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Hamas Terror Is Testing the Moral Credibility of Canadian Progressives

No movement that excuses the deliberate slaughter of innocent civilians—even under guise of anti-colonial ‘resistance’—can survive as a mainstream political creed.

· 10 min read
Hamas Terror Is Testing the Moral Credibility of Canadian Progressives
A Wikimedia Commons photo of Israeli posters calling for the return of individuals kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on October 7.

On October 16, Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh declared that Israel’s military was sowing “the seeds of genocide” in Gaza. Singh, the leader of a small left-wing party that’s been propping up Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberal government since 2021, has a history of making this kind of unfortunate comment. Indeed, one of his unofficial roles within the progressive Canadian milieu is to confer legitimacy on dubious claims, hoaxes, fake statistics, and conspiracy theories. He’s never had to pay any significant political price for spreading this kind of misinformation, and so likely believed that his smear on Israel would be passed over in similar fashion.

But that’s not what happened. “Yes or no, do you believe Israel is committing or is about to commit genocide?” retorted Anthony Housefather, a Liberal MP. According to media reports, Singh didn’t dare answer the question directly, but instead replied defensively, “I understand there are very real emotions.” Melissa Lantsman, a member of the opposition Conservative caucus (and a descendant of Holocaust survivors), then asked Singh, again, to clarify his views. Singh reportedly refused to do so, but instead vaguely offered that, “we know there are innocent people in Gaza.”

It’s been more than a week since that exchange. During this period, Singh hasn’t repeated his seeds-of-genocide claim outside Parliament—a notable omission for a politician who otherwise relies heavily on social media to keep his name on the lips of the country’s social-justice hashtaggers. He now finds himself picking between two political poisons—either denounce Israel and reveal himself as an enabler of Hamas, or stand by the Jewish state and get denounced by ideologues within his own party as a sellout.

One reason why Singh might have been unprepared for this negative response is that the word “genocide” now gets thrown around quite a bit in Canada. During Trudeau’s tenure as prime minister, in fact, it has become accepted progressive dogma that Canada has committed not one but two genocides against Indigenous people. What’s more, we are told, one of these crimes against humanity—victimizing Indigenous women and girls—is supposedly an ongoing act of genocide (this despite recently released crime data showing that 86% of those accused of murdering Indigenous women and girls are themselves Indigenous). There’s also the supposed “quiet genocide” of transgender people that the CBC has warned us about, as well as alleged genocides perpetrated by police against Indigenous and black Canadians. All told, that makes at least five genocides. (The real number, of course, is zero.)

But the horrifying bloodshed unleashed by Hamas has shocked many progressives—at least temporarily—back into what might be called a reality-based moral universe. Indeed, it’s interesting to compare the casually apocalyptic language that Canadian politicians use in regard to their own country to the more carefully considered statements that Trudeau and others have recently made about Israel. Even Singh, a leftist demagogue who’s often reckless with his language in the past, felt compelled to preface his use of the g-word with seeds of.

In normal times, it’s easy for citizens of a wealthy and safe country such as Canada to inhabit a make-believe moral Narnia, since the stakes in day-to-day culture-war arguments tend to be mostly symbolic. But, as Singh discovered, it’s quite another thing to indulge in fantasy-based moral reasoning when modern-day einsatzgruppen have just left southern Israel littered with corpses. Suddenly, words matter.

This is something that Trudeau, to his credit, realized in the hours after Hamas’ terrorist attack. “Canada strongly condemns the current terrorist attacks against Israel,” he tweeted. “These acts of violence are completely unacceptable. We stand with Israel and fully support its right to defend itself. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this. Civilian life must be protected.”

There was none of Trudeau’s customary politically correct bafflegab. And he used the word terrorist without apology or caveat (unlike Canada’s national broadcaster). There’s no shortage of issues that Trudeau’s gotten wrong. But even his most strident conservative critics should concede that this isn’t one of them.

The PM is facing divisions within his own caucus, however. And he’s not alone: All over the progressive landscape, the response to Hamas terrorism is driving a wedge between established institutional leaders and younger, more militant constituents eager to exhibit solidarity with Gaza.

Lincoln Alexander School of Law on LinkedIn: Last Friday, a collection of individual students at Toronto Metropolitan… | 31 comments
Last Friday, a collection of individual students at Toronto Metropolitan University’s Lincoln Alexander School of Law posted an open letter to the law school’s… | 31 comments on LinkedIn

A microcosm of this ideological struggle broke out last week at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), where a law-school student group offered its “unequivocal solidarity” with “all forms of Palestinian resistance”—which is to say, terrorism. Notwithstanding the school’s explicitly progressive political mission, its administrators rightly responded by publicly condemning the pro-Hamas group and its message.

A similar pattern played out at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus, where student union leaders were slapped down by the administration after they posted a manifesto defending Hamas’ right to “resist an apartheid regime.” (In an unintentionally comic addendum, the union pre-emptively, albeit unsuccessfully, assured readers that its support for Hamas is “not anti-Semitic.”)

At York University, where the graduate student union called Hamas’ terrorist attacks “justified and necessary,” the administration published an even stronger rebuke, and demanded that leaders of the group (along with two others) retract their offensive statements and resign their leadership roles.

In nearby Hamilton, at McMaster University, yet another academic union tweeted out its approval of the Gaza carnage: “Palestine is rising, long live the resistance.” McMaster officials (rightly) declared these comments to be abhorrent.

CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn apologizes for Palestine statement
In an open letter Saturday Hahn condemned Hamas and apologized for an earlier Tweet.

Then there’s Fred Hahn, an Ontario union leader who celebrated Hamas’ attacks as exemplifying “the power of resistance around the globe”—an oddly pro-Islamist take for a man who boasts of being the first openly gay president in his union’s history. Following scathing criticism from politicians and union rank-and-file alike, he finally apologized on October 22, conceding—no doubt through gritted teeth—that “Hamas committed a horrific terrorist attack on civilians in Israel.”

On Monday, Ontario’s provincial NDP expelled Sarah Jama, a rookie Member of Provincial Parliament who’d used the occasion of the October 7 Hamas massacre to lecture the world about Israel’s evils. Elected representatives get thrown out of Canadian political parties for saying or doing dumb things all the time, of course. But Jama once was seen as untouchable, being both black and disabled—identity-based trump cards that had been cynically played on her behalf by media apologists. This week, those cards lost their power, and Jama is now unemployed.

Sarah Jama ejected from NDP caucus over Israel-Hamas comments: ‘This was undermining our work’
After two weeks of growing controversy, New Democratic Party Leader Marit Stiles has ejected embattled MPP Sarah Jama from the party caucus.

Predictably, many Arab and Muslim Canadians have taken to the streets to protest Israel’s military response to Hamas’ attacks—with Jewish groups staging their own (smaller) pro-Israel demonstrations as well. In one notorious case, “Toronto4Palestine” protestors targeted a café operated by a “Zionist” company. And a group called the National Council of Canadian Muslims has been promoting conspiracy theories about Israeli actions. These rituals of protest, which predictably play out amid every burst of violence between Israel and its Arab neighbours, largely reflect the ethnic and religious affiliations of immigrant communities. And they shouldn’t be taken as a barometer of majority opinion among rank-and-file Canadian progressives.

It’s worth noting that within the activist community, the most explicit pro-terror rhetoric has emanated from marginal figures operating without any sort of institutional support. This includes Harsha Walia, a cancelled activist who recently asked a Vancouver audience—and I am not making this up—“How beautiful is the spirit to get free that Palestinians literally learned how to fly [into Israel] on hand gliders?” (This was on October 9, at a time when dead bodies were still being discovered in southern Israel.) It was a disgusting thing to say. But then, this is the same woman who infamously cheered on a wave of anti-Christian arson in 2021. Even within activist circles, her credibility is minimal.

The same is true of Lisa Giaccari, the lead signatory on the pro-terrorism manifesto at TMU—a former Trans Youth Program Coordinator and sex-toy researcher best known for assisting in a campaign to help astronauts masturbate in space. Ignorant diletantes such as this are capable of attracting a lot of attention with their manifestos and open letters, but they shouldn’t be taken as a proxy for mainstream progressive attitudes.

In this same category is Nora Loreto, a Canadian activist and journalist who’s infamously suggested that Israeli civilians are legitimate targets for Hamas, on account of “Israel’s mandatory military service.” She shares Walia’s habit of making sociopathic remarks about horrific tragedies: Loreto’s main claim to fame was staked in 2018, when she denigrated public concerns for victims of a horrific bus crash, on account of the dead passengers’ “maleness,” “youthfulness,” and “whiteness.” Then there’s Davide Mastracci, a fringe opinion writer who publicly praised Harsha Walia’s endorsement of Hamas terrorism. He identifies as a Marxist, and has occupied himself over the last few weeks by making creepy lists of journalists whom he views as abetting Zionist war crimes. This is the level of intellect, maturity, and moral refinement animating Canada’s progressive pro-Hamas cadres.

That said, as memories of Hamas’ terrorist attack become more faint, there is a real risk that such extreme attitudes will metastasize within progressive Canadian political parties, universities, unions, and other institutions. The conceit that this or that group is engaged in the noble pursuit of anti-colonial “resistance” is a seductive one for progressives—especially in a country such as Canada, where we’ve all have been taught to regard Indigeneity as an unfalsifiable badge of moral purity.

Moreover, since all causes that purport to be “anti-oppressive” now express themselves through a standardized jargon, cross-recruitment among progressive causes can be accomplished quickly—with the word “Zionist” simply being swapped out with “settler,” “white,” or “cishet” as the targeted oppressor category. This propaganda method has been shown to be effective even in cases where the causes at issue completely contradict one another—as with the mashup of Palestinian solidarity with “reproductive justice” and even the sex trade.

Or consider a certain Aydin Quach (he/they), the University of British Columbia academic who gave his class a day off to “protest the Palestinian genocide.” Quach is an Asian-Canadian researcher in the field of “(gay)sians, raves and EDM.” Never mind the fact that Hamas, a murderously homophobic terrorist group, just massacred at least 260 EDM enthusiasts at an electronic music festival—and that dozens of the day’s murder and kidnap victims were Asian.

Trudeau, Stiles, and the other adults running the show at Canadian public institutions are quite correct to draw a bright line separating this kind of attitude from mainstream progessivism. And not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because—as a matter of politics—providing such views with any hint of institutional validation will stain the overall progressive brand for years to come.

In the long run, no ideology that licences the deliberate extermination of innocent people can escape the dustbin of history. Fortunately, many Canadian progressives still understand this, and so they realize that their response to Hamas terrorism constitutes an important test of character. For the moment at least, most have achieved a passing grade.

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