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Glavin: When it comes to Israel, the 'narrative' seems to matters more than the facts

Whatever might be said of Israeli policies, casting Jews as illegitimate interlopers in the Holy Land is utter fiction.

Pro-Palestinian protests
Protesters from TMU and University of Toronto make their feelings known about the attacks in the Middle East on Oct. 20 at Queen's Park in Toronto. Photo by Jack Boland /Jack Boland/Toronto Sun

There are any number of sobering lessons that might be drawn from the obscene celebrations of mass murder that have erupted across Canada in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 massacres in Israel, when “special forces” units of the terrorist Hamas organization carried out the bloodiest pogrom in Jewish history since the Holocaust.

That a genteel, faculty-lounge variety of antisemitism has gone unchallenged for too long is certainly one lesson. Another is that Canada’s official toleration of the propaganda, recruitment and fundraising arms of terrorist organizations is bad policy that free-speech rights cannot be allowed to excuse.

Ottawa Citizen

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Another lesson: Perhaps the news media should roust itself from its lazy habit of reporting, as though it were fact, that the various street demonstrations staged in dozens of Canada’s cities since Oct. 7 are “pro-Palestine” or are otherwise intended to rally public concern for the horrible circumstances endured by the long-suffering people of Gaza.

But there is another lesson that should not be lost in the bedlam, perhaps the most important one, and it’s this: There comes a point when manic devotion to “narrative” becomes so unhinged from reality, so impervious to the evidence of the real world, that it mutates into a fanaticism that can quickly degenerate into something more closely resembling a dangerous mental illness.

The “narrative” is what matters, and any departure from it, any expression of an idea or mere notice of facts that might contradict it, must be condemned, denounced, disallowed or at the very least avoided at all costs.

This is no longer just some weird eccentricity from the critical studies wings of the social sciences and humanities faculties.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself indulged in it in the hours and days following an Oct. 17 Hamas claim that Israeli forces had bombed and destroyed the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza. “I’m horrified by the loss of life at Al Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza,” Trudeau said. “My thoughts are with those who lost loved ones. It is imperative that innocent civilians be protected and international law upheld.”

This is no longer just some weird eccentricity from the critical studies wings of the social sciences and humanities faculties.

All Trudeau had to go on, remember, was a Hamas allegation that Israel had carried out a “massacre” at the hospital and that at least 500 people were killed. Trudeau then spent the rest of the week insinuating that Israel was responsible for the bombing, and that Israel had to be held to account.

It wasn’t until late Saturday night that Defence Minister Bill Blair quietly announced that the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command had undertaken independent analyses indicating “with a high degree of confidence” that Israel did not strike the hospital, and that “the more likely scenario is that the strike was caused by an errant rocket fired from Gaza.”

Fog of war and all that, you could say in Trudeau’s defence, except that within hours, on the morning of Oct. 18, the Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry’s claim was shown to be obviously and plainly untrue by the mere presence of daylight.

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The “narrative” depended on an explosion that destroyed a hospital. But no hospital was destroyed, or even bombed. There was an explosion in the Al Ahli hospital parking lot. Several vehicles were incinerated and there was some damage to an adjacent building. Even now nobody knows how many people were killed. Perhaps dozens, certainly not 500.

Here’s a helpfully clear example of the depths it is necessary to plumb in order to protect the sanctity of “narrative” against the reality of Israel’s current predicament.

At least 74 students at Toronto Metropolitan University’s Lincoln Alexander law school signed an open letter over the weekend claiming that Israel doesn’t even exist. Israel is merely the “brand” of a genocidal colonial-settler entity. Israel is to blame for the Hamas rampage in which close to 1,400 Israeli men, women and children were mercilessly slaughtered in their homes and in the streets of their towns and villages and at the music festival at Re’im.

“To say otherwise is to accept and endorse colonialism in all its forms.” To say otherwise is not allowed. “We condemn any statement that denies or shifts away from the narrative of colonialism,” the statement read. “Palestinians are the subjects of Israel’s colonization and genocide.”

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Any lunatic belief is permissible, so long as it conforms with the “narrative.” This isn’t just true of exotic fringe groups among Canada’s various street-protest hobbyists.

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, for instance, has claimed to be Canada’s “premier advocacy organization” and the organization most often relied upon by politicians, policymakers and the media on Middle East issues. Last Thursday, now-suspended CJPME board member Ghada Sasa suggested that the murderers of those 260 Jews at the Re’im musical festival were not Hamas terrorists at all. The Israeli Defence Forces did the slaughtering, Sasa claimed.

“A lot of the people who were killed were actually killed by Israel.” Sasa says festival attendees had reported that “Hamas was not trying to kill us, and the Israelis were just firing at us.”

But even among the protest speech-makers who admit that Hamas was responsible for the butchering, their acts of resistance were positively exhilarating. “How beautiful is the spirit to get free that Palestinians literally learned how to fly on hang gliders,” the Vancouver protest fixture Harsha Walia shouted into a microphone only two days after Hamas carried out its atrocities in Southern Israel. Walia was referring to the motorized para-gliders some of the Hamas terrorists used to cross the border from Gaza.

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Walia might be remembered for having disgraced the B.C. Civil Liberties Association for her “burn it all down” commentary in the summer of 2021, when dozens of churches across Canada were being vandalized and burned to the ground across Canada during the hysteria arising from the narrative that a mass grave of children had been “discovered” at the site of a former Indian residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

There was nothing especially unusual about Walia’s comments about beautiful Hamas hang gliders. Since Oct. 7, at least two dozen demonstrations across Canada have rallied protesters around a fictional “narrative” that Israel is carrying out a “genocide” of Palestinians in Gaza. Protest organizers have exhorted Canadians to support a legitimate “resistance” that dismembers babies and burns families alive.

The CJPME, the United Church of Canada, 33 Liberal, NDP and Green MPs, the national leadership of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Black Lives Matter-Canada, the Iranian-Canadian Congress, the National Council of Canadian Muslims and several other prominent organizations and individuals have called for a “ceasefire” in Gaza, all based on an inviolable narrative: the “root cause” of the Gaza horrors is “Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory.”

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This is fiction. Whatever might be said of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Israel abandoned its “occupation” of Gaza 18 years ago. The “root cause” of the current bloodshed is the theocratic-fascist determination animating Hamas that relies on a “narrative” postulating Jews as illegitimate interlopers in the Holy Land.

There are lessons to be drawn from all this. It is not at all clear whether Canadians are prepared to learn from them.

Terry Glavin is an author and journalist.

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