Yves Engler: When will Canadian citizens demand Ottawa stand up for justice for the Palestinian people?

Early Monday (May 31) on the international waters of the Mediterranean Sea, at least nine people were killed and dozens more wounded when Israeli soldiers raided a flotilla of ships carrying 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian supplies and more than 600 activists to the Gaza Strip. The activists were trying to break Israel’s three-year blockade of Gaza, which has reduced food and medicine entering the tiny coastal territory to a fraction of what is needed.

Governments around the world strongly condemned Israel’s actions. Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called the raid “an act of inhumane state terrorism”.

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon has said that the deaths aboard the flotilla were the result of Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Quoted by AFP, Ban said, “Had Israelis heeded to my call and to the call of the international community by lifting the blockade of Gaza, this tragic incident would not have happened.”

The Canadian government took a much different approach. Only 10 hours after the raid, Stephen Harper held talks with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Ottawa, and Harper’s office simply said it “deeply regrets” the loss of life and injuries. It added: “We are currently looking for more information in order to shed light on what exactly happened.”

Translation: the Harper government is waiting for Israel to decide how exactly to spin this war crime and contravention of international law, the crime being that Israeli commandos attacked ships in international waters and killed civilians.

Beyond making Canada the world’s most pro-Israel country, the Harper government has strongly backed Israel’s onslaught against the 1.5 million people living in Gaza. Canada has refused to criticize the blockade. For example, Canada was the only country at the UN Human Rights Council to vote against a January 2008 resolution that called for “urgent international action to put an immediate end to the siege of the occupied Gaza Strip”. The motion was adopted with 30 votes in favour and 15 abstentions.

Canada has further legitimized Israel’s siege of Gaza by directly participating in it. In early 2009, Canada joined the Gaza Counter-Arms Smuggling Initiative alongside the Netherlands, France, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Italy, and the U.S. “We look forward to continuing work with our partners on the program of action to coordinate efforts to stop the flow of arms, ammunition and related material into the Gaza Strip,” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said in a June 2009 statement. “By addressing arms smuggling and the continued threat of terrorism through this initiative, Canada continues to contribute to a sustainable peace in the region, along with its international partners.”

Cannon, of course, was not referring to Israel Defense Forces weaponry, which has killed thousands in Gaza. A March 2008 Israeli incursion into Gaza claimed more than 120 lives. In response, 33 members of the UNHRC voted for a resolution accusing Israel of war crimes. Thirteen countries abstained and only Canada opposed the resolution.

Israel unleashed a much greater assault on Gaza in December 2008. Ottawa wholeheartedly supported Israel’s 22-day campaign, which left 1,400 Palestinians dead.

“Canada’s position has been well known from the very beginning. Hamas is a terrorist group. Israel defended itself,” Minister Cannon proclaimed, even though only 13 Israelis died during the campaign (three of whom were civilians).

Ottawa even justified Israel’s killing of 40 Palestinian civilians at a UN–run school in January 2009. Junior foreign affairs minister Peter Kent said, “We really don’t have complete details yet, other than the fact that we know that Hamas has made a habit of using civilians and civilian infrastructure as shields for their terrorist activities, and that would seem to be the case again today.” Kent added that Hamas “bears the full responsibility for the deepening humanitarian tragedy.”¦In many ways, Hamas behaves as if they are trying to have more of their people killed to make a terrible terrorist point.”

Presumably the “terrible terrorist point” was that the Israeli army brutally murders Palestinian civilians. It’s not hard to prove.

Compared to Ottawa’s cheerleading, most of the world was hostile to Israel’s actions. Many countries criticized the killing of civilians. In solidarity with Gaza, Venezuela expelled Israel’s ambassador at the start of the bombardment and broke off all diplomatic relations two weeks later. Israel didn’t need to worry, since Ottawa was prepared to help out. The Canadian Embassy in Caracas took over Israel’s diplomatic relations there. Canada officially became Israel, at least in Venezuela.

What can we expect this time, after more and more countries expel their Israeli ambassadors? Will Canada become Israel in Turkey? Jordan? Bolivia?

When will the Canadian people wake up and demand that Ottawa stand up for international law and justice for the Palestinian people?



Ginger Goodwin

Jun 2, 2010 at 11:36am

Great commentary.

