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The NDP is incoherent on Gaza genocide

While criticizing the Trudeau government’s military exports to Israel, NDP leadership has adopted Israel’s framing of the war

Canadian PoliticsMiddle EastWar ZonesHuman Rights

While criticizing the Trudeau government’s military exports to Israel, NDP leadership has largely adopted Israel’s framing of the war and condemned voices speaking out in support of Palestinians. This has occurred at both the federal and provincial level. Photo courtesy Jagmeet Singh/X.

On February 10, The Maple published a story revealing that the Trudeau government has authorized at least $28.5 million of new permits for military exports to Israel since October 7.

The value of the new permits, authorized over a period of two months, exceeds the total for all Canadian military exports to Israel in 2021, itself a record-high year. This means that Ottawa is hastening military shipments to Israel in the midst of the state’s brutal (and potentially genocidal) war on Gaza.

Michael Bueckert, Vice-President of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), described the spike in arms sales as “absolutely scandalous,” adding, “It’s almost as if Canada is accelerating its arms export authorization process amid a genocidal campaign.”

The situation in Gaza is nightmarish. Almost 30,000 Palestinians have been reported killed, including 12,300 children, with nearly 70,000 wounded. Eighty-five percent of the enclave’s residents have been internally displaced. Sixty percent of Gaza’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed. Gazans suffer acute shortages of clean water, medicine, and food. In fact, 80 percent of all people currently experiencing famine worldwide are in Gaza.

Truthout contributor Sharon Zhang writes:

Israeli forces have been blocking food, water and other basic necessities from entering Gaza for months now, and have recently intensified those efforts by blocking all humanitarian aid from entering the region, some aid workers say. This has created horrific circumstances for Palestinians, with people reporting having to drink contaminated water and attempting to eat whatever they can to find relief, including grass and moldy, worm-infested potatoes.

Hunger researcher Alex de Waal has stated that Israel’s efforts to impose starvation on Gazans is unparalleled in modern times: “Nothing is comparable in terms of the speed and the concentrated effort at destroying what is essential to sustain the life of people—nothing compares to Gaza over the last 75 years. The speed of deterioration of humanitarian conditions is absolutely terrifying.”

On January 26, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that Israel is plausibly committing genocide against Palestinians in its war on Gaza. After the ruling, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor pointed out that states supplying arms to Israel, including Canada, may themselves be in violation of the Genocide Convention, which would open them up to similar legal challenges.

In fact, Nicaragua has already announced its intention to bring a case against Canada and several other Western countries at the ICJ for contributing to the genocide of Palestinians.

Additionally, a coalition of lawyers and human rights activists have announced their intention to sue the Canadian government if it does not stop approving military exports to Israel, as such deliveries violate key provisions the Exports and Imports Permits Act (according to the act, the federal government cannot issue permits to export weapons if there is “substantial risk” that they will be used to violate international law).

The Trudeau government has shrugged off the world court’s ruling and legal challenges to its weapons exports. Instead, Ottawa has decided to continue arms sales to Israel while freezing aid to Palestinians at risk of genocide, after the Israel government baselessly accused several UNRWA employees of participating in the October 7 attacks.

Israel’s allegations against UNRWA have fallen apart, with UNRWA leadership asserting Israel has not provided them with any evidence for the claims. Even if the accusations were true, however, their timing makes it obvious that Israel’s allegations were designed to divert media coverage from the ICJ ruling and put Israel’s critics on the defensive.

Despite the naked opportunism of the allegations, Canada continues to deprive Palestinians of aid funds.

The government’s decision to freeze UNRWA funding is so reprehensible that even Rob Oliphant, parliamentary secretary to the foreign affairs minister, has said he is considering quitting, despite the fact that his job is to defend Canadian foreign policy decisions in Parliament. In a taped conversation with a constituent, Oliphant said:

When I read that we were pausing money to UNRWA—I’m going to be very clear—it was political. And I don’t just mean domestic politics. It has to do with our allies…I thought it was the wrong decision…You don’t stop aid to Gaza because of 12 or 13 employees out of 13,000. It drives me crazy. It is opportunistic, it is unfair, and it is maligning the operation of a UN organization that is doing, not perfect work—there’s no organization that’s made of human beings that’s perfect, UNRWA has its faults. But it is the best we have for education, for medical care, for food, all of those things.

