Canada pledges help for Palestinian sex-crime victims, angering Israeli envoy

Canada pledges help for Palestinian sex-crime victims, angering Israeli envoy
Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly speaks on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on March 1, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

An announcement this week that Canada would provide funding for Palestinian women who have survived sexual violence drew an immediate rebuke from a senior Israeli official.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly made the $1-million pledge on social media Tuesday.

“We believe Palestinian women,” she posted on X.

“Allegations on sexual and gender-based violence against them must be investigated and Palestinian women must be supported.”

Within minutes, Israel’s envoy for combating antisemitism criticized the post.

Michal Cotler-Wunsh wrote that the funding is “supporting blood-libel inversion of fact” that will fuel rising anti-Jewish sentiment.

“It is also a betrayal and undermining of Canada’s commitment to uphold and protect foundational principles of life and liberty,” she said on X.

Joly’s office would not say whether Canada believes Israeli forces are perpetrating sexual violence on women in Gaza as their war against Hamas continues, nor if the funding pertains to domestic abuse in the Palestinian territories.

The minister’s staff would only say that the money will go toward “organizations supporting Palestinian women from the West Bank and Gaza who are survivors of sexual violence, no matter the circumstance.”

Earlier this week, Joly announced the same amount of money to support Israeli women who have been victims of sexual violence by Hamas, months after a cross-partisan group of Canadian former politicians asked Canada to pledge $1 million.

It is unclear which groups will receive the funding announced for women in each region.

Last month, a group of United Nations experts said they were distressed by unconfirmed reports that Palestinian women and girls in Israeli detention have faced sexual assault.

The accusations included two reports of rape, threats of sexual assault and strip searches by male Israeli soldiers. The experts said they were seeking an impartial investigation into the allegations.

By Dylan Robertson.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2024.

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