It seems unique, in the aftermath of what is objectively an atrocity, for entire communities to rally their voices in defence of the perpetrators.
Over the weekend terrorists led by Hamas entered Israel from Gaza. Under the cover of rocket fire, Hamas gunmen indiscriminately massacred hundreds of civilians. Many of the slain were attending a music festival near Israel’s border with Gaza. They had gathered to celebrate “friends, love and peace.”
In Gaza, Hamas paraded the abused and stripped body of a young festival goer through the streets. The crowd chanted “Allahu Akbar,” spit on her corpse, and posted footage to social media. Women, children, partygoers, tourists, and a Holocaust survivor were amongst the estimated one hundred and fifty kidnapped.
Demonstrations were quickly organized around the globe to celebrate the violence. Public marches in New York, London, Berlin, D.C., and Sydney were filled with chants ranging from “Allahu Akbar” to “gas the Jews.
In Canada, support rallies were held across the country. Sweets were handed out and Palestinian flags were waved. Supporters chanted, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan commonly understood by Jews to mean the dismantling of Israel.
Holding celebratory rallies in the immediate aftermath of Hamas war crimes is unconscionable. These gatherings, attended by thousands, speak to a chilling erosion of Canadian norms.
In a rare moment of bipartisanship, both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition decried these callous gatherings. Justin Trudeau reminded Canadians “Hamas terrorists aren’t a resistance, they’re not freedom fighters, they are terrorists. And no one in Canada should be supporting them, much less celebrating them.” He was followed by Pierre Poilievre who termed Hamas “a sadistic, demonic, genocidal terrorist death cult.”
The swift reactions of both leaders are commendable. The fact remains, that a deeply dangerous, intolerant, and antisemitic movement is fomenting in Canada.
To those who lack a familiarity with the region yet believe that the murder of Jews can be contextualized and rationalized, you should examine why you feel that might be the case. The antisemitic conspiracy of Jewish power has existed for thousands of years. This deeply internalized worldview is dehumanizing and dangerous. Far too many Canadians reacted to the slaughter of Jews with ‘yes, but.’
To the potentially well meaning, I encourage you to re-examine your terminology. To witness slaughter and call for further ‘decolonization’ and ‘resistance’ is academically incomprehensible and morally bankrupt.
To those who have taken to the streets to revel, you are worthy of nothing but disdain. You have made it clear that Jewish life has no value to you. You have reaffirmed hardline views on both sides of the conflict, marring the already tenuous prospect of Palestinian statehood.
Hamas is an explicitly genocidal terrorist organization. The Hamas founding charter declares: “The Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realization of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: ‘The Day of Judgment will not come until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”
There is an unquestionable difference between Hamas and the Palestinian people. Anyone who floods the streets waving Hamas flags and displaying the swastika in the wake of these attacks blurs that line. They are an enemy of peace.
In the wake of these attacks, I have been reassured to see the distinction between Palestinians and Hamas reaffirmed at Jewish community rallies across Canada. We have rejected false equivalencies levelled against Israel without resorting to similar forms of dehumanizing rhetoric.
The days to come will be difficult ones. Retaining this distinction is integral to who we are as a people. We can, and must, advocate for the protection of innocent lives in Israel, as well as Gaza.
Appreciating Israeli-Palestinian relations requires curiosity, a robust understanding of history, and empathy. All three of which were lacking from this week’s grotesque displays of antisemitism. Making excuses for terror and groping for relativities in the aftermath of brutalities endangers the living and insults the memory of the dead.