“The loss of any innocent life is a tragedy, whether Israeli or Palestinian. Hamas not only takes Israelis hostage, it also holds Palestinians hostage. Hamas is not only the enemy of the Jews, but also the enemy of the Palestinians, of peace, of human rights and of our common humanity.”
No convincing argument can be presented against the objective and moral truth of those words. They were delivered this week by Irwin Cotler, former Minister of Justice of Canada and founder of the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rightsin support of the federal government’s newly announced sanctions against the 11 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad warlords who directed the October 7 atrocities in Israel.
I must say right away that I am a senior member of the Wallenberg Center, I am a hardline advocate of severe global sanctions against human rights violators and I have confessed more than once that on issues of political morality and international human rights, Irwin Cotler It’s my north star. So take what I write here with all the grains of salt you want.
In any case, I will leave aside the questions and arguments about the effectiveness and usefulness of leveling Canadian sanctions against the masterminds of the conflict, who are already on the terrorist list. horrible pogrom of October 7 which claimed the lives of almost 1,200 people in Israel. I’ll just point out in passing that there are 33 other Palestinian terrorist leaders who could have appeared in Global Affairs Sanctions List, but not. And for reasons no one has been able to explain, the source of all this terror, Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is still not registered on Canada’s terrorist list.
Cotler is right that the loss of any innocent life is a tragedy, and the war sparked by the October 7 massacre has so far cost the lives of some 20,000 Palestinian non-combatants in Gaza. So he turns to Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib, a Palestinian refugee, a patriot, and a courageous Middle East analyst whose perspective can be understood as an Arab iteration of Cotler’s point of view.
I still cannot find any occasion of Alkhatib’s interventions in the debates on the Palestinian-Israeli conundrum in which he turned out to be wrong. That’s why it’s useful to pay attention to what Alkhatib says. And he says this:
Now more than ever, there should be a global movement to force the Israeli authorities, the various United Nations agencies and Western governments to focus on alleviating the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza. But here’s what gets in the way: the Palestinians’ Western “friends” are the Palestinians’ worst enemies. They have sucked the life out of all conversations in which the only item on the agenda should be measures to ease the burden of agony on Gaza’s Palestinians.
For years, Alkhatib has tried to develop humanitarian lifelines in Gaza, to find ways to prevent tUN Relief and Works Agency in trouble (UNRWA), to generate support for a UN-supervised international airport beyond Hamas control, etc. But as Gaza’s suffering has become more acute than at any time in its history, the prospects for genuine support for the people of Gaza have never been further away.
“And that’s why I’ve been trying to make my voice heard, out of pure frustration and anger at these people who speak on behalf of the Palestinian people. These are the people who are supposed to highlight the plight of the Palestinians. They are supposed to humanize the suffering of the people of Gaza and try to influence public opinion among Western audiences to move things forward.
“Instead, you get this useless feel-good activism. I have tried to be measured and it is proving to be very challenging. I have tried. I want to say this more strongly. “I have tried to be measured, but much of the so-called ‘pro-Palestine’ movement is now openly in favor of terrorism, Hamas and Islamism.”
At least 30 members of Alkhatib’s family in Gaza have been killed since the war began, so he wanted to know how his remaining relatives are faring.
Last weekend, an aunt I had lost contact with was at Al Amal Hospital with her daughters and grandchildren in Khan Younis, so it was a relief to hear. Around 8,000 displaced Gazans had been sheltering in place at the hospital for several weeks, and the Israel Defense Forces are disputing reports that soldiers “stormed” the hospital this week to evacuate it, so for now there is no nothing to do but wait to hear what’s happening there.
On October 13, Alkhatib’s childhood home in Gaza City was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike. Among the many family members who took shelter there, all survived with injuries, some of them life-threatening, all except her 13-year-old cousin Farah, who died instantly.
Alkhatib’s mother is in the United Arab Emirates having obtained a visa to visit a daughter there immediately before the war started, so at least she is safe. On December 14, an Israeli airstrike destroyed her childhood home in Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip. Among the 31 people who died in the house that day (nine children among them) were five of Alkhatib’s uncles and aunts, and most of her cousins.
His uncle Riyad was killed in another airstrike in Gaza City, and his uncle Rahim is trapped there trying to care for a physically disabled son who cannot move easily. The rest of the family is scattered throughout the Gaza Strip. Alkhatib’s father, a doctor, died three years ago, so at least he did not live to see what became of his beloved Gaza.
Alkhatib went to study in the United States in 2005. Two years later, Hamas seized Gaza from the Palestinian Authority, and Alkhatib was granted asylum in the United States, where he earned a degree in intelligence studies from the American Military University and now works mainly in the field of international aid, mostly privately funded projects in Africa. He still cannot understand why his proposal that the World Food Program conduct airdrops in Gaza, to prevent an imminent famine, has failed to gain any support.
Alkhatib has no kind words for the Israelis’ continuation of the war: no matter what efforts the IDF is making to keep non-combatants out of harm’s way, tens of thousands of Gazan civilians have been killed and wounded. About half of the buildings in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed, at least half of the population of about two million people live in rubble or in tents and under tarpaulins, and people are sick, hungry and terrified. The smell of death is everywhere.
That is what the “pro-Palestine” movement should focus on, says Alkhatib. “Instead, they run around singing ‘from the river to the sea.’ These people would not last a second living under Hamas in Gaza. But all we hear from them is “resistance” and “intifada.” “These words mean nothing to Palestinians except war and death.”
Irwin Cotler is right and Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib is right: the loss of any innocent life is a tragedy. And innocents continue to die in Gaza.
Terry Glavin He is an author and journalist.
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