At the Oct. 9 rally in Toronto. Photo: Fatin Ishraq Chowdhury

Canada’s political and media class are endorsing Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians

Bāssel Abdel-Qader
Oct. 19, 2023

Outpourings of shock and sympathy flooded Canada’s political landscape in the days following Hamas’ October 7 surprise attack on Israel. Parliament’s Peace Tower had the Israeli flag projected onto it, while the CN Tower shone blue and white at the top of every hour. Leaders of every political party, federal and provincial alike, issued statements condemning Hamas’ terror attacks in the strongest terms. Not to be outdone by his peers, Justin Trudeau declared, “Let me be very clear: Hamas terrorists aren’t a resistance. They’re not freedom fighters. They’re terrorists.” Full stop.

Predictably, hardly a word of sympathy was uttered for Palestinians in Gaza, who were almost immediately being bombed, and soon had their water and power shut off. Ontario MPP Sarah Jama dared to mention Israel’s occupation, calling for an immediate ceasefire and de-escalation. She was promptly reprimanded by her party and forced to issue a more “balanced” statement—one decrying Hamas unequivocally—amid cries for her resignation. The crime of regarding Israel with anything other than reverence bears a heavy price.

In “calmer” times—that is, when Israel’s brutal blockade and apartheid policies persist as usual—the discourse is slightly less atrocious. The conflict’s protraction and complexity ensure that the media and politicians are varied, if only marginally, in their takes. To be sure, usually but a pittance of compassion is spared for Palestinians when assigning allowances and blame, but at least their plight is acknowledged. How and why was there suddenly no diversity of opinion?

This hive-mind mentality is not limited to the narrow analysis of October 7’s events, but also extends to criticisms of Canadians whose opinions fall outside the allowable scope. As is always the case when the Israeli military ratchets up its collective punishment of Gazans, rallies showing solidarity with Palestinians were organized. In response, elected officials denounced Canadians exercising their right to peacefully protest and speak their conscience, characterizing the gatherings as celebrations of terror.

Toronto’s mayor, Olivia Chow, tweeted that her city’s October 9 rally to supposedly “support Hamas” was “unsanctioned, without a permit” (permits are not required for peaceful gatherings on public property), that it “glorified violence.” On the other hand, she deleted a separate tweet affirming that “we must also acknowledge Palestinian pain and severe loss of life” because it caused “harm and confusion.” Harm, indeed.

In these instances, faced with a single narrative pushed by the entire political spectrum without deviation, any critical thinker worth their salt would look upon this with a good dose of skepticism. They might ask: Why is there a border fence between Gaza and Israel? Have any Palestinian civilians been killed by Israel? Was Hamas’ attack in retaliation to anything? What does Hamas hope to achieve by taking hostages? What does Hamas claim to be resisting? What do Palestinians seek freedom from?

The purpose of journalism was once to provide people with clarity and facts amidst uncertainty; to furnish them with alternative narratives that are not politically motivated, but are motivated rather by the discovery and dissemination of truth. Yet if you looked to the media for such answers following Hamas’ attack, what you instead found was journalists amplifying the mainstream political narrative.

In some cases, they offered suggestions, thinly veiled as questions, as to what the government should do with Canadians exercising their freedom of expression in support of Palestinians. “What do you say to Canadians,” CBC Power & Politics host David Cochrane asked Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, “who might go to a protest that critics say is purporting to celebrate what Hamas has done? I mean, should these protests be happening? There have been some calls by others to maybe find a way to prosecute this over supporting terrorism.”

While this isn’t the first time Palestinians have been sacrificed at the altar of Western geopolitical interests, this time’s betrayal is especially sickening. Choosing to see Palestinians as inherently bloodthirsty “human animals”—as Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant put it—instead of acknowledging the decades-long Israeli military occupation as the rational basis for their grievances is intellectually and morally bankrupt.

Drunk on virtue, pro-Israel rhetoric has reached a genocidal fever pitch. Should the Israeli government make good on its promise to destroy Hamas (and just happen to kill a few hundred thousand Gazans in the process), the Canadian political and media class will never be able to wash the blood off its hands.

Bāssel Abdel-Qader is a Palestinian-Egyptian writer based in the Greater Toronto Area and volunteers with the human rights organization Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. This article appears online only.