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Read the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s statement on the Israel-Hamas war

Commentary

Given the recent horrific terrorist attacks by Hamas against civilians in Israel the Macdonald-Laurier Institute today issued the following statement:

To our friend and ally Israel:

The State of Israel is a legitimate and welcome member of the community of nations whose right to exist is uncontestable historically, legally and morally.

All states, including Israel, have the right to defend themselves and their citizens from enemies, both internal and external.

Israel has repeatedly offered its Palestinian neighbours land in exchange for peace. Those offers have repeatedly been rebuffed by Palestinian politicians who prefer to hold out to their people the vain hope that Israel will be pushed into the sea. Israel is not going anywhere, nor should it. Anyone who wants peace in the Middle East must start by recognising Israel’s legitimacy and right to defend itself and its people. The Abraham Accords and other such agreements with Egypt and Jordan prove that such a peace is possible and is supported by many Arab countries in the region. It is our hope that they will soon be joined by Saudi Arabia.

Palestinians under the leadership of Hamas in Gaza, especially, will not make an honourable peace with Israel and Hamas continues to preach the destruction of that country and its people. Israel has therefore been forced to take steps to protect its people from the threat represented by Hamas’s irredentists. These justified steps include building security fences and strictly controlling the movement of Gaza residents into Israel.

To Hamas:

Having created the conditions in which Israel, for its own safety and security, must protect itself from sworn enemies on its borders, Hamas and its apologists then have the temerity to blame Israel for the plight of Palestinians in Gaza and use Israel’s perfectly legitimate security measures as justification for the murderous terrorist attacks of last week. This justification is dishonest, dishonourable and disgraceful and must be rejected and decried by all civilised peoples. So too must Hamas’s efforts to put their very own population in harm’s way in an obvious attempt to delegitimise Israel’s efforts to dismantle Hamas and protect Israelis. These transparent ploys fool no one.

To Iran:

Hamas benefits from continued support and assistance from the radical Islamist regime in Iran, which has shamefully and predictably glorified and celebrated these barbaric attacks as another step in their campaign to destroy Israel. Iran supports, both covertly and overtly, any party that can help contribute to that goal of eradicating Israel, including contributing over $100m to Hamas last year. Iran’s support of Hamas and other terrorist actors – such as Hezbollah – has gone on for years and this unacceptable act of terror adds new urgency for the Canadian government finally to place the most robust and rigorous sanctions possible on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), up to and including listing them as a terrorist group. Canada should also support the United States’ call for Israel’s neighbours not to exacerbate the conflict now underway in Israel and Gaza.

To our Jewish friends and neighbours around the world:

In this time of great sorrow and pain, we at MLI want to make it perfectly clear that we stand with our Jewish friends, neighbours and colleagues.  The world must know that we reject anti-Jewish hatred and we urge the governments of Canada and other nations to take urgent steps to denounce anti-Semitism whatever it rears its ugly and pathetic head.

To the Government of Canada and its friends and allies:

We at MLI stand unambiguously with Israel in the face of these barbaric attacks, and wish to reiterate that Israel’s existence and safety, as well as the safety and security of the Jewish community worldwide, cannot and must not be threatened with impunity. We urge the Government of Canada and the governments of all liberal democracies to do the same and to condemn in the clearest possible terms all anti-Semitism as well as the calls from Hamas supporters in their own populations to abandon our friend and ally Israel and to throw in our lot with those who kidnap and murder innocents to get their way.

Am Yisrael chai.

Steve Lafleur: Canada’s reaction to terror in Israel shows we aren’t that divided

Commentary

The recent terrorist attacks against Israel have understandably preoccupied Canadian pundits. It’s the most consequential and horrific terrorist attack to hit one of our allies since September 11th, 2001. People are understandably devastated and angry. 

One thing that’s changed since 9/11 is social media. Back then we consumed the news. Now we participate in it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But the incentives in a click-based information ecosystem can be terrible. Measured responses don’t get much engagement. Edgy comments do. Needless to say, there have been some extremely bad takes lately. 

Those bad takes haven’t just been limited to one Kremlin stooge on Twitter. Organizations like CUPE Local 3906 have a lot to answer for to their members and to the public. But step back for a second. If you’re on Twitter, you probably knew immediately which tweet I was talking about, right? That’s because for the most part, Canadian institutions have come out in support of our allies, even if not unequivocally. 

No matter what you see on Twitter, Canada isn’t a badly divided country. We’re not Germany: we don’t have a white supremacist party supported by one-fifth of voters. We’re not the United States: we don’t have a major party willing to overturn legitimate elections. We’re really not that divided.

Consider the last week. The prime minister and leader of the official Opposition both spoke at a vigil in Ottawa, each denouncing the terrorist attack. The finance minister and the NDP-affiliated mayor of Toronto spoke at Nathan Phillips Square in support of Israel, while a much smaller pro-Palestinian rally took place nearby. 

While we don’t have any Canadian polling data yet, a CNN poll found that an overwhelming percentage of Americans are sympathetic to Israel after the attacks by Hamas. Seventy-one percent of Americans told pollsters they felt a lot of sympathy, while 25 percent of people said they had some sympathy. Even in America, a country with deep political divisions, there is a high degree of consensus on the matter. There’s no reason to believe polling results look much different here, notwithstanding a few protests.

Then consider Ukraine. While there’s rough political consensus on Israel, there’s virtually complete unity on Ukraine. All three major parties are fully supportive of our Ukrainian allies and there’s no equivocation from the media. 

There are always loud minorities on the other side of any issue, even whether gravity exists or not. We shouldn’t let them become a distraction. Fixating on them sure doesn’t help our allies in Israel or Ukraine, or our Jewish friends at home. Helping our friends and allies requires concrete measures, not rhetoric. I’m not an expert on geopolitics, but I can tell you that finger-pointing won’t help anyone.

Push comes to shove, Canadians are, for the most part, rowing in the same direction. We may sometimes lack resolve, but we share broad goals. No one anywhere near the levers of power is cheering on Vladimir Putin. No important elected official is cheering on Hamas. Few countries can claim that kind of political unity. 

That isn’t to say we shouldn’t criticize people who have opinions we disagree with. We should. But we also need to recognize that in a pluralistic society, there will be some people with horrible opinions. Frankly, in a non-pluralistic society there will be even more people with terrible opinions. We can’t prevent that: we’re human. 

What we shouldn’t do is paint broad groups with the same brush. Scouring the Internet to find people with bad opinions doesn’t help anyone. I recognize that partisan point scoring will always be tempting. But it’s not helpful. Not everything needs to be a wedge issue. We aren’t a deeply divided country. We shouldn’t try to exaggerate our differences, even if you think it will help your team in the next election. We’re bigger than any team.

We all get a dopamine hit from arguing with people online. It’s one of the dark sides of social media. But being preoccupied with disagreements doesn’t help anyone. It’s bad for our mental health. It’s bad for the country. We don’t need to go looking for fights over every single issue. Get some fresh air. Touch grass. Our neighbours aren’t your enemies.

We live in a great country full of great people, even if there are some bad ones. We should celebrate that. Stoking disagreements doesn’t move the ball forward. It bogs us down in pointless arguments. We can do better than that. We should. We must.