Montreal, November 29, 2023 — On this International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, we wish that we could be optimistic about the prospects for justice, peace, and a negotiated end to the occupation of Palestine. Instead, we find ourselves trying to find shards of hope in the midst of an attempted genocide by Israel in the occupied Gaza Strip and a failure of Canadian leadership at home.
Since October 7, we have witnessed Israel inflict unspeakable cruelty on the 2.3 million people in Gaza, as it has indiscriminately bombed civilian infrastructure and razed entire neighbourhoods to the ground. Israel has destroyed or damaged over half of the homes in Gaza, brought the hospital system to collapse, and manufactured a famine by means of a “total siege” which cut off access to food, water, electricity, and fuel. As of this statement, Israel has displaced over 1.7 million people in Gaza and killed over 15,000, while 36,000 are injured and nearly 7,000 are missing under the rubble. In the West Bank, 242 people have also been killed. In raw terms, more Palestinians have been killed and displaced by Israel in the last two months than during the original Nakba (‘catastrophe’) of 1948. This is an injustice of historic proportions.
In the face of this catastrophe, we have been heartbroken to witness our Canadian government unable to voice any meaningful opposition to Israel’s gross violations of international humanitarian law. The Prime Minister was only able to muster a plea to stop killing women, children, and babies after over 4,500 Palestinian children and 3000 women had been killed at the hands of the Israeli military (the number is now much higher). And to date, Canada has refused to call for a permanent ceasefire, giving its continued political support for Israel’s war.
Worse yet, Canada has not attempted to hold Israel accountable in a single tangible way since Israel began its bombardment and invasion of Gaza nearly two months ago. The Trudeau government has failed its most important test yet on the world stage: they have failed to avert a genocide in action. Israel has been killing civilians, including aid workers, medical workers, and journalists, at a rate and intensity that is without parallel in any other modern conflict, while deliberately harming the health of the civilian population. All this violence has happened in the context of racist and genocidal statements from Israeli ministers who refer to Palestinians as “human animals,” and want to wipe Gaza off the map. 36 United Nations experts have warned that Israel’s actions point to a “genocide in the making” – a warning that should shake Canadians to their core.
But thanks to Canadian civil society, today is not without hope.
Since the start of Israel’s war, Canadians have rallied together in unprecedented numbers in solidarity with the Palestinian people, seeking a ceasefire and an end to genocide. A Parliamentary Petition demanding that Canada call for a ceasefire has garnered over 286,000 signatures – making it the largest Parliamentary petition in Canada’s history. Collectively Canadians have gathered together to oppose antisemitism, anti-Palestinian racism, and Islamophobia. We have rallied behind Palestinians, Muslims, and others in the community who have been fired from their jobs for standing up for human rights. Canadians have held ceaseless demonstrations across the country in record-breaking numbers. We can see that solidarity with Palestine is only growing, coalescing, and maturing here at home.
On this International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) reaffirms our support for a just peace in Palestine. We dream of a future for the region in which all people can live side by side in equality, equity, and freedom, and where all people are able to drive the same roads, drink the same water, and share in the same olive harvests.
We continue to push for a future in which Canada supports movements for freedom, not domination. For Canada to play a constructive role, it must abandon its unconditional support for Israel’s policies of ethnic domination and apartheid on the international stage. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” The path to peace requires that Canada join the rest of the world in voting for Palestinian rights at the UN, that it supports an investigation by the International Criminal Court to hold war criminals accountable, and that it stops exporting weapons to the forces of occupation as they are engaged in genocidal violence. But the first step down this road to peace is for Canada to support a full and permanent ceasefire, and push for an immediate end to the bloodshed.