O Canada, land of double standards
In recent weeks, Ottawa has sounded as if its speeches were written by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League or B’nai Brith, a Canadian Jewish advocacy organization. First, during Israel’s bombing of Gaza in December and January, Junior Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Kent said that the escalating number of Palestinian being killed was solely Hamas’ fault. Then it was Liberal Party Leader Michael Ignatieff, who on Jan. 8 also blamed Hamas for everything, as if Israel — which was killing more than 100 Palestinians for every Israeli killed in the one-sided war, and was using weapons, such as phosphorus shells, in violation of international law — did not share at least part of the blame for the bloody catastrophe or for creating the conditions that led to it.
On Feb. 3, Kent justly condemned vandalism against the Mariperez Synagogue, the main synagogue in Caracas, Venezuela, calling the “act of anti-Semitic vandalism … an assault on the freedoms that Canada and all democratic nations cherish.”
“The scourge of hate-filled bigotry must be confronted and rejected whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head. Canada denounces this act of anti-Semitism and all acts of anti-Semitism around the world,” Kent said, calling on Caracas to launch an investigation.
About fifteen people broke into the synagogue on Friday night, tying the security guards, destroying scriptures and spraying graffiti, which among others included references to former US president George W. Bush, the Star of David and the Swastika.
As a multicultural country that takes pride in its ideals of justice, Canada and its government should always, in the bluntest terms, deplore acts of hatred targeting a people for their ethnicity or religion, and in that regard Kent’s outrage was perfectly justified.
The problem, however, is that when similar acts are committed against non-Jewish religious centers, Kent and Ottawa tend to remain silent. To wit, as the Observer newspaper reported on Jan. 4, the 12 Palestinians killed — six of them children — when an Israeli missile struck the entrance to the Ibrahim al-Maqadna mosque in Beit Lahiya, Gaza.
“The Israeli military has destroyed several mosques during its week-long offensive in Gaza,” the British newspaper reported at the time. In all, McClatchy Newspapers wrote on Jan. 23, Israel damaged or destroyed 23 mosques during the 22-day war.
Not once did Kent, Ignatieff or other Canadian politicians who ostensibly oppose “the scourge of hate-filled bigotry” react to the destruction of Muslim religious institutions in Gaza. In Ottawa’s political book, graffiti inside a synagogue is blasphemy that warrants strong condemnation. But when bombs and missiles, rather than spray paint, deface or altogether vaporize a mosque, all we get is silence, even when, unlike the sad incident in Caracas, people — innocents — are killed in the act.
If Canada really stood by its vaunted ideals, Kent’s comments would have read as follows: “… act of racist and discriminatory vandalism … an assault on the freedoms that Canada and all democratic nations cherish … The scourge of hate-filled bigotry must be confronted and rejected whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head. Canada denounces this act of racism and discrimination and all acts of racism and discrimination around the world.”
Perhaps this goes beyond Kent’s ability to see clearly, but deploring discrimination only when it affects a specific group while ignoring it when it concerns another is, in and of itself, racist — in this case, anti-Muslim. Surely this goes against the Canadian values of freedom and justice.