FROM THE HILL: MP speaks to Palestine/Israel war
For the past three and a half months the world has witnessed the devastating situation in Palestine and Israel. Since the horrifying Hamas terrorist attacks of October 7 and the beginning of this latest assault on Gaza by Israeli forces, tens of thousands of innocent people have been killed, of whom two-thirds are women and children, and over 85 percent of the Gazan population forced from their homes. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been injured and can’t get proper health care.
New Democrats have heard from over a quarter million Canadians who have written us in shock and despair, demanding a ceasefire and real action from the Liberal government. We first called for a ceasefire and the release of all hostages on October 11th. On top of that, we are pushing for an end to the blockade of Gaza, and unimpeded humanitarian aid; assurance that Canadians and their loved ones in Gaza can reach safety in Canada, while respecting the legal right of Gazans to return; an end to arms sales to Israel and increased efforts to ensure illegal arms do not reach terrorist groups like Hamas; advocacy for an end to the occupation; investments in building a just and sustainable peace for Palestinians and Israelis; and a ban on extremist settlers involved in West Bank violence from entering Canada.
While the Liberals finally agreed to support a ceasefire resolution at the UN General Assembly on December 12, the government has not followed their vote with any meaningful action to ensure Israel and Hamas agree to a ceasefire in Gaza.
Strong reactions to the devastation in Gaza have also bred an alarming rise in antisemitism, anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia across Canada, and many in our communities are feeling scared, unheard and unsafe. I condemn these hateful acts.
In December, as Canadians appealed to the government to help their loved ones reach safety, New Democrats asked the Liberals to introduce special immigration measures for Gaza. While Canada announced some measures a few weeks later, we have serious questions about the rollout of these measures including the arbitrary cap of 1000 applications that has caused families further grief. The NDP has repeatedly called on the government to lift this discriminatory quota.
In the West Bank, extremist right-wing settlers are harassing, threatening, and killing innocent Palestinians as Israeli security forces watch. The United Kingdom, United States and European have all banned these extremists from their territories. We have asked the Canadian government to do the same.
In January, South Africa initiated proceedings in respect of events in Gaza before the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. The federal NDP has written to Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs to remind her of Canada’s obligations under the Genocide Convention and to urge her not to intervene in opposition to this case. Canada must uphold the principles of international justice and ensure that independent international courts can do their work without political interference.
This offensive is not eliminating Hamas, nor is it rescuing hostages; it is destroying an entire population and its means of survival. This dispute has gone on for many decades. I travelled through Israel, the West Bank and occupied Sinai in the late 1970s when peace talks were underway to solve this longstanding dispute. Israeli and Palestinian citizens desperately want to live in peace and security, but it’s clear that escalating terrorist activity and military responses over the past half century have not brought that for either side.
In 1957, Lester Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing peace to the Middle East during the Suez Crisis. When I was in the Sinai in 1978, I met Canadian forces that were keeping the peace between Israel and Egypt. Unfortunately, Canada’s power and reputation as a neutral force in world peacekeeping has eroded greatly since then, but we need to turn that trend around and work with other countries to bring a long-term diplomatic solution to this dispute before it spreads to other flashpoints in the region.