlike the joint statement, however, Borrell focused not only on the need for Israel to act, but for EU members to do so as well, telling reporters after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels:

The time has come to move from words to actions … and to start adopting the measures we can take with regard to the acts of violence against the Palestinian population in the West Bank.

Borrell did not give details about the sanctions, but EU officials have said they will include bans on travel to the EU, echoing the visa ban recently imposed by the United States on settlers involved in violent attacks in the occupied West Bank.

Some EU states considering national measures

Ireland has indicated that it is open to considering sanctions at the national level if EU states cannot agree, France is considering such measures, and Belgium has said it will move ahead with a settler ban.

Ceasefire.ca comments:

We welcome condemnations by Western governments, including Canada, of the shocking violence being perpetrated daily by what Ireland rightly calls “terrorist settlers”, and we urge all signatory governments to adopt concrete measures for meaningful Israeli accountability.

Hostage negotiations may resume in wake of IDF hostage killings

On 14 December 2023, the Guardian reported that Israeli ministers had blocked an effort to restart Gaza hostage talks by the head of Mossad, the country’s foreign intelligence service.  In a statement in response, shocked and dismayed relatives of the abductees called for

 an immediate end to the deadlock in negotiations.

Less than one week later Reuters is reporting that

A senior Israeli envoy has met the prime minister of Qatar, a key mediator in the conflict in Gaza….

Representing Israel at those negotiations was Mossad director David Barnea, who met Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in a European capital, a source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Reuters further reports:

The hostage crisis has become ever-more acute in Israel since its military disclosed that troops had accidentally killed three hostages who approached them with a white flag after apparently having escaped their captors in Gaza on Friday.

Two of the three hostages were shot almost immediately, but the third hostage retreated to a nearby building and called out for help in Hebrew, to no avail.

Ruby Chen, father of 19-year-old hostage Itay, told Reuters:

The Israeli government needs to be active. They need to put an offer on the table, including prisoners with blood on their hands, and put the best offer on the table to get the hostages back alive.

Whither Canada?

The time for mere words is long past. In addition to supporting Qatari and related diplomatic efforts for a humanitarian ceasefire, the single most important step that Canada can now take is to immediately halt all arms exports to Israel.

The time for mere words is long past.

We reiterate our call — in the name of international law and our country’s clear obligations thereunder and in the name of our common humanity — for Canada to immediately halt all arms exports to Israel.

We call on the Government of Canada to implement tangible means of accountability, such as visa bans and other measures, to curb illegal settler violence in the Occupied West Bank.

We call on the Government of Canada to support Qatari and related diplomatic efforts for a humanitarian ceasefire as an essential first step towards ending the war and beginning the work for a just and enduring peace based on a freely negotiated two-state solution.



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: < justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca  >

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly: < melanie.joly@parl.gc.ca >

Leader of the NDP Jagmeet Singh: < Jagmeet.Singh@parl.gc.ca >

Leader of the Conservative Party Pierre Poilievre: < pierre.poilievre@parl.gc.ca >

Leader of the Bloc Quebecois Yves-François Blanchet: < Yves-Francois.Blanchet@parl.gc.ca>

Green Party Critic Elizabeth May: < Elizabeth.May@parl.gc.ca >

And find your local Member of Parliament HERE.

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Photo credits: WFP/Ali Jadallah; UNICEF UK; Parliament of Canada

Tags: Alex Neve, Canadian arms exports to Israel, Gaza bombardment, genocide in the making in Gaza, hostage negotiations, humanitarian ceasefire, Israel - Hamas war, Israeli F-35I Joint Strike Fighter, Israeli war crimes in Gaza, Palestinian rights advocacy, Qatar and diplomacy, terrorist settler violence in Occupied West Bank, UN General Assembly ceasefire vote, UN Humanitarian Coordinator, war crimes complicity