1. (b) Gaza 2018: A Preliminary Evaluation of the Canadian Response

Clearly, the debate over an investigation into the recent Gaza violence is leagues away from the differences over what occurred. But there seems to be little debate over the fact that Dr. Loubani, who had invented both a 3D printed stethoscope and was testing a 3D printed tourniquet, was engaged in medical work. He is known world-wide for his voluntary engagement in medical treatment and training in such crises, but Canadians might remember him best as one of the duo (John Greyson, the documentary filmmaker, was the other) who, on route to Gaza, was detained by the Egyptians in 2013 and incarcerated for seven weeks in Egypt’s Tora prison. Neither was ever charged. The question, therefore, is why was Loubani shot in the legs even if Musa Abuhassanin was killed by a sniper’s bullet and buried in the green and white flag of Hamas as a “holy warrior”?

A second major question raised by Justin Trudeau’s statement was his sentence: “Reported use of excessive force and live ammunition is inexcusable.” He undoubtedly meant to write, “Use of excessive force and live ammunition as reported is inexcusable.” What was reported, however inaccurate or inadequate, whatever else it may be, is unlikely to be inexcusable. As written, Trudeau seems to have endorsed the interpretation of the response to the Gaza protests that “excessive force” has been used and that the “use of live ammunition is inexcusable.” Further, he had first stated that, many unarmed people, including civilians, members of the media, first responders, and children were killed. Calling for an inquiry to establish the facts after the facts have already been presumed seems ingenuous.

Presumably, after establishing the facts as accurately as possible, two objectives of an independent investigation would determine whether Israeli use of force was excessive and whether the use of live ammunition was appropriate, let alone excusable or inexcusable. It is difficult to argue that an independent investigation is needed to “establish the facts” when two of the major “facts” have already been presumed.

Though, Justin’s statements seemed to run contrary to his previous support for Israel that had met such wide criticisms from critics of Israel, this statement was suddenly welcomed by his previous critics. However, the issue is not whether the statement was justified, but whether the statement as distributed begged the question. And that question is a legitimate one without any presumptions.

However, the original statement is clearer and more relevant compared to either the critiques or the defences of it. “CJPME [a defender of the statement] looks forward to watching the Canadian government continue to ensure that Israel is held to account for its human rights abuses and violations of international law.” CJPME does not ask that Hamas be held to account for its human rights abuses and violations of international law. Neither does the Prime Minister’s statement ask that of Israel. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau never claimed that either human rights laws or international humanitarian law were breached. He primarily called for an investigation.

Are these bystanders, who went from severe critics of Trudeau to defenders, now guilty of distorting what he said? Further, they do not indicate what international law was allegedly breached let alone applicable, though in other writings they do make those references. Nor do they indicate in his defence how human rights norms are applicable to a situation of international conflict. They simply presume they are.

Critics, on the other hand, focused on the bias of the statement because it omitted any explicit reference to Hamas. In the case of Hamas, Trudeau’s criticism was implied rather than direct in including the word “incitement.” Further, any Hamas responsibility itself had actually been indirect for the demonstrations were ostensibly organized by a civil society group. Third, highlighting Hamas by the critics only emphasized that the united Palestinian leadership in Gaza had emphasized the peaceful nature of the protests. Fourth, the criticisms of Trudeau ignored that the overwhelming numbers of demonstrators were involved in peaceful protests. Finally, on this occasion, there was little evidence that I could find that Hamas used innocent civilians as shields in the violent conflict.

The issue was not that Israel had lost Canada’s support when its security was threatened. That has been and remains unequivocal. The Canadian government supports Israel and its right to defend itself. The issue was whether and to what degree Israel, in that defence, had injured or killed innocents and did so to such an extent that norms of international law were breached.

A more appropriate response of Jewish organizations might have included the following:

  1. Jews in Canada have been proud of the Canadian government’s defence of the right of Israel to defend itself.
  2. Jews in Canada also recognize that Prime Minister Trudeau cannot be expected to defend Israel if some Israeli actions appear to be inappropriate.
  3. Canadian Jews welcome Trudeau’s call for an independent inquiry and can assure our fellow Canadians that the IDF does conduct independent inquiries when actions by the IDF may appear to go amiss.
  4. All Canadians, including all Jews, are proud of the humanitarian work of Dr. Tarek Loubani and hope that he was not involved in militant political as well as humanitarian work. We express our concern for his injuries and wish him a speedy recovery. We are also convinced that an independent IDF inquiry will reveal whether Dr. Loubani’s leg wounds were intentional or not, and, if intentional, why.
  5. We are also confident that the independent inquiries already underway by the IDF will establish that the widely reported charges of use of excessive force are unjustified and that the use of live ammunition did not contravene the norms of just war.
  6. We are also pleased that only a small minority of those killed – the collateral damage – were non-militants.
  7. We agree with Prime Minister Trudeau’s call for an end to violence and his support for a two-state solution through direct negotiations and mutual agreements, contrary to the objectives of Hamas in general and of the Gazan Political actions more recently. The latter undermine that goal and instead continue to aim for the elimination of the Jewish state.

One seems forced to conclude that the organized Jewish community is no better at engaging in a media war than the Israeli government. The next blog takes up the latter issue.

Tomorrow: 2 (a) The Media War: Effects

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