Responding to Myths: Why we need a Ceasefire in Gaza

Last updated: December 1, 2023

Myth: There’s no point in Canada calling for a ceasefire because it can’t impose a ceasefire on Hamas and Israel

Response: A call for a ceasefire is a statement of intent and principle.  A Canadian call for a ceasefire would indicate that Canada disapproves of armed conflict as a way to solve international conflicts, whether by Hamas or Israel.  A Canadian call for a ceasefire, in parallel with calls from other countries, would exert enormous pressure on both Israel and Hamas to find a negotiated resolution to the current conflict.  No country in the world has suggested that it is in a position to “impose” a ceasefire, yet dozens of countries have called for a ceasefire because it is the principled thing to do. Canada should follow suit.

If anyone could “impose” a ceasefire on Israel and Hamas, it would be the UN Security Council.  Under international law, according to the UN Charter, the UN Security Council is supposed to act as the arbiter of peace. Even if one accepts the flawed argument that Israel is attacking Gaza in “self defence” (see our FAQ), Article 51 of the UN Charter makes clear that action in self-defence “shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council […] to maintain or restore international peace and security.” Sadly, on October 18, the US vetoed a ceasefire resolution at the Security Council, thus preventing the Security Council from playing this critical role. Shame on the US

Myth: Canada can’t demand a ceasefire because as a middle power it has no influence or ability to determine that outcome

Response: This is an abdication of Canada’s voice in the world. Canada takes positions on many issues, including Russia’s war on Ukraine, where it has not shied away from speaking its mind. Canada could play the role of moral authority in building international support for a ceasefire, instead of mindlessly aligning itself with larger players like the United States which support the war. At least 65 countries have already called for a ceasefire, including France, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Brazil and South Africa. Furthermore, Canada can put economic and diplomatic pressure on Israel to commit to a ceasefire by suspending military trade and cutting all other military ties.

Myth: Canada shouldn’t demand a ceasefire because it would help Hamas by giving time to re-arm and re-group

Response: A ceasefire goes both ways. Israel would theoretically benefit from a period of ‘re-arming’ just as much as Hamas. However, the goal of a ceasefire is permanent de-escalation, not just a temporary pause in hostilities. Moreover, this approach assumes that the only way forward is the total elimination of Hamas, but this outcome is highly unlikely. Even if Hamas were to be eliminated, so long as Palestinians live under Israeli apartheid and are denied their freedom, another group advocating armed resistance would take its place in the power vacuum that would follow. And even if the elimination of Hamas was possible, ongoing Israeli violence will continue to result in the catastrophic loss of Palestinian civilian lives. Canada must think deeply about how many Palestinians it will allow Israel to kill to achieve this goal.

Myth: Canada shouldn’t demand a ceasefire because it would give a “free pass” to the crimes of Hamas

Response: A ceasefire would not give a free pass to the crimes of Hamas, no more than it would give a free pass to the crimes that Israel has also committed since October 7. All parties must be held accountable for violations of international law, but this cannot be reached through a war of elimination. Instead, accountability must be pursued through international forums of justice that are capable of investigating and prosecuting these crimes, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Myth: Canada can’t demand a ceasefire because it can’t trust Hamas to respect it

Response: Both Israel and Hamas have held to ceasefires in the past, and both parties have also been responsible for violating them. This includes during the recent ‘temporary ceasefire’ or ‘humanitarian truce.’ Previously, the last negotiated ceasefire between Israel and Hamas came into effect following hostilities in May 2021. In the period between the start of that ceasefire and the Hamas attack on October 7, 2023, Israel killed almost 100 Palestinians in Gaza (and 500 Palestinians overall), including in two multi-day bombings of Gaza in August 2022 and May 2023. Palestinians could just as easily say that they do not trust Israel to respect a ceasefire, but they are calling for one anyway because it is necessary to prevent further bloodshed. All parties must be held accountable to the same standard.

Myth: Canada can’t demand a ceasefire because it doesn’t deal with terrorists

Response: Israel has negotiated ceasefires with Hamas in the past, and recently negotiated a temporary truce to allow for the release of hostages and Palestinian prisoners (it has since expired). Countries do not make peace with their friends, but with their enemies. The only way forward is through a negotiated ceasefire and a resolution of the underlying issues of Israeli dispossession, occupation, and apartheid. To this end, Hamas and other Palestinian groups must be seen as political actors and negotiating partners, and not forces of evil to be ‘eliminated.’

Myth: Canada doesn’t need to demand a ceasefire because a “humanitarian pause” is the same thing

Response: A ceasefire and a humanitarian pause are not the same thing. A ceasefire demands a permanent, negotiated end to hostilities, whereas the idea of a humanitarian pause is a temporary ‘pause’ in fighting, within a localized area, to allow for displaced people to leave their homes and possibly to facilitate the entry of aid. Following the pause, the same people could immediately be targeted in subsequent Israeli violence and acts of deliberate starvation. For example, Israel and Hamas recently enjoyed a negotiated ‘pause’ in hostilities, but Israel has since resumed its military offensive, and plans to continue its assault until it meets its military objectives – which it says could take a year or more.

Frankly, the scale of the current humanitarian catastrophe inflicted by Israel cannot be reversed with temporary and localized influxes of aid, especially if Israel continues to block aid from reaching the north half of the Gaza Strip. A ‘pause’ will not bring the hospital system back from collapse. Instead, averting catastrophic human loss requires a total and permanent end to hostilities, the immediate, massive, unconditional transfers of aid throughout the entire territory, and the resumption of basic services necessary for maintaining the conditions of life

Myth: Canada shouldn’t call for a ceasefire until the hostages are released

Response: Israel’s war on Gaza has hindered and delayed efforts to secure the safe release of civilian hostages who are being held by Hamas in violation of international law. Israel’s military escalation has put the lives of hostages in direct jeopardy, made the conditions less safe for them to be released, and delayed the Qatar-led negotiations towards a prisoner/hostage swap by several weeks. It was a negotiated temporary ceasefire/truce that had secured the freedom of an initial group of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners from unjust captivity. A permanent ceasefire is the best way to ensure the freedom of all remaining hostages and political prisoners.

Why is it necessary for Canada to call for a ceasefire?

A ceasefire is necessary because it would bring an immediate end to the pointless destruction of human life in Gaza, and prevent further catastrophic loss. A ceasefire would put a brake on Israel’s efforts to forcibly displace the population of Gaza. A ceasefire would allow for unrestricted access to humanitarian aid and for society to rebuild. A ceasefire would prevent the conflict from spiralling further into “genocide,” as warned by United Nations experts and legal scholars.

What are the benefits for Canada to call for a ceasefire?

By calling for a ceasefire, Canada would demonstrate a true commitment to peace and human rights and show moral authority on the world stage. Canada would be able to play an independent and constructive role in bringing an end to the bloodshed, instead of aligning with major players who take a “might makes right” approach and being perceived as subservient to them. Canada would also align itself with the principles of the UN, which calls on countries to resolve issues peaceably, and not through fighting. Furthermore, Canada would align its policy with the views of the international community, the humanitarian sector, human rights groups, and Canadian public opinion. Importantly, by calling for a ceasefire, Canada would symbolically withdraw its support for Israeli violence in Gaza, and end its complicity in Israeli atrocities.