Avraham Lachs

Jun 2, 2010 at 1:39pm

Yves, you are either blind or an absolute moron. There were six ships in that flotilla. Five of the captains obeyed the Israeli navy's orders and went to the Port of Ashdod where the cargos were unloaded, inspected, and transported legally to Gaza. The captain of the sixth ship ignored the navy's orders; and when the soldiers boarded the ship to enforce Israeli law, the soldiers were brutally attacked. Faced with overwhelming odds against them, naturally the soldiers fired in self-defence. Don't even try to legitimitize your rant by saying that the ship was in international waters. The fact is that the ship was going to run a blockade, and it had to be stopped. When will YOU wake up and demand that the world stand up for international law and justice for Israel?

Larry Silver

Jun 2, 2010 at 3:37pm

Truth of the matter.....Israel became a sovergn nature through an edict of the United Nations headquarters in New yhork City. Right away,the Islamic entities joined forces and attacked Israel. Ishmael versus Issac revisited. Nothing has changed. For peace to happen,Jew and Muslem must shake hands and accept each others right to exist ! Thats all!! Wheres the problem!!? Killings,wars,Huge buildings blownup..people jumping out of burning windows hundreds of feet high! Terroist attacks around the world! Most of the worlds populations became pawns to lagitamize evil intent! Is everyone blind!!
Give Israel a chance to prove itself with good will for a change! How long must this go on!!? Or,..or..are we to wate for the second coming of the Massiach? Could be tommorow ,next week,or a thousand years! How maqny more lives are to be lost,how much more of the worlds treasure is to be poured out into a cess pool!?
All it takes is a little'Sannity'! Or is there such a thing on planet "Earth"?


Jun 2, 2010 at 4:11pm

I suppose when they start to identify with Palestinians more than Israelis. Far more Canadians have connections with Jews and Israel than they do with Palestinians and with the conflict having very little of a clear direct impact on Canadians day to day lives they are unlikely to pay enough attention to change their views.

Jean B.

Jun 3, 2010 at 10:33am

Canadians should be concerned about what is being done (or not done) in our name around the world. Israel seems to believe it is above the rule of law. Since 1967 it has built more and more illegal settlements on occupied land. How do supporters of Israel explain that when they claim peaceful intentions? Supporters of Israel justify the 1948-49 expulsion of hundreds of thousand of Palestinians by saying the UN gave Israel the land. But then they turn around and say the UN is biased against them and can't be trusted. The truth is for Israel might makes right. They have lived by the sword and they will die by the sword.
Canadians of good conscience must hold their governments accountable regarding one-sided support for a country that ignores international law.

Marwan Marwan

Jun 3, 2010 at 11:20am

Israel attacked aid ships in INTERNATIONAL waters, that's a fact. Soldiers raiding aid ships, killing aid workers and human rights advocates and then calling it self defence is nothing but a twisting of logic and reason.

"under article 3 of the Rome Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation of 1988, it is an international crime for any person to seize or exercise control over a ship by force, and also a crime to injure or kill any person in the process"

Here's an independent news report from Israel on the attacks on the aid flotilla:

Did you know that the aid flotilla also had a Holocaust survivor onboard, this was her 4th attempt at breaking the siege on Gaza:

Norman Finkelstein on the aid flotilla attack:

Anyone can get live updates on the situation from WitnessGaza:

@Avraham Lachs: Don't twist the facts, ALL aid ships were attacked by the Israeli military. This was an operation that involved hundreds of soldiers, attack helicopters and multiple Israeli navy ships. All the aid workers and human rights activists on the ship had their property confiscated: money, mobile phones, laptops, clothes, etc. Everyone was assaulted, abused, kidnapped...You want to speak about international law? Well maybe Israel can start by recognizing it.


