Doorstep Postings: Canadian politicians might be better off never making statements about the Middle East

A contentious social media statement from Canada’s foreign affairs minister on Oct. 17, 2023.

This is a special edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.

Hi there, folks! Have you ever tried to speak up for Palestinian human rights only to accidentally blunder into using classically antisemitic tropes? (Whoops!)

Do you find yourself using the situation in the Middle East as a way to work through your own issues?

Are you a prime minister, cabinet minister, premier, or backbench MPP who got a little too far out over their skis and now have to double down or fake an apology?

Or, are you just being pressured a bit too hard by your friends to make a statement because “Palestine is the litmus test for morality” all of a sudden?

When you don’t have a clue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because you’ve never cared to learn, and suddenly a horrific image from Gaza hits you right in the feely-o’s, you might feel the urge to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. That’s not your fault—it’s just what we do in this country whenever a Contentious Issue takes hold.

Remember just a few short blessed weeks ago when everyone was big mad about “parental rights” and school policies regarding transgender kids? Remember how everyone just flung out their opinions on social media even if they didn’t have kids or didn’t even know a transgender person? Remember when we were told that kids would literally die as a result of schools outing kids against their wills or parents being informed about their kid’s decision to go by a different name?

It turns out that after completely losing it on school policy, we’re not at our best when kids are literally dying. So how are you supposed to post when there’s a slight chance your posts might actually matter? Here are a couple of tips to stay alert, stay safe when you simply have to give your opinion on the unfolding crisis half a world away. 

Maybe don’t post at all

I realize this is contrary to literally everything we’ve been told our whole lives, but maybe your post isn’t the one that isn’t going to change the world and that’s OK! It’s not as if you are funded by the government like the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and basically paid money to post.

The self-proclaimed hate-fighting organization, federally supported to the tune of $500,000, and currently requesting another $5 million over the next five years, stayed silent for a couple weeks—and almost nobody seemed to mind.

On second thought, since its members have a nasty habit of supporting Canadians for Justice and Peace In The Middle East, a group whose board member argued the other day that Israel was killing its own civilians during the recent massacres, maybe it’s better that they stayed silent?

https://twitter.com/anthony__koch/status/1715077734454685900?s=46&t=-iZp1w9BFv9_n38bO1NOSQ

Take a second before posting

OK, so you’re going to post despite the obvious benefits of not doing so. There may be literally not one single benefit to posting, such as when you are a provincial politician in Canada who will never have a portfolio related to happenings outside of Canada no matter how hard you try, or some marginal outlet who decides the NDP is no longer welcome to contribute. But post you must, lest you be “on the wrong side of history.”

In this case, it may be a smart idea to wait for all the facts are in before deciding that Israel blew up a hospital, because when your justification for violence rests on trying to resist an alleged genocide, you have quite an incentive to pump up the numbers. Taking a second may also keep you from saying things that make absolutely no sense, such as alleging that Israeli power is so overwhelming that criticizing Israel is impossible. In that one second, you might find a video of thousands of Jews occupying the U.S Capitol building to support Palestinians.

True, the Palestinian leadership may not seem particularly moved by this gesture, but it kind of wrecks the idea that nobody can get away with saying a bad word about Israel.  

Accept that not everyone will like your post

This being Canada, the goal is always to satisfy everyone all of the time, no matter how expensive or implausible that may seem. So if Justin Trudeau can’t successfully both-sides this issue without being accused of having blood on his hands—and being booed when he shows up at mosques—it’s certainly not for lack of trying. But just because the Liberals are tearing themselves apart over the issue doesn’t mean you have to.

If people start ranting about being forced to condemn Hamas, like that would be a problem, you don’t have to second guess your own stance on Hamas. You might even get sued for alleging that a politician who doesn’t want to condemn Hamas supports Hamas, and that politician suing you might hire the lawyer who defended Laith Marouf.

But even when all that happens, you don’t have to wonder if you’re the one doing the wrong thing. 

I guess if I could leave you with one thing to remember when Mideast-posting, it would be: You are not a press secretary. You should never ever aspire to be one.

And you don’t ever need to issue a statement on anything.  

Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.