Astonishing Israeli Settler violence against Palestinian civilians. The Israeli press calls it a “pogrom”. But Canada dithers. Why?

On Sunday February 26, hundreds of Jewish settlers descended on Huwara, a tiny Palestinian town of less than 7,000 people bringing guns, molotov cocktails and batons. They burned cars, trashed houses, attacked civilians. One Palestinian was killed. Dozens injured. The population lives in fear. The Israeli press, and and even some Canadian liberal zionist groups, have described it as a “pogrom”. But the Canadian government refuses to call a “spade a spade”. Why not?

Backed by the Israeli government, settler groups in the West Bank are increasingly aggressive in their stated aim of driving Palestinians out and taking over all of the territory. Many observers call it “ethnic cleansing”.

Last Sunday Israeli settler aggression attained new heights when an armed group of frenzied settlers attacked the small Palestinian town of Huwara. The Israeli media, including the Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel called it a “pogrom”, a word that should resonate with Jews everywhere.

In Russia in the 19th century, pogroms drove many Jews to flee their homes. The Israeli settlers are hoping to drive the Palestinians out of theirs.

But all Global Affairs Canada can do is wring its hands and condemn “terrorism and violence” without making clear what is happening.

Why is Canada so worried about calling a “spade a spade” when others are willing to do so? Are we worried about saying that Jews, once the victims of pogroms, can also be perpetrators?

With the backing of the Israeli government, settlers take over more and more land, cooping up the Palestinians into smaller and smaller areas. This is a process which Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have described as “apartheid – a cruel system of domination”.

Israeli settlers and soldiers work hand in hand. When Palestinians resist land confiscations, they are labelled “terrorists” and the army is called.

Israeli forces are wreaking havoc with their near-daily “kill or capture” raids in West Bank cities.A week ago, Israeli troops entered Nablus, a major Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank in a rare, daytime operation, triggering fighting that killed 11 Palestinians and wounded over a hundred more.

That military raid reduced a building to rubble and left a series of shops riddled with bullets. It was the third Israeli military assault on Nablus in the last year.

Emboldened settlers now routinely enter Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank bearing arms, frequently with Israeli military escorts. They have no reason to do so, other than to establish their domination over the area.

They are often met by Palestinians throwing rocks and other projectiles to defend their their territory. Major military incursions are met with armed resistance.

Canadian Friends of Peace Now denounced the recent attacks on Palestinian civilians in Hawara. The Canadian government does not appear to have the same concern for safety and security of Palestinians.

On Friday, February 22, two Israelis, a settler and a military person were shot and killed as they patrolled the Palestinian town of Hawara. Settlers responded by organizing what is now labelled a “pogrom”.

Canadian Friends of Peace Now, a liberal Zionist group has voiced horror at Sunday’s vicious rampage by a large crowd of Jewish settlers on the Palestinian community of Hawara, West Bank, which saw one Palestinian killed, some 100 injured and much property damage inflicted. 

Settler attacks on Palestinian communities in the West Bank are nothing new, notes CFPN, but the rampage in Hawara was particularly savage.

“Lets call it what it is: a pogrom” –

Israeli group Peace Now
Palestinian civilians in their own cities find themselves facing aver more intrusive armed settlers protected by armed Israeli soldiers.

According to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, the settlers had publicized their intentions on social media in advance, and this was known to Israeli security forces. But they failed to prevent the settler riot or to adequately protect the Palestinian residents once the riot was underway.

It appears to have been coordinated with the military. Witnesses report that the Israeli army shut down the two entrances to Huwara and allowed the settler mob to enter the town by foot, doing nothing to prevent the ensuing atrocity.

The Canadian (non) response

What is the response of the Canadian government? Canada appears afraid to make a distinction between victim and aggressor. A tweet from Global Affairs Canada “condemns the terrorism and violence in the West Bank”.

