CIDO’s Founder and Chairman
September 13, 1993, a day to remember when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin shook hands with Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn. “The time for peace has come,” Rabin declared. Now was the moment “to build a home, to plant a tree, to love, to live side by side with you in dignity, in empathy as human beings.” I wept with joy.
As an Palestinian born in Jaffa shortly after Israel became a new nation, my family had suffered and scattered in the many wars that had followed marked the previous century in our ancestral lands. Inspired by the historic ceremony in Washington, I ordered some T-Shirts for family and friends with the image of Rabin, Arafat, and Clinton on the front and my own hope on the back: “Be not afraid of going slowly/ Be afraid of standing still.” Things did not stand still; they went backwards.
Soon after, an Israeli madman shot Rabin. Empathy disappeared, death stalked the land. Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to the extremists in Israel, and refused to live “side by side” with Palestinians in dignity. Fearing he would lose an election, he inspired fear by declaring that the Arabs were flooding the polling stations. Walls separated people; words inspired hate.
What seemed a White House triumph in 1993 was a White House farce this week. There was no eloquence, no Abbas (the current President of the Palestinian people) or any Palestinian leader, and no evidence of empathy, dignity or love. The best comment came in Steve Bell’s cartoon in The Guardian showing two aged leaders with the title “Deal of the Century” and the bottom line, “Keep Bibi and Don Out of Jail Free.” With Bibi indicted and Trump impeached, a diversion is badly needed.
While commentators overwhelmingly applauded, as did I, the Oslo Accords that caused the ceremony in 1993, virtually all UN members condemn the unilateral deal worked out by President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kushner and Trump give Bibi a huge swath of Palestine with an arrogance that is breathtaking and is completely contrary to international law.
Canada cannot accept this flagrant disregard of the rule of law. After 1993, Canada played a major part in the effort to make the Oslo Accords the basis for the settlement of which Rabin and Arafat dreamed. I was honoured to be asked by Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy to join an advisory group of Canadian academic experts, Jewish leaders, and Arab Canadians who had an interest in promoting the Accords. I recall a dinner I hosted in Honour of the Late Fassal Husseini in Ottawa to which I invited a prominent Jewish businessperson and fellow Rotarian from Kitchener and others committed to the peace process.
Increasingly, Israel and the United States stand alone. On UN votes dealing with the issue, their friends can be counted on one hand and Canada, which joined the small group about a decade ago, has changed some votes after losing a Security Council seat. It’s now time to raise our voice against the Trump Peace plan, with its outrageous rejection of international law and acceptance of intimidation and conquest. It’s time for our voice to be heard.