Can Canada ease Middle East conflict without recognising Palestine?

WHILE the Canadian House of Commons sidesteps the recognition of Palestinian statehood, it endorses the roles of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court in the fray.

The NDP motion stirred the pot in Ottawa, challenging Canada to unilaterally acknowledge Palestine. The demands were bold: immediate ceasefire, release of hostages, halt to military trade with Israel, clampdown on illegal arms including those to Hamas, barring extremist settlers, and recognizing Palestine, eyeing a two-state solution.

The Liberals, however, watered down the motion, maintaining the status quo on Palestinian statehood while committing to “work with international partners” towards a fair and enduring peace in the Middle East, reinforcing Israel’s right to peace and security alongside its neighbours.

Amid the fray, a critical component concerning the accountability of Hamas and Israeli forces for international crimes was nearly obscured but survived in the final text. It underscores Canada’s backing for the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice to prosecute all atrocities in the region.

Canada, a signatory to the ICC along with Palestine, now finds these courts with jurisdiction over the atrocities committed there since investigations began in 2021. Despite historical resistance from both Conservative and Liberal corners to support the ICC’s involvement in Palestine – given non-recognition of Palestinian statehood – the tide has turned with the Liberals’ new stance under Foreign Minister Melanie Joly’s announcement post-motion.

This is a landmark shift, marking the first instance of a Canadian administration supporting legal recourse for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in the Israel-Palestine context. This begs the question: what does “support the work” of the ICC truly entail?

First steps are clear: Canada must vocally and unequivocally support the ICC’s ongoing probes into alleged war crimes by Hamas, the Israeli military, and settler violence in the West Bank. A high-profile visit by Joly or her colleagues to the ICC in The Hague could symbolize this commitment robustly.

Recognition of Palestine as a state is unnecessary for ICC’s recognition in legal proceedings, as evidenced by Spain and Belgium’s active support despite their non-recognition stance. Similarly, Canada can bolster the ICC’s efforts as it has with investigations in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

Beyond international courts, Canada could initiate its own inquiries into alleged war crimes in both Palestine and Israel, akin to its actions regarding Ukraine. This would involve gathering evidence and possibly prosecuting alleged perpetrators within its jurisdiction.

Further, while the ICC’s scope may be limited to a fraction of perpetrators due to its caseload, Canada could explore the creation of an additional, perhaps hybrid, court with both Palestinian and Israeli legal bodies for broader accountability.

Accountability for war crimes won’t resolve the conflict but can deter the cycle of violence and revenge through justice – an “off-ramp” for those driven to despair and hatred.

In conclusion, the Canadian government now faces the opportunity to lead by example in international justice, potentially paving the way for a more just future for Palestinian and Israeli victims alike. The newly passed motion is not just a token of diplomatic posture but a directive for tangible action. Don’t just take my word for it – read the motion. It’s a commitment etched in parliamentary ink. – April 24, 2024.

* Che Ran reads the Malaysian Insight.  

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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