John Baird condemns Hamas rejection of ceasefire with Israel
The military conflict in Gaza and Israel has sparked a rhetorical spat in Ottawa
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has condemned a decision by Hamas to reject an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Israel.
Baird said the situation should not be characterized as a battle between Israel and the Palestinian Authority or the Palestinian people, but rather between Hamas, which Canada sees as a terrorist organization, and the Jewish state.
"The buck stops with Hamas," Baird told reporters in Ottawa. "Hamas started this bloodshed. Hamas can end it.
"The scourge of terrorism must be rejected by all peace-loving peoples around the world," he said.
Baird made his comments soon after the announcement of the first Israeli fatality in the conflict. Almost 200 Palestinians have been killed as a result of Israel's strikes on Gaza since Israel launched the campaign over a week ago in retaliation for Hamas rocket fire targeting Israeli citizens.
Baird added that credit should go to President Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, and noted that no rockets had come from areas under Abbas's control.
And he repeated Canada's support for Israel.
"We believe Israel has the right to defend itself by itself."
The political rhetoric in Ottawa has been rising along with the military actions in Gaza and Israel, with all sides of the Canadian spectrum staking out positions and trading barbs.
While the Conservatives expressed unequivocal support for Israel and its actions, the Liberals supported Israel's right to defend itself and condemned Hamas's refusal to accept an Egyptian ceasefire proposal.
"Israel should be commended for having accepted the ceasefire proposal, and demonstrating its commitment to peace," Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau was quoted as saying in a news release.
"Hamas is a terrorist organization and must cease its rocket attacks immediately,” he added.
Still, Baird was critical even of that statement.
In French, Baird pointed out that it took the Liberals seven days to come around to Conservatives' way of seeing things in the conflict.
The NDP urged both Israel and Hamas to work towards peace and criticized the Conservatives for not doing more to make that happen.
"I haven't seen any action whatsoever by the Harper government to try to move towards peace," said Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair in Halifax.
"They seem to be pushing in the opposite direction. You know, if it were as simple as saying, one side's always right and the other side's always wrong, it would have been settled a long time ago," he added.
Political back and forth
The back and forth between the parties began Sunday.
A statement from Prime Minister Stephen Harper said "Canada is unequivocally behind Israel" and made no mention of Palestinian civilian casualties.
The opposition accused the prime minister of taking advantage of the conflict between Gaza and Israel to "score points."
"Our thuggish prime minister pumps his chest while people die in Gaza. He may think there are votes to be had by cheering on Netanyahu from the sidelines, but leadership is about trying to find ways to lessen the conflict," Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus wrote on his Facebook page.
The Angus remark drew harsh criticism from the parliamentary secretary to the immigration minister.
On CBC News Network's Power & Politics Monday, Costas Menegakis called Angus's comments "inflammatory" and said his words were "attacking the people of Israel."
Liberal a target
Menegakis pointed an accusatory finger at the Liberals, as well.
"Their candidate in Mississauga Centre made reprehensible comments against Israel and Israel's actions," he said.
Menegakis was referring to a Facebook post from former Liberal MP and 2015 federal election candidate Omar Alghabra.
"Tragic! My thoughts and prayers are with the innocent civilians caught in blind and cruel bombing," the post stated over top of a picture of a recently bombed neighbourhood in Gaza.
Alghabra's post was later edited to read:
"Tragic! My thoughts and prayers are with the innocent civilians, on both sides, caught in bombing."
Alghabra's original message became the subject of a Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) tweet accusing the Liberals of not standing with Israel. The tweet links to a CPC web page titled "Stand with Israel," which asks for a name, email and postal code and presents a button to push that reads "I'm in." There is also a red "Donate Now" button at the top of the page.
When asked a question by CBC News about the CPC using the conflict in party advertising, Baird claimed to know nothing of it and became quite defensive.
"In fairness, you're a member of our national broadcaster. We deserve better questions than that," Baird told the producer.
After Baird's comments, the CPC sent out an email to supporters directing them to the same website.
With files from CBC News