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May 17, 2018 4:58 pm

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau Criticized for Ignoring Hamas Role in Gaza Violence

avatar by Ben Cohen

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau addressing the Economic Club in New York on May 17. Photo: Reuters / Lucas Jackson.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau encountered strong criticism on Thursday over his earlier statement condemning the violence on the Israel-Gaza Strip border that excluded any mention of Hamas’ role in stoking Palestinian attacks.

Trudeau spoke out on Wednesday, after learning that a Canadian citizen had been shot and wounded during the two days of clashes that resulted in the deaths of 62 Palestinians — 50 of whom, according to a senior Hamas spokesman, were Hamas operatives. Declaring that Canada was “appalled that Dr. Tarek Loubani, a Canadian citizen, is among the wounded,” Trudeau said that his government was “engaging with Israeli officials to get to the bottom of these events.”

But after deploring “the violence in the Gaza Strip that has led to a tragic loss of life and injured countless people,” Trudeau appeared to single out Israel for opprobrium.

“Reported use of excessive force and live ammunition is inexcusable,” the prime minister’s statement continued. “It is imperative we establish the facts of what is happening in Gaza. Canada calls for an immediate independent investigation to thoroughly examine the facts on the ground — including any incitement, violence, and the excessive use of force.”

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While Trudeau did not elaborate on who might carry out such an investigation, similar inquiries in the past have been launched by the UN — and have focused almost exclusively on flimsy allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the IDF, while minimizing or disregarding the role of Hamas. The most recent example — the report on the 2014 Gaza war compiled by the UN Human Rights Council — accused the IDF of having “disregarded basic principles on the conduct of hostilities,” and asserted that “the protection of Israeli soldiers significantly influenced the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces in these operations, at times overriding any concern for minimizing civilian casualties.”

Trudeau’s comments were lambasted by Andrew Scheer, the leader of the opposition Conservative Party. “In condemning the Israeli forces, Justin Trudeau ignores the role that the terrorist organization Hamas has played in inciting these clashes,” Scheer said in a statement. “In responding to these events with nothing but criticism of Israel, Justin Trudeau has failed Canadians on the international stage once again.”

Jewish groups also expressed profound disappointment. Shimon Koffler Fogel — CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) — said Trudeau’s stance “contradicts the government’s long-stated position that, as a close ally and fellow liberal democracy, Israel can count on Canada’s support when its security is threatened.”

Avi Benlolo — CEO of the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center — said that “Canada should steadfastly condemn Hamas for inciting violence and for attempting to enter a sovereign nation to carry out terrorism…It’s disappointing that our prime minister did not condemn Hamas in his statement.”

In an article for the Toronto Sun, Michael Mostyn of B’nai Brith Canada stated that it was “utterly inexcusable, to use Trudeau’s own word, for him to pretend Hamas had nothing to do with the riots when its leaders proudly admit the opposite.”

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