TORONTO (JTA) — Two Canadian firms are committing "war crimes" by building on land in the West Bank, a Palestinian farming community is claiming in a lawsuit.
A three-day trial in Quebec Superior Court starting Monday in Montreal marks the first time that Canada’s War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity Act, passed in 2000, will be used in a civil case.
The village of Bil’in, with a population of 1,700, claims that Green Park International and Green Mount International, two companies registered in Quebec, are "aiding, abetting, assisting and conspiring with Israel” to illegally construct residential and other buildings on the village’s lands.
Bil’in’s land is subject to the rules and obligations of international law, the village alleges, because the West Bank has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. Canada’s war crimes law and other international laws prohibit an occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
Ronald Levy, the lawyer representing the two companies, recently told the Canadian Jewish News that he considers the suit "a media exercise intended to besmirch Israel. They don’t care if they win or not, they just want attention. We consider this an abusive action."
"The fact that the companies are registered in Quebec is irrelevant," he said.
Levy has filed three motions arguing that the case is outside a Quebec court’s jurisdiction and that it should be heard in Israel.
But Emily Schaeffer, an Israeli lawyer helping the villagers, said no civil suit has ever been filed in Israel because the Supreme Court there has never ruled on the legality of settlements in the occupied territories, saying instead they are a political issue.