Fredericton – Conservative MP Mark Adler for the Toronto riding of York Centre accused Fredericton postal worker Ruth Breen and her union, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), of using public funds to pay for her trip to the occupied West Bank in Parliament’s Question Period on March 5th. A brief account of Breen’s trip appeared in the union’s newsletter, The Rose.
Adler said, “Mr. Speaker, constituents from my riding have brought to my attention the latest propagandist newsletter issued by the radical Canadian Union of Postal Workers to its members. This radical political pamphlet outlines Fredericton local member Ruth Breen’s trip to Israel using public funds, while at the same time accusing Canada of committing war crimes through its support for Israel.”
Adler then asked the Minister responsible for Canada Post, Steven Fletcher, to respond. Minister Fletcher’s response: “Mr. Speaker, what the member has raised is awful. Using public funds for radical political trips is wrong. CUPW should apologize for this misuse of public funds and its anti-Israeli rhetoric. Will the Leader of the Opposition continue to support his big union bosses and their radical political views, or will he stand with taxpayers and demand an apology for the misuse of these public funds and to the state of Israel?” The Leader of the Opposition did not respond.
According to Breen, Adler is ill-informed. “I traveled to the West Bank on Atlantic Regional I International Solidarity Funds. I did not travel to the West Bank with public funds as Adler is alleging,” says Breen.
Breen says she is perplexed by Adler’s strong reaction to the use of “war crime” to describe Israel’s actions. She points to information found on federal government websites that support her assertion that Israel is committing war crimes.
Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967 (the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip). The Fourth Geneva Convention applies in the occupied territories and establishes Israel’s obligations as an occupying power, in particular with respect to the humane treatment of the inhabitants of the occupied territories. As referred to in UN Security Council Resolutions 446 and 465, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.
Canada opposes Israel’s construction of the barrier inside the West Bank and East Jerusalem which are occupied territories. This construction is contrary to international law under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Canada not only opposes Israel’s construction of a barrier extending into the occupied territories, but also expropriations and the demolition of houses and economic infrastructure carried out for this purpose.
Adler’s attack comes at a time when the Conservatives are attempting to pass Bill C-377 (an amendment to the Income Tax Act) through Senate. The Bill attempts to destroy the ability of unions to do political activity. Union leaders say that Bill C-377 is partly about countering political work that is unpopular with the Harper Conservative agenda; this includes Palestine solidarity work.
The Harper government has declared that there is no better friend to Israel than Canada. Canada was the first country in the world, before Israel, to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority following the election of the Hamas party in January 2006. Harper has referred to the illegal settlement blocks in the occupied territories as “democratic realities.” The Canadian government dropped Israel and the U.S. from a list of countries suspected of using torture in 2008.
“What I saw, heard, and felt in Occupied Palestine was not the narrative we hear Stephen Harper parroting — that Israel is only exercising its right to defend itself. I saw home demolitions, water denied, settlements encroaching on Palestinian land, displacement of peaceful farmers and a wall that in no way can be considered anything other than a prison wall, forcing an entire nation of people to exist in an open sky prison,” says Breen.
Cabinet Ministers have come out on swinging on the side of Israel in early March. Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, issued a statement against the ninth annual Israeli Apartheid Week. John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, speaking at the annual conference of the most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in the U.S., the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, threatened to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority if it took Israel to International Criminal Court over building settlements on the occupied lands.
Days after MP Adler attacked Breen and the postal workers for their November trip to the West Bank with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, he tweeted on March 8th that he had “great time at the CJPAC action party in Toronto.” CJPAC is the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee.
Established in late 2005, just ahead of the federal election that brought Harper to power in January 2006, CJPAC is a lobby group that aims to strengthen Canada-Israel’s relationship and boasts having relationships with all three political parties in Canada. The Harper government, Liberal Opposition in 2008 and NDP Opposition in 2012 did not condemn Israel’s offensives on Gaza that killed 1,400 in 2008 and 170 in 2012.
Breen will speak and show pictures of her trip to the West Bank at a public event in Fredericton on Wednesday, March 13th at 1:30pm at Carleton Hall Room 103, University of New Brunswick. The event is part of Israeli Apartheid Week, organized on mostly campuses across the world in March to raise awareness about the illegal occupation of Palestine and the Israeli Apartheid state.