After stalling for over a week to produce any considerable public comment concerning the latest outbreak of hostilities in Gaza, the Canadian government finally broke its ill-advised silence on the matter last week. Junior foreign affairs minister Peter Kent was sent out to inform Canadians of their government’s position on the situation.
The actual foreign minister, Lawrence Cannon (assumingly having decided that Kent’s first salvo had gone favourably) emerged from whatever declamatory black hole he had been trapped in for the first 11 days of Israel’s offensive and issued the same old Canadian statement concerning Israel and its enemies: that Israel has the right to exist and defend itself and that Israel’s actions are therefore warranted in dealing with terrorist networks such as Hamas.
The Harper government has continued to have a woeful lack of imagination in the area of foreign affairs. Its statements of this nature serve to reinforce the belief that the conflict has arisen due to the possibility that the Israeli state faces imminent destruction from an ill-armed terrorist network which at best possesses poorly functioning rockets that miss its indiscriminate targets more often than it hits.
The problem, however, with assertions which re-affirm the Canadian government’s staunch support of Israel’s existence is that it is highly unlikely that Canadians ever assumed their government did not support Israel’s right to exist to begin with. The binary division between those who apparently support Israel and those who criticize some of the actions of the Israeli government and therefore are deemed as ‘anti’ Israel (or often even anti-Semitic) fails to reflect the grey area which surrounds the Palestine/Israel conflict. Resorting to name-calling while hundreds of Palestinians are being killed through the actions of Israel’s government, and Israeli citizens face repeated rocket attacks is a vile insult to what really matters in this conflict – the safety of the citizenry of Israel and Palestine.
The actions of Hamas and the actions of Israel’s government continue to put both groups of citizens in danger, and from analyzing the current death count in Gaza, which is rapidly approaching 900, Palestinians are facing the brunt of this danger.
Despite this fact, both Kent and Cannon instead chose only to reprimand Hamas, and effectively place all the blame of Israeli actions squarely on the shoulders of the Gaza leadership.
The redundancy of supporting Israel’s existence – as if that were ever in question for the Canadian government – serves to dull the nature of the government’s position with regards to the conflict, as well as insult the intelligence of Canadians. The dividing line between good and evil does not apply well to the situation in Gaza, with despicable acts and the killing of civilians being committed on both sides.
One needs only to think of Israel’s bombing of a school in Gaza while targeting Hamas leaders, a military action which killed over 30 Palestinians, as evidence that Israel’s actions should not be unilaterally supported by the Canadian government.
If Israel were to seriously desire the destruction of Hamas, it would choose to do so not with bombs, but instead by stamping out its own policies which Hamas capitalizes on: the perceived oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli government.
Reasonably, people are more than able to comprehend that the safety of Palestinians and Israelis is mutually constitutive. The safety of one group does not have to come at the expense of the other. It is a shame however that the Canadian government prefers to sacrifice reasonable thinking for unimaginative grandstanding and misguided adherence to the actions of the Israeli government.
Andrew Tod is a University of Winnipeg student.