Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Part 2- "They Didn't Get Back To Me"

Yesterday I wrote about the plight of Salma Abuelaish, the eight-year-old girl whose family moved to Canada from Gaza and became Canadian citizens five years ago. Having accompanied her father, a physician, back to Gaza this summer so he could render medical assistance and she could visit with her cousins and grandparents, she became trapped there after the latest outbreak of hostilities with Israel. The Canadian government has thus far ignored a plea for some slight assistance from Salma's mother, who resides in Brantford. This reaction seems wholly consistent with its apparent aversion to those of Arabic descent, and uncritical acceptance of all actions that Israel undertakes, whether or not they violate international law or ethical standards.

I refuse to believe that the Harper regime represents the values of most Canadians, and part of that refusal is rooted in our traditions of compassion and acceptance. More immediately, it is informed by my regular go-to people whenever I need a morale boost, Toronto Star letter-writers, and, in this case, surprisingly, the Ontario government.

On July 31, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish wrote an impassioned plea for Canada to take in for treatment 100 of the Gaza children most seriously wounded from the fighting:

In coming to Canada I found my faith and belief strengthened in a nation historically known as a peacemaker and peacekeeper, a country whose values are not just rhetorical, but are embodied in our actions. By accepting these children, by caring for the young of another, even for a short time, we will demonstrate to the world our hospitality and generosity, and teach an important lesson: that people can peacefully share land, resources and love. That bound by our shared humanity, we can together find solutions to our challenges and give dignity to all people.

Abuelaish speaks with great moral authority, as a post from almost four years ago makes clear. He is a Palestinian physician and the author of I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey, a memoir about the loss of his three daughters, Bessan, Mayar and Aya, and their cousin Noor to Israeli shelling in 2009.

The Ontario government has responded positively to his plea. Yesterday Eric Hoskins, the Health Minister, made this announcement:

“We received a formal request from Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish to make the necessary resources available to allow our hospitals to support kids who need medical attention due (to) the conflict”

Nobody is waiting to get on a plane here just yet, Hoskins said in an interview. “Part of my reason for my coming out today … is to sort of lend our moral support to the initiative and to encourage other partners who will be needed to realize this initiative, to get them to participate,” he said.

So he has, at least, started the ball rolling, one that could be impeded, of course, by the brick wall of Harper regime intransigence.

Now to The Star letters that respond to Dr. Abuelaish's plea and offer a stark contrast to the indifference, even malice, that I pointed out in yesterday's post:

In 2009, when Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish moved here, vestiges of the Canada he praises could still be found. Our reputation as a humanitarian peacekeeping nation was not yet in tatters. After only 38 months of Conservative rule, that country no longer exists.

Like most Canadians, I applaud Dr. Abuelaish’s compassionate initiative to bring 100 Palestinian children here for medical aid. However, I fear that he will wait in vain for our federal government to allow even one child to come, no matter how much support hospitals and provincial governments offer.

First, the children are Palestinian and, therefore, of no consequence to the Harperites.

Second, this government has made it clear that it opposes providing medical treatment to any refugees – to the point of appealing a federal court ruling that called the federal health-care policy “cruel and unusual treatment.”

In 2006, Stephen Harper famously said, “You won’t recognize Canada when I’m through with it.”

We already don’t recognize it, and he’s not done yet. He has another 14 months to destroy what little could still be salvaged of this once respectable country.

Patricia Wilmot, Toronto

I totally support Dr. Abuelaish’s proposal to invite 100 Gazan children to Canada for medical treatment. For me, the distance of the conflict is close at hand, having read his powerful book I Shall Not Hate, relating the agonizing oppression of daily life in Gaza.

Yes, Canadians can “mount a purely humanitarian effort” to help the physical and emotional healing of these young souls and their families. Ultimately, we all succeed with hope in our lives knowing that others care.

Shari Baker, Toronto

Finally, we can do something to help the people of Gaza. This is something all Canadians can get behind.

The most immediate challenge will be whether Stephen Harper and John Baird will take their extremist support for Israel so far as to deny visas to seriously injured Palestinian children.

Eileen Watson, Toronto

Thank you to Dr. Abuelaish’s letter appealing to Canadians to help Gaza’s wounded children. I echo his appeal and hope Toronto’s hospitals take this on.

It would be a great humanitarian gesture if the Mount Sinai Hospital led the charge. And for Jewish leaders to call on the prime minister to open the doors to Canada for this children. He will listen to you.

Alberto Sarthou, Toronto


  1. Canadians bought 4 huge transport aircraft, the Boeing C-17 Globemaster, back in 2007 for almost 2 billion dollars. These aircraft can be used as giant air ambulances and could be used to transport wounded children back to Canada for treatment.

    Given the fact that more than a half dozen Ontario hospitals have volunteered to treat the wounded children, Canadians should be demanding that the Harper government use these expensive aircraft for the humanitarian role for which they were designed.

    1. An excellent and practical suggestion, Anon. Enacting such a plan, however, might be interpreted as a gesture of goodwill, something the Harper regime is not known for.

    2. Sadly, you are probably right Lorne. These sick, twisted bastards who call themselves Harperites would never implement a plan requiring goodwill and compassion.

  2. Lorne, it is always refreshing to read your posts. However, Harper has succeeded to destroy Canada as we knew it. Do you think he will take a hike after 2015 elections? And do you think the real Canadian values of peace can be reinstated? Or will his lies prevail again and he will get another term? It will be an atrocity of extraordinary proportion if that happens. Mound has given him a good designation of being a bastard.

    1. Those are all excellent questions, LD. I can only live in the hope that enough people will become sufficiently engaged to oust Harper in 2015. Can our traditional values be restored? I don't know. As Mound has pointed out, both Trudeau and Mulcair have embraced the same neoliberal tune that Harper dances to, so the prospects for restoration look somewhat dim.