Walking through the old city of Nablus in the West Bank last week, I encountered a Palestinian man who worked as a tailor in the small store situated in his family’s home. We struck up a conversation. “Where are you from?” he asked me. “Canada,” I replied. Shaking his head from side to side, he stated, “Oh, Canada no good!”
The next day I was riding in a taxi in the city of Ramallah, which is the Palestinian capital of the West Bank and seat of the Palestinian Authority government. The driver asked me where I was from. Again I replied, “Canada.” He raised his index finger in the air and while moving it side to side declared, “Canada no good!”
These were not isolated examples of Palestinian anger towards Canada; that disenchantment was publicly expressed by Palestinians this past January when Foreign Minister John Baird visited Ramallah. A group of protesters took to the street and pelted Baird’s motorcade with eggs and shoes while holding up placards declaring, “Baird is not welcome in Palestine” and “Shame on you, John Baird.”
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat responded to Baird’s visit by stating, “We regret the Canadian government’s decision to stand on the wrong side of history by blindly supporting the Israeli occupation and its apartheid policies.” He went on to note, “Canadian FM John Baird has contributed to Israeli violations of Palestinian inalienable rights, including our right to self-determination, by systematically lobbying against all Palestinian diplomatic initiatives. This includes his attempts to legitimize the illegal Israeli annexation of Occupied East Jerusalem.”
Baird had travelled to Ramallah from East Jerusalem and Erekat argued that the Canadian foreign minister’s meetings with Israeli government officials there violated UN Security Council resolutions 476 and 478, which prohibit “the Occupying Power” from altering “the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem” and condemn the 1980 law passed by the Israeli government making Jerusalem the official capital of the Jewish state. Erekat claimed that Baird’s meeting with Israeli officials in East Jerusalem was an attempt to legitimize Israel’s illegal annexation of that part of the city.