On October 3, Sweden’s newly elected prime minister, Kjell Stefan Löfven, declared his country would recognize the state of Palestine, joining over 130 other countries that have made this move. On October 14, British legislators voted 274-12 in support of a motion that would call on the British government to symbolically recognize the state of Palestine, while France considered putting a similar vote to its National Assembly around the same time.
These milestones should be celebrated by human rights activists across the world. However, back on home soil, I couldn’t feel more ashamed of the Canadian government’s stance on Palestine. More striking is Canada’s indifference to human rights violations in the Palestinian Territories, and its unjustifiable refusal to provide humanitarian and medical aid to recent war victims from Gaza.
A recent editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to stop preventing the Heal100Kids campaign, an effort by Canadian doctors, nurses, and the Ontario government to bring 100 injured Gazan children requiring specialized care to Canada for treatment.
I continue to be appalled by Canada’s unilateral approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Heal100kids campaign was initially lead by Toronto-based physician, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, whose three young daughters were killed in Israel’s 2009 Gaza offensive, Abuelaish served for many years in an Israeli hospital and yet, with the devastating loss of his daughters to the Israeli army, Abuelaish held true to the principle of forgiveness and reconciliation, refusing to seek revenge. Having done much of the legwork required to bring the injured Gazan children to Canada, including gaining support from the Ontario government, Abuelaish’s humanitarian effort hit a wall. Harper’s government refused to let Gazan children be treated in Canada.
Recent remarks made by the Minister of International Development Christian Paradis echoed Harper’s indifference and repeatedly referred to the wounded as victims of Hamas. Paradis’ claim couldn’t be further from the truth. UNICEF released several statements indicating that Israel has deliberately targeted children in its offensive against Gaza. UNICEF also reported that 264 children were deliberately killed and over 2,000 injured by Israeli ammunition. While there are calls from around world to bring the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to justice for committing crimes against humanity, Paradis insists on poisoning perceptions of a humanitarian crisis with incorrect information.
It would be unforgivable to deny the treatment of children from one of the most war-torn and impoverished areas in the world today.
For decades, Canada has provided travel documents for children requiring specialized healthcare from over 102 countries. It would be unforgivable to deny the treatment of children from one of the most war-torn and impoverished areas in the world today. Austria, Germany, Turkey, and many neighbouring countries have already received hundreds of Gazan children for treatment.
I continue to be appalled by Canada’s unilateral approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While many Western countries play a pivotal role in promoting human rights and providing medical aid to disaster areas, Canada continues to disregard Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, eviction of homeowners, imprisonment of innocent civilians (including children), and targeting of civilians – all illegal actions under international law.
The Heal100kids petition has already garnered over 50,000 signatures. The hospitals are ready to care for the children, many with complicated injuries, and all that remains is the bureaucratic task of granting visas to those children. Doesn’t Harper realize that by denying Gazan children treatment in Canada, he is demonstrating that Canada is not an agent of peace? It’s both morally appalling and unforgivable that innocent children are not receiving treatment because of Canada’s one-sided support for the Israeli government.
Ayman Oweida is a PhD candidate in the Division of Experimental Medicine. To contact him, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.