By Rosie DiManno
October 27, 2023 Edition
Sadly, it does bear repeating apparently, to call Hamas what it is. Already – actually within hours – the barbaric and terrorist incursion into Israel a fortnight ago, the butchery of men, women, babies and the elderly, has been transformed into an act of justifiable resistance to the occupation of Gaza.
In Canada, as in the United Kingdom and the United States, there should be no trembly caution about using the term “terrorist” because Hamas has been formally deemed a terrorist group.
Hamas declares it right there in their charter, which rejects “any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.” Which means the destruction of Israel. And if anyone is in doubt that Israel equates to Jews, Hamas is clear on that too: “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them.”
There are some 16.1 million Jews on the planet, or 0.2 per cent of the world’s population. Upwards of 7,181,00 of them live in Israel. But at least 1,400 fewer than there were on the morning of Oct. 7, before Hamas militants breached the “Iron Wall,” wantonly executing as many innocents as they could and dragging more than 200 hostages back to Gaza.
If Hamas had the capability, I’ve no doubt they’d extinguish every Jew alive.
There are more than two billion Muslims worldwide and I have no doubt the vast majority have no fondness for Hamas, no hatred for Jews and no wish to eradicate Israel. Most Muslims, I’ve every reason to believe, are just as appalled by the violence unleashed on Israel, by the idiots ripping down posters of missing captives, by the unconscionable academics and student unions that have seemingly aligned themselves with Hamas’s brutality, from Harvard University to York University.
Some critics don’t even bother distinguishing between Israel – accused of genocide and “settler colonialism” – and Jews, under cover of antisemitism thinly veiled as anti-Zionism. Without pioneering Zionists there would be no Israel. And obviously, Israel is hardly blameless in the historical context. But not for this.
Frankly, condemning the Hamas massacre while condoning, legitimizing, framing the vilification of Israel as righteous resistance, in the midst of the worst attack against Jews since the Holocaust, earns you no moral points. It is sophistry, polemical contortion.
We’re endlessly admonished not to conflate opposition to Israel, opposition to Zionism, with antisemitism. That too can be a dance of the didactic, to minimize Jew hatred. Again, criticism of Israeli policies is legitimate. Israeli citizens arguably do this at least as passionately, domestically, lambasting their far-right politicians. But in the wake of this Hamas onslaught, they’ve closed ranks.
As for these protests, read the goddamned room. They do not translate as moral support for Palestinians or the urgency of humanitarian intervention as Israel prepares for a ground invasion of Gaza. Rather, in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas slaughter, they reek of age-old revulsion for the Jewish state.
No doubt those present are there for many different reasons. But when protesters raise not just the Palestinian flag but the Hamas flag, that’s antisemitism. When demonstrators in Toronto target a Jewish community centre and a Jewish-owned restaurant, as they did on the weekend, that’s antisemitism. When leftist politicians give succour to militant resistance, denouncing Israel’s muscular response to atrocities committed on its soil without even mentioning the methodically savage invasion of Israel by Hamas, that’s antisemitism. When crowds chant “from the river to the sea,” whether they understand it or not, that’s antisemitism because it means erasing Israel.
Little wonder so many Jews feel unsafe everywhere. Little wonder so many Jews feel abandoned by their governments and forsaken by their neighbours.
Little wonder, when media pushed out the story that an Israeli missile had struck al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City, killing more than 500 civilians who’d taken shelter there from bombardments, few said hang on, is this true? It sure looks like it wasn’t true, as has been validated by expert military analysis, undertaken by intelligence agencies in the U.S., the U.K., France, the Associated Press and, with woeful belatedness, Canada – Defence Minister Bill Blair issuing a statement late Saturday evening avowing a “high degree of confidence” that the horror was caused by an errant rocket fired from within the Gaza Strip.
The false narrative was advanced by the Palestinian Health Authority, feeding the propaganda machine Hamas uses to fuel hatred of Israel. Many innocent Palestinian civilians have died and many more will die in collective punishment in this unfolding tragedy. And those deaths are used by Hamas for its strategic purpose, even as it prevents civilians from fleeing into southern Gaza by barricading roads.
A handful of pols and activists have in recent days walked back – well, qualified – their initial excoriation of Israel, but only under intense pressure. I would not describe that as locating one’s moral compass.
Case in point: A tweet from Jeremy Corbyn, former Labour Party leader in the U.K., claiming as fact that Israel was responsible for the catastrophic strike on the Gaza hospital. While the tweet stayed up, it had more than 11 million views. Corbyn, who in the past called Hamas representatives his “friends,” engulfed Labour in antisemitic controversy when he was leader of the opposition (2015-2019), from which it has struggled to emerge and disentangle itself. The odious Corbyn is no longer allowed to sit as a Labour MP. The lifelong Palestinian rights campaigner – nothing wrong with that – has scarcely changed his tune since the tweet. Like too many others, he’s essentially justified the Hamas rampage by putting the “occupation” in front of the atrocity.
Israel has not occupied Gaza since withdrawing its troops in 2005, though nearly every country – and the UN – still considers Gaza an occupied territory because of Israel’s (and Egypt’s) blockade.
Much of the progressive left, which once embraced Israel, has developed a toxic abhorrence for the only true democracy in the Middle East. In the provincial NDP, leader Marit Stiles is trying to put out the brush fire ignited by Sarah Jama and has been defiantly bucked by the rookie MPP. Instead of retracting her initial statement, which focused entirely on Palestinian misery – “violence and retaliation rooted in settler colonization have taken the lives of far too many innocent people” and the by-now rote invective about “apartheid in real time” – Jama doubled down by pinning the post, showcasing it at the top of her social media feed. Whilst issuing a lame apology for what, oh yeah, she forgot to mention the first time around, to “unequivocally condemn terrorism by Hamas.”
That was the second time in 200 days that Jama has “apologized.” On the eve of the byelection in Hamilton Centre, video surfaced of Jama speaking at a rally in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square in May 2021, where she accused Hamilton police of protecting “Nazism” and targeting “Black Muslim Palestinians saying we have the right to push to exist.”
Continuing, in the video posted to Twitter by a group called Documenting Antisemitism: “And the same liberal-minded people will continue saying, ‘But you know what? It’s fine if these things are happening because the issue will go away if you get the right people in positions of power.’ It’s fine that, you know, Israel’s illegitimate because (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu’s not there” – at the time he was temporarily forced out of power – “and we know that’s not true because the same people will continue to fund the killing of people here locally and globally.”
Stiles has declined to kick Jama out of caucus, Premier Doug Ford issued a statement accusing Jama of having “a long and well-documented history of antisemitism,” a “hateful view” and “publicly supported the rape and murder of innocent Jewish people,” and Jama countered by having her lawyer send Ford a cease-and-desist letter, demanding an “unequivocal apology” within seven days or expect a libel suit.
Jama’s defiance, her recalcitrant response to Stiles, her legal broadside against Ford – although a cease-and-desist letter isn’t a legal document – isn’t courageous, as some have argued. Antisemitic? I won’t dance on the head of that pin. But reckless and devaluing Jewish life? Indisputably.