Harper’s double standards on Palestine and Ukraine: Not all child casualties of war are innocent

ANDREW MITROVICA* on Harper’s perverse provision of militarized “aid” to the Kiev junta, the murky role of the billionaire owner of a pharmaceutical company (Eugene Melnyk, BIOVAIL) who’s also the chairman of the Campaign Advisory Committee for “United with Ukraine” … and the wounded children of Gaza.

Palestinian doctors treat children wounded in an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

Palestinian doctors treat children wounded in an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 | AP Photo/Hatem Ali

ipolitics (Sept. 16) – Before last week, I thought I understood the depth of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s malevolence. I was wrong.

Only now do I appreciate just how ugly this prime minister is. I didn’t think it was possible for even a government as rabidly partisan as this one to add Palestinian children to its long list of enemies. That’s not hyperbole. Truth.

How else can we begin to explain Harper’s failure to help Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish — a University of Toronto professor described by his Israeli colleagues as “a magical, secret bridge between Israelis and Palestinians” — in his efforts to bring 100 innocent victims of the war in Gaza to Canada for medical treatment?

How else can we explain Harper’s indifference to the plight of these kids when hospitals, doctors, nurses, public health officials, the Ontario government, unions and the federal opposition parties are all ready and eager to help?

What plausible excuse could Harper have for standing on the sidelines when so many of Canada’s allies — including Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, Turkey and Egypt — already have provided safe havens or medical aid to scores of wounded children?

Harper’s PR flacks have claimed that it would be too risky to move those kids from whatever is left of their shattered homes in Gaza for treatment in Canada. That’s crap. We know it — everybody knows it, including the geniuses in the PMO who came up with that line of spin.

Here’s the truth: Harper won’t help these children because they’re Palestinians from Gaza.

How do I know?

Exhibit A. Take a look at this picture tweeted out by Ottawa Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk last Thursday night after Harper gave a speech at the United for Ukraine fundraising gala in Toronto to raise money to send Canadian physicians to that war-torn country — a humanitarian initiative I applaud.

There’s the beaming prime minister standing shoulder to shoulder with proud Ukrainian-Canadians Melnyk, Wayne Gretzky and his wife, Janet. “A wonderful evening with @pmharper and @officialgretzky in support of sending Canadian doctors to the Ukraine,” Melnyk tweeted.

I tried to find out what kind of material, financial or logistical role the Canadian government is playing in “support of sending Canadian doctors to the Ukraine” from Harper’s legion of press officers in Ottawa. The PMO didn’t answer my questions. Foreign Minister John Baird’s press secretary didn’t get back to me, either.

Still, in his speech, Harper vowed “unblinking” support for Ukraine and implied that, in effect, he values Ukrainian lives infinitely more than the lives of Palestinian children.

“Let me say at this point just how pleased I am to be able to support the Canada-Ukraine Foundation and the worthy cause that’s brought us all here together tonight and to salute the medical personnel who will be going to the aid of Ukrainians bloodied in the Euromaidan protest and affected by the ongoing conflict. Congratulations to everyone supporting this great cause,” Harper said. “It is, my friends, sadly too late to help the heavenly hundred who were slain simply for the crime of seeking a better country … We can help those who survived and lived to continue the struggle.”

So Harper “salutes” and offers his unqualified support to the “great cause” of sending doctors to Ukraine and pledges to “help those who survived” but he won’t say a word (other than ‘no’) or raise a finger to help even one of the 3,106 wounded Palestinian children who survived relentless, indiscriminate bombardment for weeks. This obscene double standard is a reflection of Harper’s breathtakingly cynical and malicious nature.

Harper will never “salute” the laudable efforts of Dr. Abuelaish and so many others who are trying to arrange for injured Palestinian children in stable condition to be treated in Canadian hospitals. And he certainly will never refer to any of those Palestinian kids as the “heavenly hundred.”

In Harper’s perverse geopolitical calculus, those kids are mere pawns in a PR campaign to make the Israelis look bad. Their suffering is all Hamas’s fault. De facto: To help any of those kids would mean helping Hamas and Harper would never do that.

Harper won’t do any of that because he doesn’t see what anyone with an ounce of empathy sees when they look at pictures of wounded Palestinian children lying on hospital gurneys or being cradled by their parents.

Civilians rushed to help after Israeli missiles hit a beach in Gaza City, where children were playing football. Israel said it was a “surgical strike.” Four Palestinian boys died | Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Civilians rushed to help after Israeli missiles hit a beach in Gaza City, where children were playing football. Israel said it was a “surgical strike.” Four Palestinian boys died | Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Millions of Canadians see children gripped by pain, fear and despair who desperately require care and attention. Harper looks at those heart-wrenching images with suspicion and disdain.

