What would Prime Minister Trudeau have said if Palestinian troops had attacked Israeli Jews praying in a Synagogue on Passover?

The images were shocking. Israeli soldiers armed with stun grenades, tear gas, batons and rifles) attacking Palestinian worshippers INSIDE the Al Aqsa Mosque. Prime Minister Trudeau made a statement indicating concern about the “violence around the Al Aqsa Mosque’. Neutral. non-judgemental. But what might he have said if the tables had been turned? Read more…

“It’s the holy month of Ramadan, it’s Passover right now, and families — Israeli and Palestinian — deserve to be able to celebrate and reflect in peace and in security,” said an earnest Prime Minister Trudeau, on April 5th, after Israeli troops had penetrated the al Aqsa mosque compound on two successive nights attacking, beating and arresting worshippers.

No doubt Mr. Trudeau was sincere in his wishes, but this was no bar room brawl where its not clear who was at fault. The UN report on the incident could not have been clearer.

“Israeli forces violently entered Al-Aqsa Mosque, used stun grenades and tear gas, fired sponge-tipped bullets, and indiscriminately beat Muslim worshippers – including elderly people and women – with batons and rifle butts,” according to a statement from the UN Human rights office. At least 450 Palestinian men were reportedly arrested, and some were kicked and slapped by escorting soldiers as they were led out of the Haram Al-Sharif compound in handcuffs.”

A video circulating on the internet showing Israeli soldiers viciously beating worshippers with batons and gun butts while the voices of screaming women could be heard. (see around 3 minute mark). Even Israel’s top police officials admitted to the Times of Israel that the images did not “look good”.

Israeli soldiers did not respect age or gender

If Trudeau had wanted to give an image of pious concern without attributing any responsibility for the naked Israeli aggression, he couldn’t have done more. His muted comments were in sharp contrast to those of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who said forthrightly he was “shocked and appalled” by images of Israeli security forces beating people at the mosque.

What if it had been Israeli Jews who were targeted?

But imagine for a second that the tables had been turned. Imagine that the photos had been of Palestinian soldiers entering East Jerusalem, penetrating a synagogue and brutally attacking Jews at prayer. What might Prime Minister Trudeau have said or done?

Would he have limited himself to handwringing about “violence” or would he have been forthright in denunciation? Perhaps even taking some kind of action like demanding a vote at the UN Security Council? Or suspending all aid to the Palestinian Authority?

If the Palestinian Authority had organized such an attack, Trudeau would have been completely justified in taking these actions and more.

But instead, this was not an attack on Jews, but an attack by armed Israeli forces against Muslim worshippers. And Mr. Trudeau did none of those things, limiting instead to general remarks lamenting “violence”.

Why did Israel attack the worshippers in the Mosque?

Why in the world would Israeli troops attack Muslim worshippers in the middle of Ramadan? They had to know there would be resistance. The Al Aqsa Mosque is legally in East Jerusalem and under the control of the Jordanian Waft. But Israeli settlers are on the aggressive, especially so with the backing of their allies in government.

The Israeli claims that the worshippers have no right to spend the night in the Mosque are challenged by Islamic authorities around the world. “Spending the last ten days of Ramadan in a mosque to devote oneself completely to worship, staying up most of the night in the mosque itself, is a Sunnah. It is practiced by many Muslims”, according to Arab News. According to the same article the Al Aqsa Mosque is under the control of the Jordanian Waft, and Israel has no right to expell worshippers.

“The Israeli police wanted to show that they are in control of Al-Aqsa’commented Jalal Abukhater writing in +972 Magazine. “The settlers are emboldened by having their allies in the government like Itamar Ben Gvir. It is reaching a point where Israel is showing everyone that it is the one to dominate, control, and have full sovereignty over Jerusalem, including the holy sites such as Al-Aqsa Mosque.

While Canada clings to its “two state solution” mantra, it does not seem willing or able to speak out or act against Israel’s increasing projection of force into Occupied Palestinian territory.

What can I do?

If you think Prime Minister Trudeau and Canada should be much clearer in their defense of human rights for Palestinians and denunciaton of Israel’s aggression at the Al Aqsa mosque, you can consider signing a petition organized by The Coalition of Canadian Palestinian Organizations.

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 Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine


  1. And what might the United Church have said if it had been the other way round. Probably not the silence we have had. Marianna

  2. Possibly look away and ignore the event.
    He is too invested in following Biden on foreign policy.
    I am not aware of the strength of Zionist support for the Liberal Govt.
    Trudeau has been a great disappointment as a PM for Canadians who can think independently.

  3. We don’t know what PM Trudeau would do if Palestinian police evicted Jews from a synagogue in a territory under their jurisdiction, because Palestinians refuse to contemplate even the possibility of Jews living in a Palestinian state. If they did, then the presence of Jews in territory that might eventually become part of Palestine wouldn’t be the main obstacle to peace.

    We do know what Trudeau said in the past few days when three Israeli women were murdered in cold blood on the territory of that proposed state, and then Israeli police entered Al Aqsa to remove hooligans who had brought explosives into the mosque. He called for an end to violence from “both sides”.

    While the Israeli police, confronted with explosives in the confined space of the mosque, definitely over-reacted and were too rough in the treatment of worshippers caught between them and the militants who were desecrating the mosque, I’d say that Trudeau has, if anything been bending over backwards to avoid placing blame where it belongs: on the Palestinian side which is the source of most of the violence.

