By Jim Miles
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier issued a news release expressing his concern about the escalating violence in the Gaza Strip. It does nothing to help resolve the situation and only demonstrates that the Canadian government is only putting out more face-saving rhetoric for the international community and to placate the home crowd with platitudes about the non-existent peace process. It is an empty statement, devoid of any real suggestions to improve the situation in Gaza.
Language is all important within her statement. While she “deplores” the actions of Hamas, Israeli actions – which have resulted in far more misery and deaths – receive only the approbation that we are “very concerned about the impact” of Israeli actions. More language continues the bias. While the Hamas personnel are “terrorists” the Israelis are only defenders with a “clear right to defend itself.”
The Canadian government does not recognize, and was one of the first to deny, that Hamas won the Palestinian elections with a clear majority in elections regarded globally as being one of the fairest ever presented.
Does not the Hamas government, even though it does not directly control the militants have a right to protect its people against the predations of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF)? Or more properly, should they not be given the chance to govern Palestine, as their record is one of accommodation and flexibility to changes in their situation. I have indicated before that Ireland and South Africa serve as examples where former “terrorists” are now involved in shaping government, why not give it a try in Palestine?
Hamas has consistently called for a “hudna” or cease-fire, one as equally consistently ignored by Israel as it does not suit their purposes. Israel has never truly ‘withdrawn’ from Gaza; that was a publicity show for western media. Gaza remains essentially a prison camp to 1.5 million Palestinians, with no control over their borders, no control over their waterfront or fisheries, no control over their airspace and airports…in sum no control of anything.
Bernier still seems to think that the Annapolis Conference somehow renewed the totally defunct peace process, a process that only served Israel’s desire to continue building settlements, occupying more and more Palestinian land, destroying more and more Palestinian farms, villages, and the very culture and society that supported the Palestinians. Bernier wants leaders on both sides “to prevent any actions that could undermine the peace process resumed at the Annapolis Conference last November.”
What peace process, Maxime? The one in which Israel bulldozes houses, kills women and children with rockets, attacks peaceful protesters with tear gas and bullets, that has built a wall that confiscates much Palestinian farmland and alienates much more land and many more villages? Is that the peace process you wish to support?
The Canadian government has taken no actions that support peace in the Middle East and continues their biased and ignorant support of Israel in contrast to other actions they could have taken.
The Canadian government, if it truly believed in democracy, would recognize the Hamas government as the proper authority in Palestine. It would also release funds to allow Hamas to rebuild the civic structures that have been destroyed through IDF occupation and incursions in the West Bank and Gaza.
While calling on both sides in the conflict “to comply with their obligations under international law” Bernier implies that it is an equal distribution of power. The Canadian government should denounce the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the continued occupying presence of the IDF and the atrocities that they commit against the rule of international law and it obligations of an occupying force.
Canada should condemn the ongoing building of Israeli settlements and the confiscation of Palestinian land, all theoretically in contravention of international law. Equally, they could denounce the ‘wall’ that has been declared illegal in an international court of justice. Perhaps then Palestine could then fulfill its international obligations and stop defending itself with scary but militarily ineffective (although politically useful) missiles.
What is truly deplorable is Canada’s use of fine sounding rhetoric to camouflage its essentially unfailing support for Israel. By defining Hamas as terrorists, they have conveniently placed them outside the law, as the ‘evil’ other, making them apparently incapable of governance and protection under international law. This follows remarkably well in the footprints of the American “war on terror” in which those not “with us” are automatically “against us,” they become the ‘other’, outlaws, not even human, to be subjugated to whatever atrocities the Americans – and by extension Israel – can deliver.
Canada should call on Israel to accept the Hamas offer of ‘hudna’ if it truly believes, as it says, that “A cessation of violence and an improvement of the situation on the ground are key to progress.” Would not a truce be a good place to start?
Canada’s position as a perceived neutral player in the world scene should certainly have been well compromised by now by anyone giving it any serious consideration. By accepting the duality of “good and evil” that is the American patriot game, Canada can no longer stand on the world stage and receive accolades as to its fairness and ability to serve as a peace broker anywhere in the world.
Double standards of touting democracy and then denying it to Hamas and of supporting international law and not applying it equally to Israel solve nothing.
Maxime Bernier and the Canadian government have, in sum, done nothing to support peace in the world nor taken any positive actions that would help considerably to actually reduce the violence in Gaza and the Middle East.
As a Canadian I find our official position statement empty and hollow of any real meaning and devoid of any real actions on our part that would truly support peace in Gaza.
-Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor of opinion pieces and book reviews to PalestineChronicle.com