To Harper, those kids are just Hamas sympathizers, if not terrorists-in-waiting — every one of them. In his perverse geopolitical calculus, those kids are mere pawns in a PR campaign to make the Israelis look bad. Their suffering is all Hamas’s fault. De facto: To help any of those kids would mean helping Hamas and Harper would never do that.

Ever the optimist, Dr. Abuelaish remains hopeful that this characterization of Harper’s attitude toward wounded Palestinian children isn’t true. He hopes that the prime minister can still see those kids for who they are: human beings who need our help. “The (prime minister) needs to see the human face of these children. They have names, faces and lives,” he says. “The priority must be to save their lives.”

But Harper and Baird’s spokespeople claim their bosses are “too busy” to meet with Dr. Abuelaish to discuss his Heal100kids initiative. Another lie.

They won’t meet a man who has devoted his life to saving the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike — even though Israeli tank shells killed three of his daughters and a niece in 2009. They don’t want to offend Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters at home and in Israel by even appearing to provide medical aid and comfort to Palestinians who elected a Hamas-led government.

Baird has brushed off Dr. Abuelaish and the Heal100kids campaign onto Garry Keller, his chief-of-staff. Keller wrote Dr. Abuelaish an email in early August to remind him that he had been told “many times that Minister Baird is not available to meet.”

“Humanitarian assistance” for regime change in Ukraine

Melnyk, the billionaire owner of the Ottawa Senators, is closely tied with the Canadian Forces and the culture of militarization. In the fall of 2003, the NHL franchise initiated an annual “Canadian Forces appreciation night.” Melnyk, at left, is shown in this 2009 photo before jumping out of the practice tower during a team building camp at the CFB Petawawa. The Canadian junior hockey team was at CFB Petawawa for team-building exercises organized by the military.

Melnyk, the billionaire owner of the Ottawa Senators, is closely tied with the Canadian Forces and the culture of militarization. In the fall of 2003, the NHL franchise initiated an annual “Canadian Forces appreciation night.” Melnyk, at left, is shown in this 2009 photo before jumping out of the practice tower during a team building camp at the CFB Petawawa. The Canadian junior hockey team was at CFB Petawawa for team-building exercises organized by the military.

But Baird’s daytimer seems to be wide open when it comes to meeting a friendly, multi-millionaire owner of a hockey team to discuss Canada’s response to the turmoil in Ukraine.

According to the Globe and Mail, on March 4 “Melnyk flew from Barbados [Melnyk lives in Barbados – TS] to Ottawa on his private jet to meet that day with the Foreign Minister about the situation unfolding in Ukraine.”

Melnyk was mum about his 20 minute face-to-face with Canada’s oh-so-busy foreign minister — whose schedule, according to his PR people, is set in stone weeks, if not months, in advance. Yet somehow, a wealthy entrepreneur miraculously got a private meeting with Baird smack in the middle of an international crisis — while Dr. Abuelaish still gets the bureaucratic stiff-arm. (Melnyk and Baird also reportedly spoke by phone in December 2013 on the eve of the minister’s visit to Kyiv. You have to wonder if Melnyk has Baird on speed-dial.)

Melnyk’s overtures to Baird paid dividends. On February 14, 2014 Baird announced “funding to provide equipment, supplies and medical care for Ukrainian activists.” Four days later, Baird’s office announced even more aid to provide “urgent medical relief” to injured “courageous (Ukrainian) activists.” (The Canadian funds were handed over to a U.S. NGO which has no democratic legitimacy, the International Renaissance Foundation (IRF), the main front for the George Soros Open Society network operating in the Ukraine. The IRF had been active in assisting rioters injured in violent clashes with authorities in the Maiden. The armed rioters overthrew the elected government a week later. –TS)

And in his speech in Toronto last Thursday, Harper told his appreciative Ukrainian-Canadian audience that “a few weeks ago, a Canadian Hercules from Canadian Forces Base Trenton touched down in Kyiv with a cargo of protective medical and logistical equipment to help the soldiers of Ukraine defend their territory.”

Think about that. Harper and company can send money and “urgent” medical assistance to wounded Ukrainian activists and medical “equipment” by military aircraft to Ukrainian soldiers, but they won’t do a damn thing to help Dr. Abuelaish provide urgently needed care to wounded kids from Gaza.

This wilful blindness to the suffering of Palestinian children is contemptible. It dishonors the office Harper holds — and the country he serves.

Andrew Mitrovica is a writer and journalism instructor. For much of his career, Andrew was an investigative reporter for a variety of news organizations and publications including the CBC’s fifth estate, CTV’s W5, CTV National News — where he was the network’s chief investigative producer — the Walrus magazine and the Globe and Mail, where he was a member of the newspaper’s investigative unit. During the course of his 23-year career, Andrew has won numerous national and international awards for his investigative work.

More from Andrew Mitrovica available here.

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