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Canada's aid politics fuel Palestinian division - Jesse Rosenfeld
Published Friday 05/03/2010 (updated) 07/03/2010 10:11
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Palestinian Authority securoty forces march for President Mahmoud Abbas
in front of the government headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah
on 23 December 2006. [MaanImages/Fadi Arouri]
In a uniquely Canadian way - politely, subtly - the Conservative government has made a clear statement in support of Israel’s divide-and-conquer rule over the Palestinian Territories.

By slashing funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and instead pumping money into the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) judicial sector - specifically toward training police, prosecutors and judges - Canada is playing politics with aid.

Canada is continuing its support for the UNRWA emergency fund this year, but is cutting funding for the UNRWA general program, which focuses on development and education. On the surface, it appears as though the Conservatives have simply redirected aid from an international organization that supports Palestinian refugees to a Palestinian-run body. However, scratch the surface and you find a brutal, Machiavellian reality.

UNRWA is the main aid and relief agency for Gaza’s 1.5 million locked-in residents, most of whom are refugees stemming from Israel’s creation in 1948. The organization is charged with providing services for the refugees until a just solution to their forcible exile is found. Canada's decision to cut core funding to the agency effectively scraps Canada’s historic support for UN Resolution 194, which supports the right of return for all Palestinian refugees of 1948. The larger ramifications of the move, then, make the Conservative cuts one of the government’s most succinct reversals of Canadian foreign policy in the region.

This is not simply an example of Stephen Harper’s diplomatic posturing for Israel. In an article subsequently reprinted in the Jerusalem Post, Treasury Board President Vic Toews told the Winnipeg Jewish Report that there was no cut in funding - just a reallocation to the PA judicial system, to bring aid in line with 'Canadian values.'

Evidently, Canadian values include funding a police force responsible for a two-and-a-half year campaign of political arrest and torture aimed at West Bank Palestinians involved in anti-occupation activities, primarily from the rival Hamas movement, but spanning the political spectrum.

The redirected aid will bolster the western-backed Mahmoud Abbas, President despite the expiration of his term in January 2009 or 2010, depending on how you read the election law. Supporting Abbas means supporting his program of security coordination with Israel and training PA security personnel by American Lieutenant General Keith Dayton. The US general is a veteran of the US invasion of Iraq, and has held the post since 2005.

Canada has not only stopped its meager supply of schoolbooks to Gaza, the Conservatives have turned aid into a gun.

The Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and Al-Haq, an affiliate of the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, all found evidence that PA police targeted members of rival factions with torture practices.

“All night I used to hear the screams of pain from the jail,” said a friend from Ramallah, who lived next door to a prison where political detainees were held.

Wisam Ahmed, advocacy officer at Al-Haq, helped to prepare the organization’s executive summary report on human rights violations by the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. It is called “Torturing Each Other.”

Although Al-Haq has raised the issue of a dangerous PA police track record with the use of torture with international organizations, there has been little movement for direct action. “I think there are various interests involved, and some of these third-party interests are different from what we feel are in the interest of ensuring Palestinian unity,” he said, referring to Israeli and American-led moves to isolate Hamas.

“If the international community is not interested in talking to all the parties involved, then their main interest is going to be to keep people sidelined.”

In its historical involvement in the Middle East, Canada used to use quiet humanitarian assistance to rebuild what Israel destroys. Now, Canada’s most powerful foreign policy tool is being used to join Israel fueling a bloody Palestinian fracture.

Jesse Rosenfeld is the editor of the Daily Nuisance, an English news and analysis site based in the Middle East. Rosenfeld has also written for the Guardian, the National (UAE) and many Canadian publications.

A version of this article originally appeared at the Daily Nuisance.
1 ) Robert Haymond / Canada
06/03/2010 13:07
Let me educate you clearly on this matter, Jesse. Stephen Harper is a straightforward leader who refuses to be bamboozled by the usual fashionable politically correct principles which you expound so elegantly. In short, Stephen Harper will not support terrorist activities. I hope these statements simplify matters for you, Jesse, so that you can hencefort write on middle=east matters with some genuine clarity.

