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Canadian Jewish, Muslim groups see different paths to peace amid ceasefire

The Canadian Press

November 26, 2023

Canadian Jewish, Muslim groups see different paths to peace amid ceasefire – Vancouver Is Awesome

Jewish and Muslim groups in Canada see different paths to peace amid the ongoing, temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

On the third day of the ceasefire Sunday, Hamas freed 17 more hostages  — including a four-year-old girl — as part of the ceasefire deal, while Israel freed 39 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons later in the day.

In Winnipeg, more than 800 people attended an event at a Jewish community centre Saturday to celebrate the release of the hostages who have been freed and to pray for the safe return of those who remain captive following the Oct. 7 Hamas rampage that started the current war.

Gustavo Zentner, president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, said a number of Israelis have moved to the city and there are deep personal connections between members of Winnipeg’s Jewish community and Israel.

“In the Jewish world and our connections with Israel, it’s pretty much one degree of separation, so very likely, people in our community know of someone that died, or know of someone that lost someone in the attack where more than 1,440 people were massacred in the streets of Israel,” he said.

Stephen Brown, the CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said he hopes the four-day pause in hostilities will lead to a longer truce.

“It’s absolutely crucial that the international community works towards ensuring that there’s a permanent truce, a lasting ceasefire, and then after that, that we really start putting the weight of the international community behind finding a permanent peace initiative that will allow for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East,” he said in a recent interview.

But Michael Mostyn, the CEO of Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith, said he has mixed emotions about the pause in fighting and the deal that led to the truce, which will see the release of 50 of the around 240 people taken hostage last month.

The release of the hostages “is very positive, it’s very important for them, for their families. But no one is forgetting right now that there are many, many more hostages in Gaza that are not part of this deal for the 50,” he said in a recent interview. “So it is very much with mixed emotions that the community is watching these events, because we do seek to see all of the hostages freed immediately.”

International mediators led by the United States and Qatar are trying to extend the ceasefire. Israel has said the truce can be extended by an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed, but has vowed to quickly resume its offensive once it ends.

While Mostyn said he would love to see all the hostages released as soon as possible, he is wary of the possibility of a longer truce.

“No one wants to see Hamas take advantage of this opportunity to rebuild, to reinvest into its military apparatus, so that it can continue to attack, take more hostages and continue its reign of terror,” he said. “The community is very much united in its belief that Hamas must be completely dismantled and that really is the only pathway forward for peace, both for the Israelis and for the Palestinians.”

Brown said he hopes the ceasefire will reduce tensions in Canada, where there’s been a surge in police reports of hate crimes targeting Jews and Muslims.

For Mostyn, there’s no excuse for antisemitism or Islamophobia.

“That there are those in Canada that are using this conflict that is taking place in the Middle East as an opportunity to attack their neighbours in Canada is revolting. We should be coming together as Canadians and saying there was no room for incitement against anyone, that there is no room for hate in this country,” he said.

A fourth exchange of prisoners and hostages is expected on Monday — the last day of the ceasefire — which will bring the total of Israeli hostages freed to 50 and Palestinian prisoners released to 150. All are women and minors.

The United Nations said the truce has made it possible to scale up the delivery of food, water and medicine to the largest volume since the start of the war, though it still hasn’t reached prewar levels. It was able to deliver fuel for the first time since the war began, and to reach areas in the north for the first time in a month.

Global Affairs Canada said the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt remained closed to foreign nationals Sunday.

Seven Canadians and one person with deep connections to Canada were killed in the initial Hamas rampage. One Canadian remains missing, but has not been identified by Global Affairs.