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Canada’s weak stance on Gaza crisis gives green light to Israel’s war crimes

Trudeau government is shrugging off evidence of war crimes and genocidal intent

Canadian PoliticsMiddle EastWar Zones

People gather around the bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes on the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in central Gaza after they were transported to Shifa Hospital. Photo by Dawood Nemer/AFP.

Editor’s note: In the fog of war, reactions to the blast at al-Ahli Arab Hospital have been contested. Both Israeli and Palestinian authorities are denying responsibility. This is taking place amidst a flurry of “competing online narratives and widespread disinformation.” Some observers have echoed Israel’s charge that the explosion was caused by an errant rocket launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group. Others have openly questioned this narrative, as well as the Israeli military’s credibility to make such a claim, given its well-documented history of bombing medical facilities (15 hospitals have reported damage since hostilities began on October 7). This skepticism is rooted in contradictions between the immediate reactions by Israeli officials and their later responses, as Owen Schalk details below. Furthermore, as reported by The Spectator, the Palestinian ambassador to Japan claimed that the Israeli military had issued a warning to the hospital an hour before the blast. A health official in Gaza also told Al Jazeera that Israel had fired two artillery shells as a “warning” at the facility days before the explosion.

On October 17, Israeli forces bombed the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in central Gaza, killing an estimated 500 Palestinian patients and refugees.

Following the bombing, Israel’s Digital Spokesperson Hananya Naftali admitted Israel destroyed al-Ahli Arab, posting on X: “Israeli Air Force struck a Hamas terrorist base inside a hospital in Gaza. A multiple number of terrorists are dead.”

In fact, the victims of this brazen war crime are refugees, sick people, the elderly, the wounded, and children. The devastation at the scene is beyond words. A reporter who witnessed the carnage stated: “The bodies, with no exaggeration, are scattered limbs. It was rare to find a full body with all its parts. The deeper we went into the hospital, the more shocking and terrifying the scene was.”

The Biden administration has defended the bombing. When asked about the hospital’s destruction, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh did not condemn Israel’s war crime but deflected to Hamas’s “brutality,” saying: “Hamas is the one putting Palestinians, those in Gaza, at great risk. They are putting command and control units inside hospitals. The fact that they’ve set up command centres at these hospitals just shows their brutality.” This reads as a tacit endorsement of the mass murder of 500 patients and refugees.

One day before the hospital bombing, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reviewed a draft resolution calling for “a humanitarian ceasefire, release of all hostages, aid access, and safe evacuation of civilians.” The ceasefire proposal was supported by China, Gabon, Mozambique, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The opposed? France, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Had the ceasefire been implemented, those 500 civilians would be alive today.

Prior to the UNSC vote, the State Department advised its staff to avoid “making public statements suggesting the US wants to see less violence.” On October 13, the Huffington Post reported that high-level officials in the Biden administration discouraged staff from publicly calling for “de-escalation/ceasefire,” an “end to violence/bloodshed,” and “restoring calm.”

Three days earlier, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre demeaned those calling for a humanitarian ceasefire as “disgraceful” and “repugnant.”

The Trudeau government hasn’t been much better. Since Israel’s brutal retaliatory campaign began on October 7, Ottawa has taken a weak stance on the bloodshed in Gaza, continually reiterating its support for Israel’s “right to defend itself.”

Amid Israel’s mass killing of civilians, the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands, and genocidal statements from Israeli officials, NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Heather McPherson urged the Trudeau government to adhere to the principles of international law and throw its diplomatic weight behind a ceasefire.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland rejected the notion out of hand. “Our government is very clear that we support the state of Israel,” she said, “and we recognize Israel’s right to defend itself within international law.” She did not address the fact that Israel is openly flouting the rules of war during its ongoing siege of Gaza.

Israeli forces have killed over 1,000 children in Gaza since the bombing began on October 7. Israeli officials have compared Palestinians to “animals” and declared that their war is, in fact, on Gaza’s civilian population.

The Trudeau government’s unequivocal support for Israel’s right to “self-defence” is exposing the hypocrisy behind Canada’s magnanimous brand. There is simply no nuance to Ottawa’s statements: it fully stands behind the forces that are destroying hospitals, uprooting hundreds of thousands, and espousing genocidal rhetoric.

Trudeau described the massacre at al-Ahli Arab Hospital as “horrible,” “unacceptable,” and “illegal,” but did not attribute blame for the attack. Even if he had stated Israel’s guilt, it wouldn’t matter. In the context of his government flatly endorsing Israel’s “right to defend itself,” he is supporting and enabling the actions he has condemned.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that the bloodbath we are witnessing is “only the beginning.” “This will be a long war,” he has told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

What does “long war” mean? Israel has killed over 1,000 Palestinian children since October 7. If the war continues at this intensity, that will mean at least another 4,000 dead children per month. The actual number will likely be much higher as Israel has vowed to increase the severity of its attacks, including through ground operations.

None of Israel’s powerful backers are attempting to stop the butchery. The European Union is behind Netanyahu. The US is behind him. Canada is behind him.

It is horrifying to behold. Israel isn’t even trying to conceal the fact that its goal is to slaughter and destroy, and its backers aren’t even trying to bring the slightest nuance to the conflict, let alone condemnation of Israel’s crimes.

The Canadian government is fresh off honouring a Nazi soldier, a member of a regiment that participated in one of the worst genocides in history. Now Canada is proudly supporting the massacres in Gaza, shrugging off evidence of war crimes and genocidal intent.

It is shameful that these officials claim to represent the people of Canada on the global stage. They don’t represent us. They embody nothing more than their own selfishness, dishonesty, and moral desolation.

Owen Schalk is a writer from rural Manitoba. He is the author of Canada in Afghanistan: A story of military, diplomatic, political and media failure, 2003-2023.


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