OPINION: | Toronto Sun

There could be peace tomorrow if Hamas returned the 139 hostages and laid down their arms

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By CHAD ROGERS

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Sitting down with folks in Israel last week – Jews, Arabs, Muslims and other minorities – I was shocked at the message they wanted me to carry home to my fellow Canadians.

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No one wanted a war, no one wants a war.

The family members of hostages took time to share the haze of 100-plus days of re-living Oct. 7, 2023 – the horrific day Hamas attacked and stole their loved ones.

I heard from farmers who woke up to rockets and then paragliders, and then armed terrorists coming to their homes that morning, who now live as internally displaced persons, unable to return to their homes. I spoke to reservists who have left their jobs and families, as they have been mobilized with 300,000 fellow citizens to fight in a war they didn’t see coming.

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Peace could come to Israel and Gaza tomorrow if Hamas returned the 139 hostages and laid down their arms.

As I was standing at the site of the Nova Music Festival where 394 people were murdered in a field, I could hear the barrage of gunfire, artillery and a constant buzz of drones. When the sirens go off, you have as little as fifteen seconds to get to a shelter.

Hours later, I sat with the sister, cousin and brother-in-law of Ziv Shlomi. He worked as a security guard at the festival and instead of running that morning, he helped kids flee the campsite. He was taken hostage on Oct. 7 and his family has heard nothing since.

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Israel left Gaza in 2005. Hamas notionally won an election and was trusted to care for its people. But they stole hundreds of millions of dollars in aid meant to help make the lives of Palestinian people in Gaza better, and built a network of terror tunnels now known to be longer than the London Underground, before mounting a sophisticated attack that murdered more Israelis and Jews in one day than any day since the Holocaust.

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The people I spoke with there see a Canada that seems indifferent to their suffering. They see a Canada asking for Hamas to be allowed to return to making war, and not release hostages or end its campaign of terror. Most importantly, they see an indifferent and unsympathetic Canada through a cracked media and internet lens that is deprioritizing the suffering of 139 families waiting for their loved ones to be returned.

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They want to know when Canada became so morally relativist such that a country attacked, with hostages in captivity and rockets fired at them daily, should avoid defending itself in the name of avoiding the suffering Hamas brings on its own people.

Every person – be they East Jerusalem Arabs, Palestinians, Bedouins, Druze and Jews – told us that a ceasefire can’t happen until hostages are returned and Hamas lays down their arms.

Not a single person was indifferent to the suffering Hamas terror has wrought, both on Israelis and Palestinians. They just take Hamas at their word that it won’t stop.

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I went to see things on the ground for myself.

Canada owes Israel and the world moral and foreign policy clarity of what must precede any ceasefire or settlement: the return of hostages and the demilitarization of Hamas. There is no room to hide in the middle and allow Hamas to continue with its explicit, stated mission of terror.

There are 139 families that want their loved ones back, and 300,000 troops want to go home to their families.

– Chad Rogers is a lobbyist and activist, and a partner at Crestview Strategy, who visited Israel with a delegation of Canadian community and corporate leaders last week with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA)

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