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As politicians enable genocide, Canadians protest

Since it began its bombardment of Gaza on October 7, Israel has killed more than 8,000 Palestinians and injured 20,000 more

Canadian PoliticsMiddle EastWar ZonesHuman RightsSocial Movements

Rally in Toronto organized by Toronto4Palestine, October 28, 2023. Photo by Sikander Iqbal/Wikimedia Commons.

Over the past three weeks since it launched its brutal military bombardment of Gaza, Israel has killed more than 8,000 Palestinians and injured 20,000 more. Munitions unleashed by the Israeli Air Force onto the Gaza Strip have already destroyed around half of the buildings in the tiny coastal enclave. Reportedly, the quantity of explosives that have been dropped on an area the size of Montréal exceeds 12,000 tons, which is equivalent to the size of the atomic bomb the United States detonated on Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War.

Israel has cut off Palestinians’ access to water, food, electricity and communications infrastructure. The United Nations says civil order has collapsed with desperate people looting food and supplies.

There is growing evidence that Israeli officials are seeking a second “Nakba,” which means “catastrophe” in Arabic, and refers to the mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. They want to depopulate Gaza, whose population threatens the demographic aims of Israel’s ethno-nationalist state project.

Reportedly, Israel’s Ministry of Intelligence has endorsed an Institute for National Security and Zionist Strategy plan to “cleanse” Gaza of Palestinians and transfer its 2.3 million civilian inhabitants to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu painted the population there as the biblical Amalekites whose eradication was commanded by God. Netanyahu declared, “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible… Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”

At the same time as it wages its most ferocious violence on Gaza to date, Israel has killed more than 100 in the occupied West Bank. Israeli troops have also kidnapped 1,500 Palestinians and locked them up in military prisons.

Last Tuesday, Canada’s Defence Minister Bill Blair defended Israel’s criminality and declared that Hamas must be eliminated. He said, “I think they have a right to defend themselves against that terrorist threat. And quite frankly, Hamas has to be eliminated as a threat not just to Israel but to the world.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rebuffed calls for a ceasefire, instead advocating for a “humanitarian pause.” As commentator Michael Tracey noted, “the term ‘humanitarian pause’ is a next-level innovation in preposterous war euphemism. It was invented so politicians don’t have to call for a ceasefire but can still pretend to have deep ‘humanitarian’ concerns, while a WWII-style bombardment takes place.”

During a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Bloc Québécois MP Jean-Denis Garon asked if the Trudeau government had a position on whether Israel’s cutting of access to aid, water, food, fuel and electricity to Gaza constitutes a breach of international law. The answer was that “Canada has not taken a position on that.”

At the UN on Friday, ambassador Bob Rae abstained on a resolution calling for “protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations.” It was backed by 120 countries.

Prior to casting his vote, Rae proposed an amendment to condemn Hamas’s “deliberate cruelty.” Rae’s bid to single out the militant group failed. Pakistan’s ambassador Munir Akram responded to the intervention by noting, “he [Rae] does not feel the need to name Israel for killing 7,000 Palestinians and injuring 17,000. Only Hamas. Is this balance? He says ‘what needs to be named has to be named.’ We believe Israel needs to be named. If you are fair. If you are equitable. If you are just.”

While Trudeau’s ambassador was making excuses for war crimes, the prime minister met with leading members of the Israel lobby in Montréal. On Friday, Trudeau visited with Yair Szlak, CEO of Federation CJA, as well as Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) Québec Vice President Eta Yudin, and others. Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather, Anna Gainey and Rachel Bendayan also participated in the meetings. They were later photographed with Trudeau in front of an Israeli flag during a session with Jewish students to discuss antisemitism.

Around the same time, hundreds rallied in front of Bendayan’s office in a prescheduled event organized by Independent Jewish Voices Canada. Early on Friday, around 50 individuals sought to disrupt the prime minister’s speech at the swanky Club Saint-James in downtown Montréal. With protesters blocking the garage and other exists, Trudeau was forced to walk past dozens chanting “shame,” “Israel terroriste, Trudeau complice,” and “Trudeau Trudeau you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.”

While the dominant media seems to have ignored the protest, a video I recorded of Trudeau being told he has blood on his hands has been viewed by more than eight million people on X (formerly Twitter) and hundreds of thousands more on other social media platforms.

Vancouver, Sudbury, Saint John’s, Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa also saw their largest-ever Palestine solidarity protests over the weekend. The largest one in Canadian history took place in Montréal on Saturday when more than 20,000 marched to tell Trudeau to stop enabling Israel’s genocidal siege and violence in Gaza.

Yesterday, Palestine solidarity activists occupied the offices of 17 different MPs across the country. Elsewhere, five were arrested during a direct action campaign that blocked the entrance to an INKAS Armored Vehicle Manufacturing plant in north Toronto, which produces armed cars and bulletproof vehicles. INKAS also operates a plant in Israel.

An October 21 and 22 survey asking whether “Canada should support Israel in its armed conflict against Hamas” found that 30 percent of the 1,484 Canadians polled strongly disagreed while 19 percent strongly agreed.

While our government and political establishment continue to enable Israel’s extreme right-wing government, more and more Canadians are saying no to genocide.

Yves Engler has been dubbed “one of the most important voices on the Canadian Left today” (Briarpatch), “in the mould of I.F. Stone” (Globe and Mail), and “part of that rare but growing group of social critics unafraid to confront Canada’s self-satisfied myths” (Quill & Quire). He has published nine books.

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