By Judy Haiven. She is a member of Independent Jewish Voices-Canada (Halifax chapter) and of Solidarity Halifax, and teaches at Saint Mary’s University. Originally published at the Halifax Media Coop.
Why Mulcair is now backing medical care for wounded Palestinian children from Gaza — he just endorsed Israel bombing them
It’s a kind of pornography.
The New Democratic Party, Canada’s official opposition, has come out in support of Israeli airstrikes and the bombing of Gaza. Thomas Mulcair, NDP leader, has often been quoted: “Israel has the right to defend its citizens from these attacks, while doing its utmost to protect civilians,” and also “Israel has the right to defend itself and its people. Hamas is a terrorist organization and must cease its rocket attacks immediately”. These comments have been printed in the National Post, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Sun and almost every media source in the country.
This is hardly the ‘balanced view’ on the situation in Gaza that many Canadians seek. The first thing about ‘balance’ is that it can only occur when two sides are just about equal. We know that Israel has now killed nearly 1800 civilians, including more than 400 children. Ten thousand people are seriously injured, with limbs sheared off, head injuries, internal bleeding, not to speak about psychological trauma. Latest estimates are 500,000 homeless in a population of 1.8 million.
This humanitarian disaster can be laid at the doorstep of Israel. Israel: ranked 13th out of 68 military powers in the world. Israel: whose military continues to illegally occupy Palestine’s West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel: which has blockaded Gaza for more than six brutal years, denying Gazans access to food, medicine, books, hospital supplies and most importantly construction materials. Gazans need the materials to rebuild thousands of homes destroyed by Israel in the two previous assaults on Gaza in 2008-9 and in 2012. Even before Israel’s recent attack, Operation Protective Edge, the Palestinians of Gaza were a people in crisis.
On the other side, Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians. Yes, three civilians.
Back to the issue at hand: While the NDP, the Liberals and the Conservatives all condemned Hamas and supported Israel, the NDP has heard justifiable criticism from progressive members and friends of the NDP. In fact the mounting criticism got to the point at which the NDP felt vulnerable and decided to ‘change the channel’.
Rather than admitting their position was wrong, they opted for a distraction. The distraction came in the form of Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish. Dr Abuelaish is a doctor from Gaza whose three daughters and a niece died when Israel bombed his Gaza City home during Israel’s 2008-9’s Operation Cast Lead. An Israeli missile hit the doctor’s home, killing the four girls. In his bestselling book, I Shall Not Hate: a Gaza Doctor’s Journey (2011), Abuelaish explains how he was a well-respected and well known medical doctor who traveled daily from his Gaza home to work at a hospital in Israel. He was non-political, a humanitarian who also reported about the destruction of Gaza for Israeli television news during Operation Cast Lead. When Israeli forces bombed the doctor’s home, Israel certainly knew it was Dr Abuelaish’s home. Still, in his book, Abuelaish he urges forgiveness and the need to build bridges with Israel.
A short time after Operation Cast Lead, Abuelaish emigrated to Canada with his remaining family members. He is now a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.
A week ago, on Aug. 1, Dr Abuelaish was interviewed on the CBC-TV news program, ‘Power and Politics’. He wants to invite 100 injured Gazan children to come to Canada for medical care and to learn ‘Canadian values’ –in his words. He suggests Canada do this on a charitable basis. Already Ontario’s Minister of Health Eric Hoskins has agreed in principle, saying that Israeli children would also be welcomed– which of course shows how little he understands about who, in fact, suffered the servere injuries.
Tom Mulcair, the leader of the Official Opposition, and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau have jumped on this and are campaigning to bring 100 wounded Gazan children to Canada for treatment.
This is where the pornography comes in. Both Mulcair and Trudeau blamed Hamas for Israel’s murder of nearly 1,800 civilians. Both the NDP and the Liberals refused to stand with leaders of many European and other countries who told Israel to stop the bombing and the carnage. Both Mulcair and Trudeau have never even suggested that Israel’s bombing of civilians was in any way a disproportionate reaction to Hamas’ homemade rockets fired into southern Israel.
Why are Mulcair and Trudeau doing this? One possible reason is that they have been hugging the Tories so fiercely they need to put some air between themselves and Harper. How better to do this, than to ‘change the channel’ from war crimes to charity. And by the way, aren’t Canadians wonderful?
According to Middle East scholar Dr Norman Finkelstein, the world sees Israel destroy Gaza and its people – for the third time in six years*. Israel calls it ‘mowing the lawn’ – every couple of years Israel goes in and causes death and mayhem in Gaza. Governments of countries around the world plus non-governmental organisations (such as the Red Cross, World Vision and Oxfam) step up and try to rebuild Gaza. Israel pays no reparations, rebuilds nothing, and in the last six years have not allowed essential construction equipment and materials into Gaza to rebuild, claiming the equipment could help terrorists. Furthermore, despite Israel’s highly touted health care system, it helps very few victims from Gaza. Finkelstein calls Israel a “schnorrer” state – that is Yiddish for a sponger or freeloader: Israel destroys 1800 lives, leaves 10,000 severely injured, leaves hundreds of thousands homeless and someone else cleans up. Two Canadian politicians and their parties want to join the cleanup – when the optics look just right.
* Three recent Israeli invasions of Gaza:
• 2008-09: also known as Operation Cast Lead
• 2012: also known as Operation Pillar of Defense
• 2014: also known as Operation Protective Edge
Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.