The Canadian government is being called out for issuing statements defending Israel’s use of force "to assure its own security" following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza last weekend that killed dozens of Palestinians, including children.
The first unsigned statement, which came from the “Foreign Policy CAN” Twitter account on Saturday evening rather than directly from a government minister, echoed similar talking points to those that had already been issued by U.S. and U.K. officials, and did not condemn Israel’s deadly attacks on residential areas.
The Canadian statement was not shared or boosted by government ministers or other leading officials.
Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, which ended on Sunday after a ceasefire agreement came into effect, began on Friday with a raid on a residential apartment building. In addition to killing an Islamic Jihad commander, Israel’s first day of airstrikes took the lives of at least 10 other Palestinians, including a five year-old girl, Alaa Qaddoum.
According to Al Jazeera (AJ):
“The attacks follow days of tension with the Islamic Jihad after the arrest of senior Palestinian leader Bassam al-Saadi in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin ... They also came after days of border closures, including the closure of the Karem Abu Salem commercial crossing (called Kerem Shalom by Israel), which is responsible for the flow of fuel needed for Gaza’s sole power plant.”
By the end of the weekend, the total death toll had risen to “at least” 44 as well as more than 300 wounded civilians, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. According to sources on the ground, a total of 16 Palestinian children were killed in Gaza during Israel's attacks.
AP News, an organization whose Gaza offices were destroyed by Israeli airstrikes last year, suggested that a minority of Palestinians who died "may" have been killed by misfired rockets launched from within Gaza. Israel, meanwhile, celebrated its bloody attack as a success, according to reports on Monday.
More than 24 hours after Israel’s initial attacks, “Foreign Policy CAN,” an official Global Affairs Canada (GAC) account, tweeted:
“Canada mourns the civilian loss of life due to the violence in Israel and Gaza. (Canada) supports (Israel’s) right to assure its own security, while respecting human rights and international law. We urge all parties to de-escalate tensions and protect civilians.”
The Canadian statement echoed near-identical comments that had already been made by British and American officials.
On Friday, AJ reported that U.K. Foreign Secretary and leading candidate to become the country’s next prime minister, Liz Truss, said: “The UK stands by Israel and its right to defend itself ... We call for a swift end to the violence.”
John Kirby, U.S. National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, also defended Israel’s attack on Gaza, stating:
“...We certainly urge all sides to avoid further escalation. We remain unwavering in our commitment to Israel’s security, and we will continue to work to strengthen all aspects of the U.S.-Israeli partnership … We absolutely fully support Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist groups that are taking the lives of innocent civilians in Israel.”
On Monday, Foreign Policy CAN tweeted that Canada welcomed the ceasefire, and reiterated its support for "Israel's right to assure its security."
Responding to a video clip showing Palestinian children and elderly civilians injured by Israel’s assault, NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson tweeted:
“Watching these children, my heart breaks. These are just kids. I can’t help but think of the continuing trauma these children are experiencing! What will it take for Canada to recognize the asymmetric nature of this conflict?”
Michael Bueckert, vice president of the advocacy group Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), told The Maple he was “beyond disappointed” with the Canadian government’s response to Israel’s latest attacks on Gaza.
“Canada's response was worse than usual,” said Bueckert. “Canada went out of its way to say as little as possible; they just did as much as they could to really bury this.” He noted that the language in the statements was neutral, and gave no indication that only Palestinians were killed and injured in the latest attacks.
“There was no recognition that Israel's so-called right to its security, that those actions in fact were deliberately targeting residential towers and were killing civilians," he explained.
Bueckert said it is likely that GAC staff waited to see what British and American officials said about the attacks before putting together a statement.
As previously reported by The Maple, Canadian officials monitored statements made by their counterparts in the U.S., U.K. and EU regarding the Israeli military’s killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May before publishing their own comments. The Canadian officials’ statements closely matched the talking points of their international counterparts.
However, Bueckert said he thinks some of the language in the latest Canadian statements appeared to be a softened version of similar talking points made by officials from other countries, even as the statements failed to condemn Israel as the perpetrator.
Notably, the Canadian statements called for respect for “human rights and international law.” However, Bueckert noted that neither statement clarified whether Canada believes Israel was fulfilling those obligations.
“The implication is that they think it's okay, because they're not criticizing Israel,” Bueckert explained.
“My speculation is that the tweet was a compromise tweet between different factions among bureaucrats and elected officials over what to say.”
CJPME is calling on the Canadian government to end arms exports to Israel, demand an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, and support an International Criminal Court investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Canada exported $26 million in military goods to Israel in 2021, an increase of $7 million from 2020.
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