Why would the Harper government refuse Ontario’s offer to help injured Palestinian children?

2011-10-14-mandy-on-doctor-abuelaish-618-408wounded child

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish (“The Gaza Doctor”) proposed that Canada bring 100 badly injured Palestinian children to Canada for urgent medical treatment. His proposal was quickly supported by Ontario hospitals, health care workers and even the Ontario government. But permission has been denied by the Harper government, saying its “too risky”. But risky for whom? Read the rest of the post here.

A brilliant idea for emergency humanitarian action in Gaza has been put forward by a Palestinian gynecologist now living in Toronto. Dr. Abuelaish became a well-known figure in Canada as the author of “I shall not Hate”, his plea for reconciliation in Israel/Palestine after he lost 3 daughters to Israeli bombs in 2009.

Dr. Abuelaish launched the rescue idea in a powerful opinion piece in the Toronto Star.

His idea was to bring 100 children to Ontario for emergency medical treatment because most of the hospitals in Gaza have been badly damaged.

His idea rapidly gained support in the Ontario medical establishment.

Alex Munter, President of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, said that CHEO is “ready to help any child it can”. The McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, the Kingston General Hospital, The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the London Health Sciences Centre have also offered to treat the children.

The humanitarian initiative also got the green light from the Ontario government.  Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins issued a statement saying the province has a “moral responsibility” to help the injured children. (Before entering politics, Hoskins was president of War Child Canada, a charity that helps children in war zones.)

Too risky??

But so far, the Harper government has refused to give the necessary permits.

“It’s too risky to transport injured children”, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Adam Hodge coldly told Global News via email.

But what exactly is the “risk”? That they will somehow threaten Canadian security? Surely that seems far-fetched. That they will die en route ? That might happen, but on the other hand, what will happen to them if they don’t get medical attention?

It seems more likely that the “risk” is that the publicity that would surround the arrival of 100 severely wounded Palestinian children would lead to a swelling of sympathy among Canadians and an increased demand to lift the blockade of Gaza, which even President Obama has now agreed cannot last forever.

Harper’s decision seems to indicate that his government not only approves of  the Israeli blockade of Gaza, but wants to continue it after the bombing is over – even to the extent of denying medical aid to children in dire need of attention.

Is it too late?

But Dr. Abuelaish is persistent and has not given up. The need is still there. And the support of the medical profession is still there.

Readers who are so moved might want to write to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to ask him to rethink this apparently heartless decision. You might want to send copies to NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar and to Liberal Marc Garneau. Their email addresses are listed for your convenience. I also include the email address of Dr. Carolyn Bennett, a Liberal MP, and a medical doctor who recently visited Israel and visited an Israeli hospital. She did not visit Gaza nor talk to any Palestinians.


  1. Why would any human being refuse to help another human being in need, I will never understand

  2. Yesterday was my turn to talk to Senator Mitchell. He was polite, no aggressive Zionist but he certainly buys into Israel’s propaganda of the “villa in the jungle”. Arabs fight each other intractably, in the region and are still not sufficiently civilized to form respectable countries: The lack of human rights and women’s rights shows the Palestinians are not ready for democracy yet, or so he told me.

    I was not really ready for this amount of racism in a Canadian politician. He talked as if this is the standard thinking regarding the people living in the ME.

    He thinks of Gaza in terms of a human tragedy, not a political failure of the West.

    So generally the argument goes that while politicians are sympathising with Palestinians, they do not want to recognise Palestinian political rights because that is too dangerous for Israel and too early for those immature (violent) societies. Score that for Israeli hasbara.

    He wanted to sell Justin and the Liberals’ support for women’s rights. As if I would trust someone who sells out Palestinian rights, men, women and all.

    His focus is on domestic politics. Foreign politics he buys wholesale from Washington and the local Zionist elites.

    A learning experience for sure. Lots of work ahead.

    Thank you for the article on Canadians working for UNWRA; I mentioned it because he argued he could not go to Gaza because Hamas would want to abduct a Canadian parliamentarian for diplomatic leverage. Sigh!

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