"On the other hand, Israel has been allowing a growing number of extremist settlers to access the Al Aqsa compound (which they call Temple Mount) in violation of the religious status quo. Due to Israel’s role as an occupying power and its ongoing policies of dispossessing Palestinian Jerusalemites and replacing them with Jewish settlers (including in the Old City), any change to the status quo is understandably perceived as an attack on the right of Palestinians to Al Aqsa and East Jerusalem itself."
March 22, 2023
Darren Major, CBC Journalist, CBC News
Dear Mr. Major,
I’m writing to you on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME, https://www.cjpme.org) to request updates to the article, “Ottawa condemns Israeli minister's 'shameful' remarks about Palestinian people,” which was published by CBC News in the evening of March 21, 2023.
Let me start by noting our appreciation for covering this important issue, and for seeking a response from the Canadian government to the abhorrent comments by Israeli Minister Smotrich. Regrettably, such media requests are often the only way to push Canada into speaking publicly about harmful Israeli actions. Nonetheless, there are a few issues in the article which require an update, related to the following sentence:
The upcoming period is sensitive because large numbers of Jewish and Muslim faithful pour into Jerusalem's Old City, the emotional heart of the conflict and a flashpoint for violence.
First, the article does not specify that Jerusalem’s Old City is in East Jerusalem, which is considered occupied Palestinian territory under international law. This is not an opinion but a matter of a settled consensus at the international level, as confirmed by the United Nations Security Council and other legal bodies. It is also the long-standing position of the Canadian government.
I request that the article is updated to note that the Old City of Jerusalem is in occupied Palestinian territory, according to international law.
Second, the article says that the upcoming holiday period is “sensitive” and a “flashpoint for violence,” but does not specify why this is the case. Here it is important to note the context of occupation:
- On the one hand, during Ramadan, Israel temporarily eases restrictions on access to the Old City, allowing a greater number of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza to travel for worship. Similar processes are in place for Palestinian Christians who want to worship in the Old City during Easter. However, many restrictions remain, while others are arbitrarily reimposed without notice, creating tension as Israeli occupation forces regularly oppress Palestinian worshippers. The arbitrary imposition of restrictions at Damascus Gate, a key gathering site for Palestinians, was one of the triggers which contributed to the Palestinian uprising and acts of extreme Israeli violence in May 2021.
- On the other hand, Israel has been allowing a growing number of extremist settlers to access the Al Aqsa compound (which they call Temple Mount) in violation of the religious status quo. Due to Israel’s role as an occupying power and its ongoing policies of dispossessing Palestinian Jerusalemites and replacing them with Jewish settlers (including in the Old City), any change to the status quo is understandably perceived as an attack on the right of Palestinians to Al Aqsa and East Jerusalem itself.
These twin forces put large groups of Palestinians in closer proximity to the repressive infrastructure of the occupation as well as extremist Israeli settlers. I request that you update the article to include this context, which is necessary to demonstrate that any instance of violence is a consequence of the occupation, rather than something that is intrinsic to Ramadan or Palestinian Muslims (or Christians).
Finally, I’d request you include perspectives of Canadian civil society when discussing the positions taken by the Canadian government. For example, my organization issued a press release following Joly’s meeting with her Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen, noting our strong displeasure with the approach taken by Canada. We’d appreciate if you would consider including perspectives such as ours, as well as those of other human rights and Palestinian organizations, in your relevant coverage. Please let me know if you would like assistance in connecting with notable organizations and policy experts.
Thank you again for your reporting on this story, and for considering our requests. Should you wish, you can contact me at 438-380-5410 for more information.
Michael Bueckert, PhD
Vice President, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
CC: Mary Ito, Managing Editor of Digital Publishing, CBC News