Oliphant noted that UNRWA is “the only way” to get aid to Palestinian people suffering under Israel’s genocidal assault.

Our leaders are not only standing idly by as Israel destroys Gaza. They are materially assisting the slaughter by expediting arms sales to the aggressor, supporting obviously false war propaganda against Palestinians, and providing Israel with diplomatic cover on the global stage. Canada is actively and proudly helping Israel turn Gaza into a living hell.

As the Israeli military prepares its offensive on Rafah—the Gazan city bordering Egypt where roughly 1.3 million Palestinians have gathered, mostly displaced people from areas like Gaza City and Khan Younis—a debate has arisen in Parliament about the nature of Canadian arms sales to Israel.

Following the article in The Maple detailing Canada’s acceleration of military exports to Israel after October 7, the NDP announced that it would “compel documents from Global Affairs Canada related to export and broker permits.” The NDP’s foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson stated:

I’m extremely concerned that Canada is contributing to the assault on Gaza through its exports of military goods and technology to Israel without ensuring they aren’t harming civilians… The Liberal government has refused to provide answers regarding their exports. We’re at the point where we need to compel Global Affairs to provide information so Parliamentarians can know what and why the Liberals are sending to Israel.

This is a positive move from the NDP, as Canadians deserve to know the extent of our government’s complicity in the destruction of Gaza. However, the NDP is talking out of both sides of its mouth. While criticizing the Trudeau government’s military exports to Israel, NDP leadership has largely adopted Israel’s framing of the war and condemned voices speaking out in support of Palestinians. This has occurred at both the federal and provincial level.

Following the October 7 attacks, Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew quickly announced his support for Israel’s “right to self-defence.” The Ontario NDP expelled Sarah Jama, MPP for Hamilton Centre, for condemning Israel’s 75-year history of violence against the Palestinians. Meanwhile, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh spoke at a conference organized by the ardently pro-Israel Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) alongside a man who, in the midst of the assault on Gaza, compared Palestinians to cockroaches.

Most recently, Singh has spread falsehoods about a pro-Palestine march in Toronto, claiming it “targeted” the city’s Mount Sinai Hospital “because of its ties to the Jewish community.” Earlier, he described the posting of messages on the riding office of former BC NDP MLA and minister Selina Robinson, who sparked a scandal by denying the Nakba, as “hateful.”

Meanwhile, when activist and author Yves Engler tried to ask Singh if he agreed with South Africa’s accusation of genocide against Israel, the NDP leader refused to answer while a member of his RCMP detail knocked a cellphone out of Engler’s hands.

The BC NDP’s removal of Robinson, provincial minister of post-secondary education, for describing pre-Nakba Palestine as “a crappy piece of land with nothing on it” stands as an outlier amid the party’s overall support for Israel and its framing of opposition to pro-Palestine activism. Robinson’s removal was only made possible by an upswell of grassroots activism that made clear the base’s opposition to having a genocide denier in the cabinet. If this mobilization had not occurred, she would likely still be a provincial minister.

While we should support the NDP’s call to investigate the Liberal government’s weapons exports to Israel since October 7, let us not harbour any misconceptions about the party. While 68 percent of NDP voters believe Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians, this is not a position shared by the party leadership at the federal or provincial levels. In fact, solidarity with Palestine has been actively punished.

There is only one moral position on this war: an immediate ceasefire, the resumption of aid deliveries, and an international investigation into war crimes in Gaza. As long as both the provincial and federal NDP fail to coalesce around this position, the party’s Gaza policy will remain utterly incoherent.

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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