Jun 3, 2010 at 3:55pm

I am not sure why the author is so concerned about Canadians being on the Israeli side. From what I can see here all the comments against Israel receive strong "agree"s and any comment trying to balance it turns red with "disagree"s. Every single article here takes the anti-Israeli side, omitting such facts as the thousands of rockets routinely shot by Hamas into Israel, that Israel has recently intercepted ships full of artillery weapons headed to Gaza, that the blocade does not limit the humanitarian aid, it's sole purpose is to prevent more weapons from entering Gaza. Gazan people suffer because of Hamas violent opposition to the existence of Israel, Hamas opposes any peace talks and has never said that its goal was the creation of independent Palestine next to Israel, it's goal has always openly been the destruction of Israel. I am sure that my comment here will receive many "disagree" ratings, but when you do that just give it a quick thought what are you disagreeing with exactly, because these facts are a public knowledge, it's not really a matter of opinion. I wish peace and prosperity to the Palestinian people, but siding with Hamas is not going to accomplish that. If we really care we should see the situation in a bit more calm rather than emotional way and get to know all the facts, rather than being so selective about it. This incident was a terrible mistake, not something that was planned, and by the way that it's celebrated in Arab countries and being a huge embarrasment for Israel, only a very blinded with hatred person can believe that Israel wished for this to happen.

Martin C

Jun 3, 2010 at 8:21pm

Right on, JmaesT!!

Gordon Trick

Jun 3, 2010 at 10:13pm

We have over 60 years of facts. Israel is a brutal entity created through terrorism against Palestinians. Its primary political goal is to colonize land that belongs to the Palestinians. Israel imagines that these wild west tactics are so similar to what the USA did to its indigenous people (and lets not forget Canada's shameful history in this regard), that they are automatically immune from criticism. Palestine? Gaza? What about Wounded Knee and Batoche? So it goes. The difference is that we know we fucked up and we're trying to do something about it. Israel is still in the fucking up stage and has no intention of quitting until their 'Indians' are all on reserves or dead. They're still in the 19th Century, but, unfortunately, with 21st Century weapons. Expect things to get a lot worse, especially for Israel, as its few friends turn their backs on what is highly unacceptable behaviour in 2010, even if it was common in 1810.

Marwan Marwan

Jun 4, 2010 at 2:05am

@JmaesT: I love people like yourself who throw out the "thousands of rockets" argument...Here are some real life facts to help steer you away from using that argument again:

1) Many of the residents of Gaza are refugees, or the descendants of refugees, who were originally driven out of their homes from the areas surrounding Gaza when the state of Israel was created in 1948.

2) Israel occupied Gaza in 1967.

3) Hamas was formed in 1987. That's 20 years of occupation before Hamas was established.

4) The first crude homemade rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel in 2001. That's 34 years of occupation before any of those crude rockets were fired.

5) The first fatality from those rockets was in 2004.

6) Since 2001 to May of 2009, these "thousands of missiles" have caused 15 fatalities.

I'm not for these killings and i'm not justifying the death of the 15 people. But it's important to look at these facts and realize who is doing what? Who's occupying who? And who's under siege...Ever tried to bring a water filter into Gaza? Good luck as it's banned with a lot of other household goods like hair conditioner. Here's a complete list, notice that shoes were only allowed in recently, and the list doesn't even allow for children's toys, books, pencils, etc:

In 2006, for 34 days Israel attacked Lebanon and killed 1200 civilians.

At the end of 2008 and into 2009, for 22 days Israel attacked Gaza and killed 1400 civilians, A THIRD OF THEM CHILDREN. 280 schools and kindergartens destroyed. 11000 homes destroyed. 17% of all of Gaza's cultivated land was destroyed and 36000 cattle killed.

Most recently, an aid flotilla headed to Gaza to break the 3 years of crippling siege. The aid flotilla is attacked by Israel in international waters and 9 (could be as high as 19 civilians as Israel refuses to release the exact figures or identities of the people murdered) are killed at the hands of the Israeli military. To make things worst, the private property of all the people on board the aid flotilla, including cash, personal belongings and especially recording devices (mobile phones, cameras, laptops, etc.) were confiscated. As a result, Israel controls all the information about the exact events that transpired on the aid flotilla. What is Israel afraid of? What is Israel trying to cover up? There were international reporters on the aid flotilla, why won't Israel release their footage? Is Israel afraid of the truth getting out?

To blame the occupation of Gaza from 1967 until now on the crude homemade rockets fired in 2001, is to twist history, reality and logic in such a way that they're not recognizable anymore.

My advice, don't use the "thousands of rockets" argument because there are no facts to support it. Just remember 1967 is when Gaza got occupied, that's 43 years of occupation and 34 years before the first rocket was ever fired.

End the siege. End the occupation. End Israeli apartheid rule. One country with equal rights for all it's people (Israelis and Palestinians), this is the ONLY solution.