    1. Hey David, thank you. Do I understand you correctly that you think the Israeli police intervened to protect the mosque against “militants who were desecrating the mosque”? Are you serious? Did you see those short clips of Israeli police or soldiers bashing people with their batons and even gun butts? Don’t you think that if anyone had been desecrating the mosque then the Muslims would have done something? I usually find your comments interesting, but this one is hard to swallow.

      1. Peter, the reports I’ve seen were that the mosque was occupied by armed militants. The news coverage focused on the Israeli incursion into the mosque, but they ignore the fact that they intervened only after armed militants barricaded themselves in the mosque.

        The videos show fireworks being fired at the Israelis by people in the mosque. These were not worshippers. Worshippers don’t bring explosives into a mosque.

      2. David, thank you.
        That is what the Israeli government said at first. But 3 big questions remain. 1) if they were armed, why were no Israelis killed or even hurt? 2) what in the world are the Israeli troops doing in the Al Aqsa mosque even if they Muslims were armed? Were any Muslims in danger? 3) Even if there were people in danger, (far from proven) isn’t it up to the Muslims to work that out.
        The real reason is that Israel – and the settlers in particular – are showing their muscle. They want to take over the Al Aqsa mosque, an replace it with a Jewish temple. But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.
        It seems to me you are breaking from your liberal zionist colleagues (CFPN, NIFC, etc.) on this. That leads me to ask yuou a question. Do you agree with Israel expanding its footprint in the West Bank?

      3. Hi Peter. I am opposed to Israel expanding its footprint in the captured territories. I have criticized Israel for not being more forceful in dealing with illegal activity by Jews, which I believe should be treated as firmly as illegal activity by Palestinians.

        The present Israeli government includes elements from the extreme right with whom I have strong disagreements, and who espouse a vision of Zionism that I do not share.

        That said, I am have been saying for about 20 years now that the principal obstacle to peace is Palestinian violence in violation of the Oslo accords, violence which has been encouraged and rewarded by the PA in a way that leaves the Israeli leaders who negotiated the Oslo accords looking like dupes.

        The political death of the Israeli left is a direct consequence of the failure of Oslo. The Israeli people voted for Rabin and his allies further to the left on the promise of peace in return for territorial concessions. They voted for Barak who tried to complete the final status negotiations.

        Instead of peace, Israel got the second intifada. As long as Israelis see their people being murdered by Palestinians with the tacit support of the PA leadership they will continue to vote for anyone who promises them better security and they will not trust any commitment made by a Palestinian leader.

        If Palestinians want better lives and a chance for independence, the very best thing they could do is stop killing Israelis. The support for the fanatics of the right will begin dropping immediately, in my view.

        That said, I am watching Israel anxiously as I believe the struggle to maintain the power of the Israeli court to limit the actions of the elected government is not yet over. The current right wing government was stopped temporarily from steamrollering its antidemocratic legislation through the Knesset by an unprecedented uprising of Israeli civil society. But it remains to be seen if the government will open itself to genuine compromise or renew its legislative push.

      4. Hey David,
        thank you for your thoughtful response. You won’t be surprised to know that I disagree with some (not all) of what you say. I certainly would be open to further discussion on these issues. I am always interested in having serious discussions/debates with serious and thoughtful people. Would you consider organizing some kind of public discussion of our respective views? We would need to discuss specific focus, when, where, how to structure, etc.

  4. I have been so disappointed in both Trudeau, and Bob Rae, on the subject of Israel. There seems to be no difference in the behaviour of Russia and Israel in recent years….

  5. No need to even ask the question.  The answer is as clear as the nose on your face.  Catherine

  6. We humans have the capacity for great cruelty and injustice. We also have capacity to feel the tender emotions we usually know within our families. If we just invoke a 3rd capacity, which is unique to our species – reason – it soon becomes obvious that evenly applied respect, tolerance and justice is the only way forward in this lengthy, hate-filled conflict. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, you have expressed this sort of perspective in other arenas in the past. It’s time to say it here, now.

  7. Good piece Peter.
    Firstly, there is absolutely no evidence of any kind that Jews could not live in a Palestinian state. The two state solution has always included “mutual land swaps” , meaning that Israel gets what it wants and the Palestinians get the rest, just like the bizarre border of the UN partition plan. Keeping the settlements in a Palestinian state would not result in antisemitic pogroms. Furthermore Jews have lived peacefully in Arab countries for centuries without persecution so I find it hard to accept that things would change in a Palestinian state.
    Secondly, this is not a symmetric “conflict “, this an occupation and the violence on both sides is not “ equal “. Anemic remarks by western leaders and media saying that both sides should avoid acting to make the situation worse are simply a way of avoiding recognizing that Israel has long carried out brutality against the indigenous population, and the recent attacks in Al Aqsa are just more of the same.
    Thirdly, it is no surprise that these attacks take place. Israel has been protected and coddled from its inception and has rarely had to face pressure to change its ways. Justin Trudeau and Bob Rae are just another couple of enablers who refuse to accept the occupation and to hold Israel to standards of international law. Blaming the Palestinians for being the root cause of the violence is naive and irresponsible. It buys into anti Arab tropes and removes any responsibility on Israel to curb its policies. This kind of attitude is largely how we got here and if it doesn’t change, the future for both Palestinians and Israelis is very gloomy.

  8. And what might have our primate Linda Nicolls have said if it’s the other way around. This action and indiscriminate brutality against any human being is unacceptable period. Reactions to such brutality must garner equal denunciation from all peace lovers, just people especially leaders of this world. Enough is Enough.

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