Petitioning Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham, On the Israeli aggression and violence in Rafah, Gaza

Friday 21 May 2004

Dear Mr. Graham, Honourable Sir,

Please find below a petition directed to you, signed this evening by over 50 people (with telephone numbers). We are concerned about Canada’s quiet, if not silent, diplomacy on the Israeli terror and bloodshed in Rafah, Gaza Strip. I will fax the hard copy with signatures tomorrow.

These people attended this evening’s Cries from the Land production in Ottawa on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict which proclaims a hopeful message of peaceful cooexistence brought by those who have the courage to speak peace. The play written in 1988 ironically drew its discourse from a house demolition in Rafah in the first scene.

We will be inviting others to sign at the Thursday and Friday productions as well. If you are in Ottawa, you are most welcome as my personal guest at the play at St. Paul’s University. I understand 26 DFAIT civil servants have reserved tickets for those two evenings.

For God’s sake, please act quickly in justice and truth.

Sincerely,

Fr. Robert C. Assaly
Chair
Canadian Friends of Sabeel

Petitioning Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham
On the Israeli aggression and violence in Rafah, Gaza

Mr. Graham,

We have attended the play Cries from the Land this evening in Ottawa, sponsored by Canadian Friends of Sabeel, a production proclaiming a hope rooted in human concern in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Coincidentally in the play, Rafah is derided by the Israeli military.

As concerned Canadians, we are shocked at the ongoing Israeli aggression today and for the last week in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. With tanks and fighter jets, with helicopters firing air-to-ground missiles on innocent civilians, Israeli military terror is being rained on Rafah. In the last 48 hours alone, dozens of Palestinian refugees have been slaughtered, hundreds injured and thousands rendered homeless; Israel promises more such aggression in the coming days.

International Law cannot be set aside for political expedience. The IV Geneva Convention protecting civilians under occupation, including all Palestinians in Gaza, must be applied.

Article 33 states, “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.” Moreover, Article 147 declares wanton destruction of property a
”grave breach”, a war crime. Under the Canada Geneva Conventions act, these actions are punishable by up to life imprisonment.

Mr. George W. Bush, while expressing “concern” about the attack on Rafah, maintains “Israel has a right to defend itself”. Notwithstanding that these actions are taking place outside Israel in Occupied Territories, there is nothing defensive about them. These acts of aggression, multiple killings and destruction by Israel have been declared by Amnesty International to be collective punishment, contravene international law, may be war crimes, and contradict both Canadian Foreign Policy and Canadian law as well as fundamental Canadian values which desire a just peace.

It seems despite the outrageousness of Israel’s violence and aggression, it is immune from serious American comment. Moreover, Mr. Graham, as our Foreign Minister, you have remained silent, taken as consent, in the face of this egregious violence and defiance of law.

We, the undersigned, expect you to speak publicly and swiftly on behalf of Canadians in condemning this most recent Israeli aggression, and to call for sanctions against Israel should it continue. We expect you to stand for justice, International law and Canadian values. We look forward to hearing your unambiguous response for our country in tomorrow’s news.

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