The Winnipeg Free Press
Published Oct 18, 2023
Canada needs to respond in Canada to the terrorist attacks in Israel. In Canada, there are rallies in support of these attacks. They should not be happening.
The current Canadian law on terrorism exempts from the definition of terrorist activity the expression of a political, religious or ideological thought, belief or opinion. However, there is a difference between expressing an opinion and actively facilitating or counselling terrorism, which are Criminal Code offences.
Encouragement, promotion, advocacy, glorification, and incitement of terrorism facilitate and counsel terrorism. Incitement and promotion of hatred, as well as incitement of genocide, remain offences in the Criminal Code. Federal, provincial and local police should be shutting down these pro-Hamas rallies and prosecuting the organizers and speakers for violations of these laws.
It is impossible to disassociate these rallies from what is happening on the ground on Israel — an unadulterated, unequivocal massive terrorist attack. Hamas has deliberately targeted innocents who have nothing to do with armed conflict, kidnapping and killing these innocents in the hundreds. The reason they are targeted is that they are Jewish. The rallies in support of Hamas are straight bigotry, endorsing these killings and kidnappings.
Hamas opposes the existence of the State of Israel for only one reason, that the state is a Jewish state. If Israel were an Arab and Muslim state, these attacks would not be occurring. If the individuals killed and kidnapped were not Jewish, they would not be targeted.
In Canada, the Jewish population, according to Statistics Canada, is the most vulnerable identity group by far on a per capita basis, whether the group is identified by race or religion. This disproportionate victimization is directly linked to past anti-Zionist rallies and the propaganda which incites them.
Anti-Zionism, both preceding and accompanying its terrorism, demonizes Israel and, in turn the Jewish population world-wide as actual or presumed supporters of a supposedly demon state. Israeli efforts at counter terrorism are decontextualized from the terrorism which prompted them.
There are not two sides to this issue. Palestinians are also victims of Hamas. Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields. Hamas indoctrinates vulnerable Palestinian targets, including children, to become suicide bombers. Hamas thwarts local integration or resettlement of Palestinian refugees. Hamas diverts humanitarian aid intended for Palestinian to the production and purchase of arms. And woe betide any Palestinian in Gaza who disagrees with Hamas.
Nor is this sort of behaviour we see with Hamas only an Israeli, Jewish or Middle East problem. Tyrannical, undemocratic regimes and movements everywhere demonize their opponents with phoney or overbroad charges and justify their own terrorism or oppression through this demonization.
So, for instance, the genocidal killers in Rwanda of Tutsis claimed, falsely, that these killings were necessary to save Hutus from a planned Tutsi genocide of Hutus. We see the Sri Lankan regime justifying its mass killings of innocent Tamils by referring to the Tamil Tigers or LTTE, an entity designated in Canada as terrorist. Ethiopia and Eritrea claim justification for their atrocities against innocent Tigrayans by reference to claimed wrongdoings of the Tigray Armed Forces. China supports the genocide and repression of innocent Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang by reference to Uyghur terrorist attacks before the repression began. China defends its victimization of Falun Gong, a spiritually based set of exercises, a Chinese equivalent of yoga, with accusations, contrary to the evidence, that Falun Gong is an evil cult. Russia supports its atrocities in Ukraine on the basis that Ukraine needs denazification, even though the Ukrainian president is Jewish. And so on.
It is easy for us in Canada to say that these false accusations, this blaming of some for what others do, or blaming others for events they themselves have engineered is just so much bigotry. Yet, in Canada, we must do more than just denounce the bigotry. We need concrete action.
The condemnation by Prime Minister Trudeau of the pro-Hamas demonstrations is welcome. But it is not enough. We need active enforcement of the laws against facilitating and counselling terrorism as well as of the laws against promoting hatred and against inciting hatred and genocide. And we need them now.
David Matas is senior honorary counsel to B’nai Brith Canada. Sarah Teich is the executive director of the NGO Human Rights Action Group.