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HomeopinionsJustin Trudeau’s belated and shameful volte face on Gaza

Justin Trudeau’s belated and shameful volte face on Gaza

Some of Israel’s most prominent enablers now claim to abhor the scope of Israel’s wanton killing of Palestinians with a barrage of bullets, bombs, and rampaging bulldozers.

Earlier this week, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak joined France and Germany in calling for a “sustainable ceasefire” to stop the killing.

Like his European allies, Sunak said that “too many civilian lives have been lost”.

Sunak’s belated admonition invites several questions: When did he realise that “too many [Palestinian] lives have been lost”? What was the number of dead Palestinians that tipped into “too many”? Why didn’t 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000 dead Palestinians constitute “too many”?

It is touching, isn’t it, to watch Sunak and craven company find, surprisingly, a moral compass when, all along, we warned them that this is what was going to happen.

We told them that their fulsome embrace of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was bound to mean the litany of horrors the world has witnessed in the shattered remains of Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

But Sunak and craven company did not listen. They ignored us. So, they backed, once again, Netanyahu’s permanent licence to kill as many Palestinians as he wants to, for as long as he wants to.

Netanyahu has obliged them. Happily. Eagerly. Indiscriminately. Almost 20,000 Palestinians have been killed – mostly children and women. Thousands of others are buried beneath the rubble. Thousands more have been maimed in body, mind, and perhaps their souls.

Netanyahu, true to his foul nature, has dismissed every one of those dead and damaged human beings, including boys and girls, as “collateral damage”.

Apparently, Netanyahu killed too many Palestinians, too quickly for London’s, Berlin’s, and Paris’s liking. Hence, the qualified volte-face.

Israel has the right to defend itself, they say. But it shouldn’t kill that many Palestinian civilians that quickly. It’s not a good look, they say.

Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has finally had a “humanitarian” epiphany too.

Not too long ago, Trudeau also told Netanyahu that he could, in effect, do whatever he wanted to do in Gaza and the West Bank since Israel had the right to defend itself.

The silly, verging-on-juvenile hubris. As if Netanyahu needed Trudeau’s blessing to do what he has done in Gaza and the West Bank.

Anyway, several weeks later, like Sunak et al, Trudeau appears to be having second thoughts. Today, he agrees that Israel may have gone too far, too quickly, in Gaza and the West Bank.

Trudeau had Canada’s UN ambassador, Bob Rae, announce the sudden change of strategic heart. Rae told the General Assembly last week that Canada supported a ceasefire.

Trudeau’s decision has provoked a furious rhetorical response from the “no ceasefire” quarters inside and outside the Liberal caucus who, predictably, have insisted that the jejune prime minister had not only abandoned Israel, but sided with the murderous Hamas.

The carnage in Gaza is no longer palatable. Only zealots refuse to acknowledge that the winds have shifted. Trudeau can see what most of us can see.

It is, of course, an indelible shame that he and the other pusillanimous prime ministers and presidents waited so long.

If they had heeded the alarm, they might have saved a lot of Palestinian boys and girls from what former British Defence Minister Ben Wallace has described as Israel’s “killing rage”.

Still, despite the emerging ceasefire refrain, I don’t believe that Israel will end its “killing rage” soon. It’s too late. As long as US President Joe Biden keeps telling Netanyahu that he can do whatever he wants to Palestinians, for as long as he wants to, the “killing rage” will claim more Palestinians.

Inevitably, 20,000 will become 30,000 and on and on it will go until Israel, and Israel alone, decides its “killing rage” is spent.

That doesn’t mean that Trudeau is powerless to help Palestinians in desperate straits. To help relieve their shocking hardship and suffering. To extend a generous, welcoming hand to a people whose generosity and welcoming spirit is familiar to anyone who has visited Gaza or the West Bank.

Trudeau can help but it will require the will to help. It will require Trudeau to push back against the noxious naysayers who will denounce him for doing the right thing, at the right time – just as he did when Syrians and Ukrainians, fleeing want and fear, found haven in Canada.

Trudeau did it on the eve of Christmas in 2015. Back then, in an important display of solidarity, Trudeau greeted the first Syrian refugees to Canada at airports as part of “Operation Syrian Refugees.”

“As a country, we opened our arms and our hearts to people and families fleeing conflict, insecurity, and persecution,” Trudeau said in December 2020.

Later, many of the thousands of Syrian refugees who came to Canada would become citizens. They built new lives here. They went to school. They opened businesses. They became “valued members of the community”.

And, as a tangible expression of gratitude, they, in turn, have helped refugees who have arrived after them because they understood, as Canadians, it was their duty.

In 2022, Trudeau erased bureaucratic barriers to allow many Ukrainians to settle in Canada. It was a humanitarian emergency, Trudeau said, that demanded a swift, humanitarian answer.

As of late November 2023, more than 200,000 Ukrainians have settled in Canada – far from the disfiguring war that has changed their lives and homeland forever.

The applications of another nearly one million Ukrainians for “temporary residency” in Canada have been approved, as have new immigration rules to make that “temporary” status “permanent”.

Canada had confirmed its compassionate bona fides.

The test will be whether Trudeau can show that same compassion for Palestinians. Will he open Canada’s “arms” and “hearts” to Palestinian families “fleeing conflict, insecurity, and persecution”?

The realist in me doubts that he will. Political calculations trump humanity even in the face of the strafing, starvation, and siege Palestinians are enduring.

Syrian and Ukrainian lives matter. Palestinians are the “international community’s” unwanted orphans.

Trudeau will not risk the wrath of the noxious naysayers – and their faithful friends in the establishment press – who traffic in odious caricatures about who the Palestinian civilians are.

That’s why, I suspect, Trudeau broke his word, as prime minister, to 100 injured Palestinian children that he had vowed, as opposition leader, to help arrange care for in Canada to mend their broken bodies and minds.

A politician who deserts children is, I’m afraid, likely incapable of summoning the decency to admit that he was wrong and to try to save them.

That will be Trudeau’s other lasting shame.

When he had the means and opportunity to heal children, Trudeau shunned them and their families because they were Palestinians.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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