CANADA CALLING: Jewish Groups Charge International Court Politicized by Arab Agenda

By Dirlik, John | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September 30, 1998 | Go to article overview

CANADA CALLING: Jewish Groups Charge International Court Politicized by Arab Agenda


Dirlik, John, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


CANADA CALLING: Jewish Groups Charge International Court Politicized by Arab Agenda

Echoing the position of the Israeli government, Canadian Jewish groups have protested the inclusion of a provision in the draft treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which they charge is politically motivated and singles out the Jewish state.

On July 17, 120 nations signed the Rome Statute paving the way for the establishment of a permanent Nuremberg-style court to try war criminals, perpetrators of crimes against humanity as well as crimes of aggression.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan described the agreement as a "gift of hope" and a "giant step forward...toward universal human rights and the rule of law." Canada played a key role in drafting the document and ensuring its overwhelming adoption, with Canadian diplomat Phillippe Kirsch hailing it as "humankind's finest hour."

But the United States and Israel were among seven nations that voted against the agreement, with Israel particularly annoyed over a provision introduced by Arab states that labels the colonization of occupied territories a crime. The Israeli delegation in Rome strongly objected to its adoption, saying it "fails to comprehend why it has been considered to insert into the list of the most heinous and grievious war crimes the action of transferring population into occupied territory."

Canadian Jewish groups said they recognized the need for an international court but objected to what they consider its politicization by Arab countries. "The Canadian Jewish community has for many years supported the establishment of an ICC [being] all too familiar with the horrors of genocide and the impunity with which the perpetrators of war crimes have acted," said Moshe Ronen, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress. However, Ronen added that efforts must be made "to ensure that this tribunal does not become a tool and a forum for states simply wishing to advance their political agenda," and called the inclusion of the provision on population transfer "a perversion of the concept of international criminality" that would "undermine the effectiveness and credibility of the ICC."

Brian Morris of the Canada-Israel Committee expressed similar views, saying that while his organization also supported in principle the idea of the ICC, "we are disturbed that the U.N. conference establishing the court has politicized the issue by bowing to Arab pressure to label Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a war crime."

Frank Dimant of B'nai B'rith Canada was equally confrontational. "To equate the establishment of schools and kindergartens in the West Bank with the murder of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis or the ethnic cleansing that took place in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda insults the memory of the victims of these horrific crimes. …

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