The war between Israel and Hamas has presented two challenges for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as it has for other Canadian prime ministers.
First, he must take and strive to maintain a principled position regarding the dire conflict. Second, he must seek to unite a country whose citizens have justifiably suffered death and destruction.
The strain of both of these tasks becomes more apparent with each passing day. Within 24 hours of Prime Minister Trudeau’s comments on the conflict on Tuesday, he was heckled: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators He was reprimanded online at a Vancouver restaurant for something he didn’t say. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for what he said.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s five-minute statement on Tuesday came amid an announcement of federal support for a new battery facility in British Columbia, and it began with comments and assertions he has made previously. He said the “human tragedy” taking place in the Gaza Strip was “heartbreaking” and that “the price of justice cannot be the continued suffering of all Palestinian civilians.”
“Even war has rules,” he added. “All innocent lives, Israeli and Palestinian, have the same value.”
He then condemned Hamas’ use of human shields and called for the release of all hostages. He cited Hamas’ threats to repeat attacks like the one it carried out on October 7.
He renewed his call for a “humanitarian moratorium” and free access to humanitarian aid. He expressed hope that the continuation of the moratorium would create the conditions for peace.
He condemned recent incidents of anti-Semitic violence in Montreal and elsewhere. He called on Canadians to “remember who we are” and be there for each other.
However, what appears to have angered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others is a portion of Prime Minister Trudeau’s remarks, which began by calling on Israel to exercise “utmost restraint.”
The prime minister said, “This is because the world is paying attention.” “On television and on social media, we hear the testimonies of doctors, families, survivors and orphaned children. The world is witnessing this. The killing of women, children and infants. Stop this. I have to.” ”
It’s hard to disagree with people who want an end to the violence, but Trudeau did not say how it should stop or under what conditions. Some interpreted his comments as an attempt to blame Israel for the war. But Prime Minister Trudeau could argue that he is just saying the objectively correct thing. Women and children are being killed. The world is paying attention.
Prime Minister Trudeau isn’t the only one concerned about civilian deaths.
Some of Trudeau’s words were similar to comments made by French President Emmanuel Macron four days earlier. Interview with BBC. But Mr Macron, who called for a ceasefire, went further.
“It is impossible to explain: ‘We want to fight terrorism by killing innocent people,'” the French leader said.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is Dissatisfied with Macron’s comments. The next day, in a conversation with other Israeli officials, Macron apparently “reiterated” Israel’s right to defend itself.
On Wednesday, it was Trudeau’s turn. Talk to Benny Gantz, a rival and critic of Netanyahu who joined Israel’s war cabinet after last month’s attack. According to his official statement, Prime Minister Trudeau similarly “reaffirmed” Israel’s right to self-defense.
Macron and Trudeau’s conversation with Gantz may have been about damage control. They might also have gotten the point across.
Israel’s allies may recognize its right to defend itself and hold Hamas accountable for inciting this war and harming civilians. But to what extent is death acceptable, tolerated, and justified, even in self-defense? That is the question weighing heavily on Israel and all the nations that call it friends.
This is not just a moral issue, it is also a strategic issue. Eurasia Group’s Ian Bremer said this week that Israel’s response to October 7 was fell into the hands of Hamas.
Opinion polls show that there is considerable support in Canada. some kind of truce — Permanent or temporary. Prime Minister Trudeau could therefore argue that his own words are largely in line with national sentiment. At least as notable is that Conservative Party leader Pierre Poièvre was not among those who condemned the prime minister’s comments this week.
But this is not a problem that can be solved with a simple poll.
“My job…is to help bring Canadians back together.”
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked on Tuesday to explain why he wasn’t calling for a ceasefire, he pivoted to focus on the situation in Canada.
The question to ask, he said, is not “Is it this magic solution or that magic solution that the Canadian prime minister said?” [is] There will suddenly be peace in the Middle East overnight. ”
Rather, “this is a story to remind our children that it is the responsibility of all Canadians to speak up when they feel afraid to go to school in the morning because of their religion or ethnicity.” he said.
“My biggest concern is how do we bring Canadians together,” Trudeau said.
That effort starts “with listening to each other,” he said.
Prime Minister Trudeau has provided detailed comments on this topic multiple times over the past week and a half. The ideals of pluralism and multiculturalism have animated some of Trudeau’s most powerful statements, and his current call to reject prejudice and overcome differences seems an extension of that. .
“My job as Canada’s prime minister is to help bring Canadians back together,” Trudeau told reporters Friday at the APEC summit in San Francisco.
“To understand that, if Canadians can’t find a way to get along and have compassion and empathy for each other, where are the solutions to the conflicts and tensions that will arise in the Middle East? Will it be?” [from]? ”
Talk of uniting Canadians may seem too simplistic, too mundane, or too formal. But 44 years ago, former Progressive Conservative Party leader Robert Stanfield was sent to the Middle East to replace Joe Clark.between Recommendations he brought back It was a simple call for more “dialogue.”
“Dialogue between Jewish and Arab groups would be highly desirable in Canada,” Stanfield wrote.
In addition to fostering public understanding, he said dialogue could lay a “sounder, sounder foundation” for Canada’s foreign policy. Stanfield acknowledged the need for “patience and a willingness to continue” given the potential for “miscommunication,” but added, “Nevertheless, this kind of dialogue is a great way for these groups of Canadians to interact with the Middle East.” “It seems to me that this is an important contribution that can be made to Canada.”
Canada is not completely free of dialogue at this point. joint letter It was recently written by Muslim and Jewish law students at the University of Ottawa.
But if it is fair to ask the government about its position on the war, and if it is fair to expect leaders to denounce bigotry and protect Canadians from harm, then dialogue between the two countries It is also fair to ask what can be done to promote compassion and compassion. The world and Canada need more than ever.