Liberal and NDP MPs head to Jordan and West Bank to ask Palestinians how to promote peace

OTAWA –

Five members of Parliament are in the Middle East to hear from Palestinians about how Canada can best advance peace and human rights in the region, with plans to visit the West Bank, where violence has increased.

“It was really important for us to come and see the situation on the ground and see what they expect Canada to do,” Liberal MP Salma Zahid said Monday in a call from Amman, Jordan.

The group Canadian-Muslim Vote is paying for MPs to visit the region for six days, along with humanitarian groups. There are two Liberal and three NDP MPs on the trip.

Zahid, who heads the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group, said more MPs from other parties were invited, but some had scheduling conflicts. She wouldn’t identify them.

The Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois did not immediately respond when asked why none of their MPs were on the visit, and Canadian-Muslim Vote did not respond to an email asking who the group invited.

In November, Canadian Jewish organizations sponsored a visit to Israel by Liberal and Conservative parliamentarians to learn about the impact of the brutal Hamas attack in October.

The current delegation began its full day of activities on Monday and heard from UN agencies serving Palestinian refugees living in Jordan, some of whose families have been there since Israel’s creation in 1948.

Zahid said some UN staff told him that their colleagues in the Gaza Strip used to teach children whose schools are now closed. His parents now use books as fuel, due to the strict restrictions Israel has imposed on the entry of fuel and food into that region, they told him.

“This will stay with me all my life: that books are burned to provide fuel for some families to cook,” Zahid said.

“It is up to us to ensure that every child in the world receives the education and tools they need to succeed in life.”

Heather McPherson, NDP foreign affairs critic, said the delegation received a reality check from Canada’s ambassador to Jordan, who she said described how people across the Middle East are comparing Canada’s approach to the region with his strong support for the Ukrainians.

“It’s very direct about the implications that Canada’s actions will have and have on our international reputation (and) the fact that the rest of the world is looking for very different answers,” he said.

“They are disappointed in Canada and also the glaring inequity in Canada’s response,” McPherson said.

The Trudeau government has argued that it is upholding Canadian values ​​by pushing for Hamas to be held accountable, as well as wanting to end both the conflict and the plight of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

McPherson said the group plans to head Tuesday to the West Bank, an Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory that has seen an increase in violence in recent weeks. The group will also visit East Jerusalem, a disputed area of ​​the city.

“We’re going to be cautious and we have experts who are with us,” he said Monday night.

Since Israel began its bombardment of the Gaza Strip, the United Nations says there has been an unprecedented increase in violence in the West Bank, including by Israeli occupation forces, local Palestinians and Israeli settlers.

Muslim groups in Canada are urging Ottawa to do more about violence in the West Bank, where extremist settlers living in Israeli settlements that Canada considers illegal have taken up arms.

The Trudeau government has joined calls to revive a process to create an independent Palestinian state that would exist alongside Israel. However, Palestinian leaders say Ottawa is not exerting enough influence, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government has been cool to the idea.

Britain and the United States have imposed travel bans on extremist Israeli settlers, while Immigration Minister Marc Miller said Canada tends to view these decisions through the lens of criminal acts generally, rather than including a group of people as inadmissible.

He said in early December that Canada is “working with the United States” to ensure that criminals from these settlements do not enter Canada, although his office did not elaborate on what that entails.

McPherson said he is hopeful his delegation will provide ideas on how Ottawa can better respond to the crisis, including the humanitarian needs of a new wave of Palestinians displaced as a result of the war in Gaza. He maintains that misinformation about the conflict requires a delegation to get a sense of what Palestinians are going through.

“We talked to young people at a (UN) school who talked about how they are taught human rights, and they don’t know why, because human rights don’t apply to them. Because people don’t seem to think Palestinians deserve human rights. “, he claimed.

“It’s so shocking to hear things like that.”


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2024.

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