The Right Hon. Stephen Harper
The Hon. John Baird
Dear Honourable Ministers,
I write to you on behalf of the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) at Carleton University, which represents over 3,600 graduate students. On August 19, 2014, the Council of the GSA voted unanimously to oppose the Israeli assault on the people of Gaza, and to condemn in the strongest possible terms the uncritical and unconditional support of your government for Israel’s actions in Gaza.
On July 8, 2014, Israeli forces began a military operation in Gaza in response to indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel from Hamas, an operation which has included precision air strikes and shelling from tanks. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of August 19, 2014, this military action has led to the killing of an estimated 1,948 Palestinians—including at least 1,417 civilians, of which 459 are children—and the injuring of 10,193 Palestinians, of which 3,084 are children.
Gaza is a densely populated urban population under total blockade, which means that unlike other refugees, besieged Palestinians in Gaza have nowhere to go to escape the conflict. It is in this context that Israeli forces have followed a policy of intentionally targeting civilian infrastructure and institutions with “suspected Hamas ties,” which has included precision attacks on residential buildings, power plants, hospitals, schools, universities, cafes, and even a centre for people with disabilities. Whereas Israel claims that civilian targets are justified because Hamas uses them as human shields, Amnesty International has reported that it so far has no evidence of that practice, and its 2009 investigation into the alleged use of human shields by Hamas found “no evidence that [Palestinian] rockets were launched from residential houses or buildings while civilians were in these buildings.” What is clear, however, is that the people of Gaza are suffering tremendously as a result of these actions.
This assault on the civilian population of Gaza has severely impeded the right of Palestinians to access education. The GSA defends the right to accessible education not just in Canada, but across the world. To date, two universities and at least 141 schools in Gaza have been damaged during Israel’s offensive, with 22 of them being completely destroyed. On at least six occasions, Israeli forces have attacked schools operated by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), despite the Israeli military having been repeatedly informed about their locations. On August 3rd, a UN-operated school sheltering displaced Palestinians in Rafah was attacked by an Israeli airstrike, killing at least 13 people and wounding 200, an incident which Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, has called “a moral outrage and a criminal act,” and which US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki has called “disgraceful,” “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.”
Finally, evidence is mounting that Israel’s actions in Gaza could constitute war crimes. For instance, Human Rights Watch has reported several instances of “deliberate attacks” on civilians fleeing the town of Khuza’a by Israeli forces, and Amnesty International has warned that “Israel Defense Forces [have] launched apparently deliberate attacks against hospitals and health professionals in Gaza.”
The Council of the GSA at Carleton University joins the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, as well as other civil society groups in Canada, including Independent Jewish Voices Canada, in denouncing this Israeli aggression and its support from the Government of Canada. In light of the above evidence, for the Government of Canada to express its unconditional support for Israel’s assault on Gaza is absolutely shameful and condemnable. By blaming Palestinian casualties solely on Hamas—against all available evidence—the government is providing cover for apparent war crimes by Israel. There is no justification for the collective punishment of the Palestinian people in Gaza, first by the inhumane and suffocating blockade, and now by the carnage and destruction of the military assault.
The GSA demands that the Government of Canada vocally denounces Israel’s current military assault on Gaza. We encourage the Government of Canada to address the resulting humanitarian crisis in Gaza, in part by accepting the proposal of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish to allow wounded children from Gaza into Canada for medical treatment. Further, we encourage the Government of Canada to take a constructive role by demanding an immediate and continued ceasefire of all hostilities, and an end to the inhumane blockade of Gaza as well the illegal occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We call on the Government of Canada to use all diplomatic, political, and economic tools at its disposal, including trade and diplomatic sanctions, to help facilitate an end to Israel’s military assault and ongoing human rights violations in Palestine.
Vice President Academic
Thomas Mulcair, MP, Leader of the Official Opposition
Justin Trudeau, MP, Leader, Liberal Party of Canada
Elizabeth May, MP, Leader, Green Party of Canada