GATINEAU, Que. – A United Nations special investigator’s latest criticism of Israel’s conduct towards the Palestinians is part of a disturbing pattern, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird charged Friday.
Baird’s remarks marked the latest example of two of the most firmly planted pillars of Canadian foreign policy under the Conservatives: a defence of Israel and criticism of the UN.
Canada joined Israel and the United States in calling for the removal of Richard Falk, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories.
This week, Falk called for a boycott of companies that have dealings with Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem until they meet international rights standards.
Baird said Falk’s latest report is part of a pattern of bias towards Israel.
“Mr. Falk’s comments are both offensive and extremely unhelpful,” Baird said. “I wish this was the first time he has made such comments, or taken such actions, but it’s not.
“I think when people make these type of outrageous statements, they’ve got to be condemned,” he added.
“There’s a pattern here obviously that causes us great concern.”
Baird did not elaborate. In an earlier statement, he echoed the calls for Falk’s removal.
The Harper government has been highly critical of what it says is a UN bias against Israel, a country it vocally defends at every opportunity. Critics of the Harper government accuse it of the opposite — of an almost slavish support of everything Israeli.
Harper decided not to deliver Canada’s address to the UN General Assembly this past September even though he was in New York to receive an international statesman award.
Harper used his acceptance speech to criticize the UN. He was being honoured by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an inter-faith peace organization founded by a rabbi.
Baird delivered Canada’s UN address and used it to level a blistering attack on the organization itself, singling out its inability to stop the bloodshed in Syria.
Canada got another opportunity earlier this week when Falk said that Israeli companies and others based in the U.S., Europe and Mexico may be violating international human rights and humanitarian laws. He pointed to companies that help build and provide security for illegal Israeli settlements, as well as those that exploit Palestinian resources.
Falk called for further investigations into the matter and for a boycott of those companies. Falk noted that Israel’s construction of settlements has been growing while it ignores UN resolutions condemning the practice.
A senior government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Baird is most concerned about Falk’s call for a boycott.
Baird said Canada isn’t contemplating any further action, other than speaking out.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Friday he hadn’t read Falk’s report.
But that didn’t stop Kenney from launching into a passionate defence of Israel and a scathing criticism of the Jewish state’s detractors.
“It’s our view that there can be entirely valid, legitimate criticism of the policies of an Israeli government, but those efforts to single out the only Jewish country in the world for particular unfair treatment or to target it, that sometimes becomes very worrisome as to what’s really behind this,” Kenney said.
Kenney singled out the UN Human Rights Council, which he said “has passed dozens of resolutions” on Israel but “virtually none on brutal dictatorships like Iran and Syria.”
“I think there is an imbalance that is very problematic and that I and the prime minister have identified as something that does not reflect the best values of human dignity,” Kenney added.
“I believe that the Jewish people have a right to a homeland, that those who say that the Jews alone don’t have a right to a homeland have a lot of explaining to do.”
In September 2011, Kenney told a UN gathering in New York that Israel is becoming the target of a “new anti-Semitism” that is “now disguised as anti-American, anti-Western and anti-Israel, but it ultimately espouses the same old hatred and intent.”
Last spring, Kenney blasted the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, who concluded Canada was not living up to its international human-rights obligations because it was ignoring hunger within its own borders.
Kenney called the finding “ridiculous” and said it was a “waste of resources to come to Canada to give political lectures.”