October 16th, 2023
House of Commons Statement on Israel Palestine
On Monday October 16, I made the following statement on behalf of New Democrats in the House of Commons.
Mr. Speaker, New Democrats are devastated by the brutal massacre and terrorist attack by Hamas, that, on October 7, killed over 1,300 Israeli civilians, including women, children and the elderly. Among those victims were Canadians, members of our communities. The accounts of what was done to Israelis in this attack, including what was done to children, horrifies every one of us.
We condemn Hamas and these terrorist attacks that have caused so much pain to the Jewish community globally and in Canada. This begs the question of what Canada has done in the past few years to stop arms from going into the hands of Hamas. Hamas's actions constitute heinous violations of international law and international crimes for which it must be held accountable.
I want to express my profound sadness and anger at the rising anti-Semitism and anti-Palestinian racism that we are seeing globally, including in Canada. The rising anti-Semitism is causing Canadian Jews to keep their children home from school. Rising anti-Palestinian racism took the life of a six-year-old in Chicago yesterday.
Canadians from both of these communities are distraught, and I think the federal government could do more to increase the security across places of worship, something many communities have called for, for years.
We are in a very dark time and I am urging all members of this House to take care to understand how deeply communities are hurting. I grieve with Canadians who have lost loved ones and who are afraid for their families. I stand with the families of hostages and call for their immediate release.
As this crisis worsens, I also want us to pay attention to the unfolding humanitarian nightmare in Gaza. I want to state clearly that international law obligations are not reciprocal. One war crime does not excuse another.
Retribution is not justice. Retribution does not bring peace.
I want members of this House to know that international law was not written by pacifists. The laws of war were written by governments whose militaries had suffered extraordinary losses, who had seen civilians massacred and who had experienced the horrors of war.
International law, which Canada has promised to uphold, sets limits on military actions, state and non-state, and what those countries can do in war. It seeks to protect civilians, all civilians.
David Miliband, the head of the International Rescue Committee, said yesterday, “International Humanitarian Law is the way that previous generations have learnt to mitigate the worst of war”. It is a very low bar, but this low bar applies to everyone.
We are, unfortunately, watching violations of international law in Gaza. It is a siege with no water, no electricity and no food. Entire communities have been destroyed. Entire families have been wiped out. Over 1,000 children have been killed. Hospitals have been bombed and humanitarian aid workers killed. United Nations independent experts have said this amounts to collective punishment.
The former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, said, “A full blockade of Gaza could be considered a crime against humanity and a genocide.”
This morning, Defence for Children International confirmed more than 1,030 children in Gaza have been killed by Israeli forces since October 7. That is one child every 16 minutes.
We are now reading reports that Hamas is stealing what little humanitarian aid is available for civilians. Let us be clear: Hamas is making already vulnerable Palestinians suffer further in this siege. Palestinians have been suffering from Hamas's brutality, as well as the absence of real democratic Palestinian leadership. With the dangerous influence of external states like Iran, this has made things worse.
However, it does not absolve Israel of its obligations to protect civilians; nor does it absolve Canada of its obligations to call out violations to international law when they occur.
United Nations relief chief Martin Griffiths said yesterday, “The past week has been a test for humanity, and humanity is failing.” The forcible transfer of a million people from their homes is not an evacuation; it is illegal. There are babies in incubators unable to be relocated and medical staff refusing to abandon these babies, knowing that they may die in the coming days. Gazans are afraid to be pushed into Egypt because they do not know if they will be allowed back. This is a humanitarian and political disaster of enormous proportions and Canada is silent.
Where is the government in condemning this siege, this forcible transfer, this humanitarian crisis? The minister has spoken to his Israeli counterparts. The Prime Minister has spoken to the leader of Israel to convey Canada's support. However, in any of those conversations has Canada told Israeli officials that this scale of revenge, these clear violations of law, are unacceptable to Canadians?
So many Israelis are speaking out against Israel's actions in Gaza. Survivors of the Hamas terrorist attack are asking for peace. They are saying “not in our name”. They are asking for the release of hostages, including Canadians. Maoz Inon, whose parents were murdered by Hamas said: I am not crying for my parents; I am crying for those who are going to lose their lives in this war. We must stop the war. ...we are not seeking revenge. Revenge will just lead to more suffering and to more tragedies.
Yonatan, the son of Canadian hostage Vivian Silver, said, “She would be mortified by the attack on Gaza, because you can't cure killed babies with more dead babies. We need peace.”
Vivian Silver is a member of Women Wage Peace. She has spent years working for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine. Yesterday, Women Wage Peace made the following comments: We hear words of revenge all the time – we hear “all restraints have been removed”, “we will wipe out Gaza”.... But one cannot resolve one injustice with another injustice.
We in this House need to be thinking of both the short-term humanitarian crisis and also the long term. New Democrats for decades have called for an end to the occupation and for a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians.
This year has already been brutal for all in the region before the terrorist attacks and before this new siege of Gaza. Now we are moments away from a broader war that could engulf the entire region. We are moments away from an alarming and long-term refugee crisis. We are further from peace than we have ever been. We speak of ending the occupation, but we are so far away from a political solution and the Liberal government is failing to step up.
It is failing to step up for international law, for Israelis and for Palestinians.
This is the moment to call for calm. We are witnessing an increase of attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem and in the West Bank by settlers and Israeli security. We have seen reports of abuses of Israeli families who are demanding that the leadership of the Israeli government put the hostages first.
People are divided. People are hurting.
The only solution is a political solution. There is no military solution to this conflict.
I am begging the government to realize that what its members say now matters. It matters so much and they must call for a ceasefire. Canada must support international justice efforts by the ICJ and the ICC to investigate war crimes by all military actors in Palestine. All war crimes by all parties in this conflict must be prosecuted. Canada must call for a ceasefire and an end to the forcible transfer of civilians.
I want to end by thanking all Israelis and Palestinians working to preserve life: medical workers, humanitarians, human rights advocates, those calling for peace, ordinary people doing what they can in the face of such horror.
They are the light in this darkness. We see them and we stand with them.