Why is it that Israeli organizations and even liberal Zionist organizations in Canada can call these attacks a “pogrom”, while Canada plaintively complains about “terrorism and violence” without making any distinction between those who the UN identifies as illegal occupiers and those who are desperately trying to defend their territory?

Hooded and masked Jewish Israeli settlers carring wooden sticks and molotov cocktails arrive in Palestinian town of Huwara

Does Canada think that the Palestinians and the settlers are equally responsible?

Does it think perhaps that Palestinians are just violent, racist terrorists unable to live side by side with peaceful Jews?

Or is the cause of the violence, the continued expansion of the illegal settlements which have been condemned by the international community and which operate under a legal regime that serious human rights observers describe as “apartheid”?

And if Global Affairs Canada doesn’t know the reason for the violence, CTIP suggests it would be a good idea to find out, instead of weakly calling for “peace”.

Canada could start by talking to Palestinian human rights organizations like Defence of Children International. Sahar Francis, head of DCI is clear: Israel’s violations—the house demolitions, land confiscation, checkpoints—are the main reason behind all the tension taking place.”

What can we do?

Canadians who think their government should be much more forceful in opposing illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in openly naming a “pogrom” when it happens before their very eyes, could write a letter to Foreign Minister Melanie Joly. ( with a copy to their own MP. (first

You could also copy your friends who might not know how badly Canada is ducking its international responsibilities. Your letter doesn’t need to be long or fancy.

“Dear Minister Joly, I think Canada should call a “spade a spade”. We should not hesitate to call out Israeli settler racism. We should stand up on behalf of Palestinian rights and oppose settler expansion in the West Bank.”

That is all you need to say. They will understand.

Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

Want to learn more about us? Go to


  1. Just wondering if Trudeau still would say that Canada and Israel share same values, or hiding in the closet at times like this is better.

  2. Those who support Israel (US, Canada, some European countries) have been shutting their eyes to the ugly, hate-filled, nature of some Israelis’ attitude towards non-Jews who live in the land they decided to conquer. This should open their eyes but I fear those eyes may be shut so tightly that they won’t see what has happened. We need to keep trying to make them look at the terrible reality. Everyone who reads this blog should write to their MP and local newspaper.

  3. Thanks again Peter. This is an important issue, the issue of silence by which Canada debases itself not only by implicitly supporting a racist government but by ignoring its own stated values. Unfortunately this pogrom is only the beginning and I think we should expect many more violent acts in the future. It is not, however, surprising. Zionism has always has a core belief that Jews could only be safe if they were together and in superior numbers in order to shield them from antisemitism. That is totally understandable given the history of violence against them in countries in which they have been minorities. Unfortunately western governments have always believed that to criticize Israel’s actions towards Palestinians is to deny the legitimacy of this idea. The side effect has been to remove Israel from accountability for it’s violation of laws and conventions, the results of which means accepting Israeli transgressions as necessary to ensure its safety. Much of the blame for increasingly racist threads in Israeli politics lies with the west’s enabling behaviour. With each slap in the face, the west, especially the USA, seems more and more inclined to bolster support unconditionally. Had we been firmer in dealing with illegal settlements, settler violence, creeping annexation and disproportionate military aggression, especially against the Gaza Strip, things might be very different. Canada’s anaemic response to the latest settler atrocities is a perfect example of this timid enabling behaviour. And as long as Israel is protected from the consequences of its actions, they have no reason to alter course. It’s ironic that being a “friend “ of Israel has actually made life worse for both Palestinians and Israelis. It’s time for Canada to show moral leadership and denounce pogroms such as this, now and in the future.

  4. Peter, The comments section closed faster than I could respond. I had hoped to say this:

    What’s going on in the minds of the masked and hooded youths in that picture? Protected by Israeli soldiers they roam the streets wrecking opprobrious violence on the villagers who belong there. They remind me of the Nazi brownshirts of 1930’s Germany. Ethnic cleansing was ugly then and it’s ugly now.

    What’s going on in the minds of our Canadian leaders?

    Best wishes, and may our better natures ascend, Doug

Comments are closed.