2 ) Daniel / UK
06/03/2010 15:28
No he just takes away aid for giving children living under a brutal military occupation a chance of getting a decent education, and instead gives it to an unelected 'government' of collaboratoring thugs, crooks, thieves and torturers. Harper's in bed with terrorists.

3 ) Nour / Palestine
06/03/2010 16:45
Robert, please explain why Canada's traditional funding of UNRWA in Gaza or elsewhere amounts to "supporting terrorist activities" as you claim. This is totally unacceptable. Either you produce the evidence that this money, destined for education and basic services, is rechanneled to military activities against the Apartheid entity or simply zip it. The good people of Gaza/Palestine are living in abject poverty following their expulsion from their homeland. Canada should come to their aid.

4 ) Nour / Palestine
06/03/2010 16:48
Guess what Robert? Abbas or the PA are no longer legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people. Abbas' term expired in Jan.09. The current members of the PLC (most of whom were elected Hamas politicians) also had their legitimacy stripped from them following the end of their terms. The Western countries starting with Canada are supporting a small militia called "PA" in the West Bank in fact to keep the status quo intact...i.e. apartheid, encagement of Palestinians, and injustice.

5 ) Nour / Palestine
06/03/2010 16:53
Canadian values are *not* about collective punishment, open-air prison suffocating of 1.5 million people, and racism. It is about equity, justice, and liberty of human beings and their right to citizenship and a life of dignity. Having lived in Canada for 16 years, I have a strong idea what Canadian values are about having espoused them and for the rest of my life.

6 ) Jake / USA
07/03/2010 19:54
There is another explanation for Canada's choice to reallocate funding. The Palestinian government is extremely week and has little ability to enforce rule of law. US and EU training of a professional Palestinian police force in Jordan is a direct response to this problem, and the results have been quite positive. In fact, those troops that have been trained through this program have been reported using torture dramatically less then their locally trained counterparts.

7 ) Robert Haymond / Canada
07/03/2010 23:52
Nour, you know better than this. As to Canada's funding of UNRWA, he (Harper) refuses to deal with a terrorist organization (Hamas) and is redirecting funds. As to your opinions, while feeling bad for the poor people of Gaza, accept that the responsibility falls on the heads of Hamas operatives who prefer to buy and manufacture weapons as opposed to assisting their own people. When Israeli settlers left, they destroyed the productive greenhouses and turned them into missile launching pads.

8 ) Ja'abari / Gaza
09/03/2010 07:33
Thank God Canada sees through the hypocracy of nazis terrorists and their supporters

9 ) Hugo van Randwyck / United Kingdom
10/03/2010 20:47
If the Israeli and Palestinian football teams had a match, and Israel put 11 men on the football pitch and Palestine put 5 people on the pitch and 6 in the car park, which team do you believe would win? So when will Palestinian politicians organise voter registration of Palestinian refugees? So people in the West can 'see' the refugees. Let's hear the opinion of the refugees as well. There are things Palestinians can do to help themselves, including the diaspora.

10 ) Bill Neddow / Canada
11/03/2010 19:40
As a Canadian, I am appalled at Robert Haymond's comments. Harper is a nasty, underhanded neocon and bully who has less respect for human rights than George Bush. As for claiming Hamas is Terrorist -- then, in the same vein the government of Israel is a Terrorist government. It used even worse tactics to drive the British out (one of their bombs wiped out almost the whole British High Command). Noor has correctly stated CANADIAN values, as opposed those of the present Government.

11 ) Robert Haymond / Canada
12/03/2010 00:41
Sorry Bill, in spite of the vigour of your dissenting opinion, Stephen Harper will be voted in again. And, incidentally, sorry to burst your excessively liberal politically correct bubble but all of us know that Hamas is a terrorist organization if that means launching missiles and rockets against a civilian population (about 9,550 between 2000-2008 into southern Israel), equipping and sending out suicide bombers including pregant women and Down Syndrome adults. And that's what you defend?

12 ) Ja'abari / Gaza
12/03/2010 23:39
Bill you are misguided and I feel sorry for you. You are the tribute to education gone wild
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