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The Old City of Jerusalem. Photo: CIJnews

Former Canadian ambassador to Israel: Settlements are a “cancerous growth”

In an interview with the United Church Observer, former Ambassador to Israel Michael Bell referred to Israeli settlements in Judea and “a growing and cancerous obstacle.”

Bell, a United Church member, blames the diminishing prospects for a two-state solution on the “right wing and expansionist” Israeli government, and specifically on Jewish settlements, which he calls a “growing and cancerous obstacle” to peace with the Palestinian Arabs.

Even though Bell mentions in passing Palestinian “shortcomings” without providing a single example of what those shortcomings are, he lays the blame for the Israel-Arab conflict squarely on Israel’s shoulders. Bell doesn’t mention Palestinian terrorism, or rejection of Israel’s offers of or Mahmoud Abbas’ refusal to negotiate with Israel without preconditions.

Bell says that the last real opportunity for an agreement was when former prime minister Ehud Olmert offered a near-total withdrawal from the West Bank, giving Palestinians 94% of the West Bank along with a link to the Gaza Strip, but didn’t mention that the Palestinian leadership rejected the offer because Israel would not agree to accept millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees.

“Years ago, there was a decent chance for a viable two-state solution, but now the settlements — with over half a million nationalist Israelis in them — are a growing and cancerous obstacle”, Bell said, but conveniently forgot that Arabs have repeatedly rejected a two-state solution, beginning in 1947 when Jews living in British Mandated Palestine accepted the UN partition and reaffirmed their intention to coexist peacefully with Arabs living in the area. Instead of accepting the partition, Arabs refused and responded with riots, violence and war.

In 1967, after defending itself against another war of annihilation, the Israeli government accepted UN Resolution 242 and voted unanimously to return the vast majority of territories it had captured (the Sinai Desert, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip and West Bank) in exchange for peace. The Arab response was – no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel, effectively slamming the door on any possible progress towards peace.

What Bell also conveniently forgot to mention is that Arabs refused to make peace with Israel prior to 1967, before there were any settlements in the West Bank.

Bell was completely silent on a historic proposal made to the Arabs in 2000 at Camp David, which included almost all of the West Bank (plus additional territory from Israel proper), the entire Gaza strip, Palestinian control over East Jerusalem, and a $30 billion solution for the Palestinian refugees. Palestinians, once again seizing the opportunity to miss an opportunity, turned it down, instead launching the Second Intifada, a violent uprising during which over 1,000 Israeli civilians and soldiers were murdered.

Bell was didn’t mention Palestinian Authority’s refusal to negotiate with Israel during Israel’s 10-month construction freeze on all its settlements in the West Bank imposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under pressure from Barack Obama in 2009.

Bell also failed to mention that the most recent rejection by the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel came last year, when PLO Executive Committee member Mustafa Barghouti rejected then Secretary of State John Kerry’s six-point peace plan, including refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

When asked what he thinks about the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, Bell said: “Rightly or wrongly, it contributes to the sense of victimization that many Israelis already have and to the fear of anti-Semitism”.

What Bell intentionally omitted from his comment is the open and ultimate goal of BDS, which is the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state by means of political, economic, academic and cultural isolation.

BDS activists often present their case in terms of peace and justice, but the real agenda of BDS becomes clear when the views of the movement’s leaders are examined. BDS are on record opposing a two-state solution or any other resolution to the conflict that would recognize the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their homeland.

In 2012, As’ad Abu Khalil, a central BDS activist in the U.S., wrote: “There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel”. And in 2010, pro-BDS author Ahmed Moor stated: “BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state…Ending the occupation doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t mean upending the Jewish state itself.”

United Church of Canada, of which Bell is a member, has a proven anti-Israel bias. In 2012, the church adopted BDS as its official platform, which it reaffirmed in 2015. The church council supports the “right of return” to Israel of millions of descendents of the original Palestinian refugees, whether through compensation or resettlement, but remains completely silent on the rights and compensation of the almost one million Jewish refugees who were violently dispossessed from Arab countries after the re-establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

It also calls on Israel to dismantle the security barrier, constructed as a response to hundreds of Palestinian suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, which killed nearly 1,000 innocent people and wounded thousands of others. The security barrier, which prevents Palestinian terrorists from easily infiltrating into Israel, was overwhelmingly supported by the Israeli public and was deemed legal by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Additionally, the church completely ignores the daily incitement and demonization of Israelis in Palestinian media, schools and mosques and the glorification of terrorism through the naming of public squares and streets after the murderers of Israeli women and children.

United Church of Canada doesn’t recognize its own double standard when it states that “it is not appropriate for a church to call on Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state as a prerequisite to peace negotiations”, but feels that it is entirely appropriate for a church to demand that a sovereign and democratic State of Israel compromise its national security by dismantling a separation barrier and putting millions of Israeli men, women and children at the mercy of Palestinian suicide bombers.

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About Ilana Shneider

Ilana Shneider
Ilana Shneider is the co-editor of CIJnews and the founding executive director of Canada-Israel Friendship Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the mutually beneficial, long-standing diplomatic, economic and cultural ties between Canada and Israel. She can be reached at [email protected]

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