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July 22nd, 2014

Statement by NDP leader Tom Mulcair on situation in the Middle East

“Millions of innocent civilians have been caught in the line of fire in the Middle East, and hundreds have been killed in recent days. New Democrats are deeply concerned about the situation. This is a time for the international community to play an active role in securing a ceasefire.

We’re watching in horror at what’s happening in the region. The attacks and incursion into Gaza have already caused too many civilian casualties. No one in Canada can remain indifferent to these deaths. The firing of rockets by Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants at civilian populations is utterly unacceptable. Hamas is a recognized terrorist organization and Israel has the right to defend its citizens from these attacks, while doing its utmost to protect civilians. With Hamas’ firm rejection of an Egyptian-negotiated ceasefire and Israel’s ground operation in the Gaza Strip, the conflict has entered a more dangerous phase. The world must redouble efforts toward de-escalation and a ceasefire now. The priority has to be to work for peace.

Over the course of this conflict, New Democrats have been in contact with Israeli and Palestinian representatives to urge de-escalation, an immediate ceasefire and protection of civilians. We have written to the government of Canada to reiterate our call for a balanced and constructive role in building peace in the Middle East. To date, the government’s statements have failed to advance these goals. If it were as simple as saying one side is always right, the other side is always wrong, this conflict would not have already endured for generations.

Canada’s efforts in the region should be focused on achieving a lasting peace. As New Democrats, we believe that the United Nations is a key player in achieving peace in the Middle East. It’s part of the solution, along with major players such as the European Union, the United States and others. Unfortunately, under Stephen Harper, Canada has lost much of its influence internationally as the government has disengaged from the hard work that diplomacy requires.

Beyond the current conflict, the international community must focus to ensure a durable ceasefire and calm. This includes preventing illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition, and ensuring the unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance within Gaza, including food, fuel and medical treatment. With peace, the sustained reopening of crossing points must also be ensured. Our position is in keeping with UN Security Council resolution 1860 adopted in 2009.

The government must reaffirm Canada’s long-standing support for a negotiated, two-state solution respectful of international law, where Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace in viable, independent states with negotiated and agreed-upon borders. This conflict has taken a tragic human toll, and now more than ever we urge the government of Canada to take a leadership role in prioritizing the protection of innocent civilian lives, securing an immediate ceasefire and working towards a lasting, negotiated settlement to the conflict.”