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ICJ decision: debate on arms sales to Israel | Middle East, the eternal conflict

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he arrives for a meeting of his caucus in Ottawa, January 26, 2024.

  • Rania Massoud (Consult the profile)Rania Massoud

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The appeal by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Israel to prevent any possible act of genocide in the Gaza Strip, where concern is growing over the fate of civilians, reignited the debate on Friday on exports of Canadian arms to the Jewish state.

While Justin Trudeau's government remains silent on this issue, three Liberal MPs affirmed that 'reflection on arms exports to Israel was now necessary.

They are the MP for Brampton Centre, Shafqat Ali, the MP for Louis-Hébert, Joël Lightbound, and the MP for Scarborough Centre, Salma Zahid , who also chairs the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group. All three have already signed a letter demanding that Canada join the growing number of countries calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East.

We need to look at this issue, Ali told reporters on the sidelines of a Liberal caucus meeting.

The MP for Brampton Centre, who has just returned from a parliamentary trip to the West Bank, claims to have met a 26-year-old Palestinian with a psychology degree who indirectly criticized Canada for providing both humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people and arms to Israel .

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We get bombarded on one side, and then , when we are injured, we get help with bandages, this young man would have told him.

Innocent lives are being lost and we should reconsider our policies.

A quote from Sahfqat Ali, Liberal MP for Brampton Centre

Ms. Zahid also judges that Canada must examine the question of the sale of arms to Israel, but she indicates that she must first examine the list of military equipment supplied before speaking at greater length on the subject.

Same reflection from Mr. Lightbound, who adds that Canada must be very careful about what it exports.

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Liberal MP Salma Zahid.

According to the latest Global Affairs Canada report on exports of military goods in 2022, Israel is the country that has obtained the most export licenses used for military goods and technologies, excluding the United States. In total, Israel obtained 315 export licenses in 2022, followed by the United Kingdom (290) and Germany (188).

According to the same report, Canada exported more than $21 million in military equipment to Israel in 2022. This amount was $26 million in 2021, placing Israel among the top 10 destinations for Canadian arms exports. Aside from the United States, Saudi Arabia tops this list, with more than $1 billion in military equipment imported from Canada in 2022.

Among the goods and technologies transferred to Israel, we find mainly electronic equipment designed specifically for military use ($10,465,925.01), aircraft and ;aviation equipment ($4,966,293.58) as well as bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles and other explosive devices ($3,174,297.90).

In accordance with its own law – the Export and Import Licensing Act (EILA) – and the International Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which Canada joined in 2019, Ottawa cannot issue export licenses for arms, munitions, equipment or war armaments to a given country if there is a serious risk that these weapons will be used to commit or to facilitate a serious violation of international law.

South Africa had seized the ICJ, arguing that Israel, in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which killed 26 083 deaths, the vast majority of women, children and adolescents, according to the Gazan authorities, violated the United Nations Convention on Genocide.

An accusation considered scandalous by Israel, which launched its military offensive after the attack carried out by Hamas against its territory on October 7, resulting in the death of more than 1,140 people, mostly civilians. Some 250 people were kidnapped in the attack and taken to Gaza, including around 100 released in late November during a truce in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

Without ruling on the question of whether Israel is committing genocide or not, the highest court of the UN calls on the Jewish state to do everything possible to prevent the commission of any acts falling within the scope of application. of the Convention.

In an interview with Radio-Canada, the leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, affirmed that the question of suspending the sale of Canadian arms to Israel did not arise before, given that Ottawa considers that the Jewish state has the right to defend himself. But today we come to the observation […] that since the State of Israel commits greatly exaggerated abuses, Canada could use this instrument to exert pressure, maintains Mr. Blanchet.

Canada has a duty to put enormous pressure on the State of Israel to stop […] the massacre […] of civilians in Gaza. Could [suspension] of arms sales be a tool? It’s possible.

A quote from Yves-François Blanchet, leader of the Bloc Québécois

Mr. Blanchet also emphasizes that Canada cannot act alone on this front. Ottawa is not credible on the international scene in military or security matters, he says.

To do this, Canada must align with its closest allies, including the United States and France, who also sell weapons to Israel. There is some reflection to be done, he adds.

On the side of the New Democratic Party (NPD), Alexandre Boulerice, deputy leader of the party and Member of Parliament for Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie, wanted to remind the federal government of its international obligations.

If, indeed, there are real risks of genocide in the Gaza Strip against the Palestinian people, it is the responsibility of Justin Trudeau's government to stop selling weapons or weapons components to the Israeli government, he said. – he said in an interview with Radio-Canada.

It's a question of consistency on the part of the Liberals, we'll see what they do will do, he added. But we in the NDP are clear that we are asking for an embargo on the sale of arms or arms components to [Benyamin] Netanyahu's government at the moment.

At the beginning of November, the leader of the NDP, Jagmeet Singh, and his deputies signed a letter urging the government to call for an immediate ceasefire and the release of all hostages and to stop arms sales to Israel [while working] with partners to end illegal arms transfers to Hamas. They also pleaded for an end to the occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The Conservative Party of Canada did not want to do comment on this question.

With information from Marie Chabot-Johnson

With information from Agence France-Presse

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