Doorstep Postings: Giving the people what they want—even if those people are in charge of Hamas

Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad expressing his appreciation to countries supporting a ceasefire on Dec. 20, 2023.

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

At some point in the vast and inexorable history of Canadian political thought, it was decided that repeatedly humiliating yourself with climbdowns from the position you took until you got yelled at was a mark of leadership and willingness to consider an alternative point of view.

Every time someone like, let’s say, Doug Ford adjusts his position in response to pushback, and someone calls him on it, opinion-makers and pundits are compelled to talk about how skilled he is at defusing situations that could have gotten a lot worse. The worst you can say about Premier Doug is that he just wants to be liked, and how harmful is that? Are you really going to be so unreasonable that you’re going to stay mad at him for doing what you wanted? 

And so, when foreign affairs minister Mélanie Joly sends out yet another statement, reaffirming that at least for today, Hamas are the bad guys, the same thinking applies. If it’s better than her previous position, which I think was most recently that the two state solution was never closer, or if it was better than her boss Justin Trudeau’s previous position that Israel’s actions today are undermining support for Israel tomorrow, then what am I getting so upset for? Besides, I might not even have her position right, so who am I to criticize? I’m just a columnist around here.

It’s my job not to spread disinformation and it’s not her fault if I can’t be bothered to sift through weeks of shifting goalposts. Unless we want the Trump-style politics of Pierre Poilievre, we’d better be prepared for views to change when the facts change.

For example, when Hamas posts a video thanking Canada for backing a ceasefire at the UN, you had better believe views are going to change in a hurry! 

So no, I’m not going to drop another 700-word bomb of column where I call out Joly, and the government, for trying to bothsides the un-bothsides-able. For making it absolutely clear for the millionth time that they believe that putting together the correct combination of words in a statement can solve any problem. For being perfectly happy to have Jews angry at the government so long as an equal and opposite number of pro-Palestinian folks are mad at the government for the opposite reason because ‘when you’re taking flak from both sides, you’re over the target’. (A surprising number of political people actually believe that line.)

I’m certainly not going to attack Joly herself for being completely out of her depth, because then I’m just another Poilievre-conservative-with-Trump-style-politics who’s being a dick. Who am I trying to impress, with my demand that politicians have consistent views instead of trying and failing to please everyone? What if everyone in the Jewish community felt that way and actually told politicians that they could expect consequences for not doing as they were told?

Such a thing would be unthinkable. We’d lose all the political goodwill we’ve built up. 

And I’d like to believe all of this. Except increasingly, folks on the other side are grinding out wins by taking exactly that stance. