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Following the attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7, which killed over 900 Israelis and involved the taking of over 100 hostages, Israel’s military response has involved the indiscriminate use of violence against civilian targets in Gaza. Over the past several nights, airstrikes have killed entire families in their homes as they slept. On Sunday, an attack on the centre of the Jabalya refugee camp killed at least 60 people. Israeli airstrikes have directly targeted residential towers, ambulances, hospitals, mosques, and UN schools hosting displaced families. The numbers are rising by the hour, but as of Tuesday morning, 770 Palestinians were confirmed dead, at least 140 of them children. Even more have been killed in the West Bank.
View our update-to-date ledger of developments in Canada concerning the violence on our “Crisis Report 2023” Webpage.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country is “embarking on a long and difficult war,” and appears to be preparing a ground invasion into Gaza, along with ongoing strikes from land and sea. At the same time, Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant has announced that Israel is imposing a “complete siege” of Gaza, shutting off electricity, and blocking the entry of food and fuel, while referring to Palestinians as “human animals.” Not only is collective punishment prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention, but such dehumanizing language is often a precursor to literal genocide, making Israel’s action pose the most serious possible threat to human life.
While Canadian politicians have understandably expressed support for the victims of Hamas violence against Israeli civilians, and even lit up Parliament’s Peace Tower in the colours of the Israeli flag, they have been almost entirely silent about Palestinian casualties.
The same day of the attack, CJPME issued a press release condemning this double-standard.
In a statement, Prime Minister Trudeau did not mention Palestinians once, but only expressed full support for Israel’s right to defend itself, “in accordance with international law.” But as noted above, Israel’s response of the last few days has already broken the rules of war many times, on top of a decades-long regime of apartheid against Palestinians across Palestine. In this context, Canada’s expressions of “full support” will be understood as a green light to commit further massacres.
The silence from most Canadian politicians on Palestinian deaths is shocking and unacceptable. Making things worse, we have witnessed a rise in the volume of online hate speech, with many racist and violent comments calling for the total destruction of Gaza. Very few Canadian leaders have condemned this hatred against the Palestinian community.
In a statement on October 8, CJPME challenged Israel and its allies (including Canada) as to what their “endgame” was, as Israel’s reckless violence against the entire population of Gaza will only perpetuate the situation.
As the exception to this rule, we welcome the NDP statement which addresses Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza and the broader issue of anti-Palestinian racism.
We need to make it clear to politicians that bombing civilians is not self-defence. Rather than endorsing Israel’s crimes, Canada should be leading the world in pushing for a ceasefire, de-escalation, and respect for international law from all parties. Moreover, we need to emphasize the root causes of violence and demand an end to Israel’s brutal occupation and apartheid practices. Finally, we need to use international avenues of justice, such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, to hold all parties to account for war crimes.
These points have been emphasized in CJPME statement Tuesday morning, calling on Canada to stop “cheerleading” the violence, and to push for a de-escalation.