"By pushing for a more balanced foreign policy, including in support of the Palestinian freedom struggle, new Canadians open a better path. The pressure for peace must now expand. An end to Israel’s occupation is urgent, and immediate demands for a ceasefire must ring loud and clear."
Re: “CJPME’s representative seems hell-bent on misconstruing Israel, writes B’nai Brith’s Barclay,” and “No moral equivalencies between Palestinian terrorist organizations and Israeli army: Honest Reporting Canada,” (The Hill Times, Oct. 30, letters to the editor).
If arguments like Robert Walker’s and William Barclay’s are taken seriously, Canadian diplomacy is on the road to disaster. This is not only a matter of principle. The current direction of Canadian Middle East policy is as strategically catastrophic as it is outrageously inhumane. More than 8,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed in October by Israeli Defence Forces, including more than 3,500 children. These horrors will go down in history with the bombing of Guernica.
Worse even than the direct killings, Israel Defence Forces’ tightened siege on Gaza now stands as a spectacular violation of the fourth Geneva convention. “To the fullest extent of the means available to it,” reads Article 55, “the occupying power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population.” Israel’s cut-off of food, water, and medicine is a war crime.
Barclay flees the numbers in an effort to explain why Israeli lives matter, and Palestinian lives don’t. But there are more and more of us in Canada who will not let these questions slide. How many dead Palestinians, in this implicit calculus, equals a dead Israeli? Is there even a limit?
The old line that Israel’s mass killing of civilians lacks “intention” will no longer work.
The record of Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s national security minister, does not tell the whole story—but it does punctuate it. Ben- Gvir rose in Israeli politics as the leader of an anti-Palestinian terrorist organization banned as such under Canadian law: Kahane Chai (Kach).
Until recently, Ben-Gvir displayed a portrait on his living-room wall of Baruch Goldstein, the mass murderer who in 1994 sprayed Palestinians at Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque with live fire from his army-issued weapon, killing 29 and injuring 125.
Denials come cheap. The story that the victims bombed themselves was, after all, precisely the story of the perpetrators at Guernica. Israel’s war lines are not even consistent. To pretend that Ben-Gvir’s Israel does not target civilians—as if a perpetrator’s declaration of intent can be taken at face value—is to drive the credibility of our national discussion into the mud.
We owe to ourselves, out of basic human decency, to rise to the seriousness of the situation. Last week, Gaza City’s al-Quds Hospital received repeated bomb threats from Israel. The Israeli bombings are now nearing the hospital, where hundreds of patients are joined by more than 12,000 Palestinian civilians seeking shelter. This has to stop.
Canadian leaders once followed Britain by reflex with that loyalist “ready, aye ready” of former prime minister Arthur Meighen. They (and, yes, the dominant ethnic groups of which they form a part) then shifted their allegiance to the United States. On Palestine, as on other world issues, deference to American leadership seemed like a good bet.
Donald Jamieson, external affairs minister for the Pierre Trudeau government, once brushed off parliamentary critics who complained that on Palestine “we are at odds with our good friends the Japanese, or at odds with our good friends the Europeans, and forget that we were not at odds with our best friend, the U.S.” Agreement with the United States seemed agreement enough.
Soon, however, the world may be treated to the spectacle of a Biden–Trump election that not even the United States public wants. American leadership is in destructive decline.
By pushing for a more balanced foreign policy, including in support of the Palestinian freedom struggle, new Canadians open a better path. The pressure for peace must now expand. An end to Israel’s occupation is urgent, and immediate demands for a ceasefire must ring loud and clear.