Jewish organizations are taking Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to task for what they say is one-sided criticism of Israel’s actions on the Gaza border. They were particularly scathing in their criticism of May, who accused Israel of a systematic plan to murder unarmed civilians.
On April 9, following a trip to the Middle East that was organized by the Canada-Palestinian Parliamentary Friendship Group, May released a statement condemning “the intentionality of the Israeli military” in “the shooting of unarmed civilians in a peaceful protest.”
May called the shootings “a clear violation of all accepted international norms. No one has made a credible claim that the shooting was in self defence, or that Gaza’s civilians were in any way a threat to Israel.”
She goes on to claim that Israeli snipers did exactly what they were ordered to do and that the country’s military commanders have said that “every bullet went where it was intended to go. This claim by the Israel Defence Forces makes it very clear that there was no accidental shooting. No one panicked. This was a systematic plan to murder unarmed civilians.”
Earlier, Singh, whose party leadership recently beat back an attempt from within the party to adopt a BDS motion targeting Israel, tweeted that, “I am shocked by the violence in Gaza. The Canadian government must call on Israel to abide by its responsibilities under international law and call for an independent investigation. The killing, human rights violations and blockade must end.”
The statements provoked the ire of numerous Jewish groups.
Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) spokesperson Martin Sampson said May’s statement was “shrill and divorced from reality” and “not a serious policy position.”
B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn accused May of promoting a “blood libel” against Israel.
JSpace Canada, a progressive Zionist organization, said, “Both May’s and Singh’s statements cross the line and reveal bias.”
Avi Benlolo, CEO of Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said, “We as an organization despair all loss of life, but we are very concerned Elizabeth May’s statement is one-sided and essentially overlooks Hamas’ military activity and particularly its violation under the Geneva Conventions of putting civilians and children in harms’ way.”
May also said that the visiting MPs were told by Nabil Shaath, a member of the Palestinian Authority cabinet, that “this demonstration was the first time Hamas had committed to non-violence.”
For its part, Israel has rejected suggestions that the protests were peaceful, or that the soldiers were aiming at innocent civilians.
In Ottawa, Israeli Ambassador Nimrod Barkan issued a statement prior to May’s allegations, saying that, “Hamas, a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel, planned and implemented the violent riots near the border fence. Under the cover of these riots, Hamas has attempted to carry out terror attacks.
“Hamas’ operatives were able to blend in with the crowds in order to act against Israel. Their operatives tried to shoot at Israeli targets, made use of stone throwing and Molotov cocktails and approached the border fence with IEDs (improvised explosive devices), specifically in areas near Israeli towns, in an attempt to damage or destroy it.”
Meanwhile, in Israel, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, whose staff includes veterans of Israeli intelligence units, reported that of 32 Palestinians were killed during the recent border conflict, “20 of them (just over 60 per cent) belonged to terrorist organizations. Most of them died during violent activities near the border security fence and some of them during attempts to carry out terrorist attacks.”
Responding to May’s statement, and to Singh’s tweet, Karen Mock, president of JSpace Canada, said, “Israel does not have a systematic plan to murder civilians. Hamas cannot be trusted when it says it is committed to non-violence. The demonstrations on the border are not really peaceful protests. When a statement censuring Israel says the killing and human rights violations must end, it is absurd to compare the murderous regime that runs Gaza with Israel.
“While many of the demonstrators were peaceful and exercising their right to protest, others were indeed engaging in violence, including members of Hamas’ military wing. This is why we believe it is both unwise and unhelpful to accuse Israel of intentionally shooting unarmed protesters, as Ms. May did, or to place demands and accusations solely on Israel, as Mr. Singh did.”
“It is concerning and quite telling that, while solely criticizing Israel, Elizabeth May claims – against all the evidence – that Hamas is committed to non-violence. May displays shocking ignorance by neglecting fact that many of the Gazan fatalities were Hamas operatives or members of other terror groups, and that some were killed after firing assault rifles at Israelis,” Sampson stated.
Hamas cannot be trusted when it says it is committed to non-violence.
– Karen Mock
“To put forward a statement that is so shrill and divorced from reality is not a serious policy position. Rather, it plays directly into Hamas’ PR strategy, which is to escalate violence in order to isolate Israel on the international stage. For someone who claims to be informed, she should be embarrassed by this statement.”
Mostyn said that, “May’s utterly false allegation of a ‘systemic plan to murder unarmed civilians’ by Israel – issued during the week of Holocaust Remembrance Day, no less – is a profoundly ignorant promotion of a new blood libel against the Jewish state.”
Responding to her critics, May doubled down on her allegations that Israel deliberately targeted innocent civilians, saying that, “I am very strongly pro-Israel, but I cannot turn a blind eye to the Israeli military saying we intended to kill them (the protesters), whether they were armed or not.”
She claimed that “international observers” had reported that those shot posed no threat to Israel, or the barrier that separates it from Gaza.
She said Canadians, including the Jewish community, should be shocked at Israel’s policy of targeting unarmed protesters, regardless of their political beliefs.
May said Canada should push for an international investigation of the shootings.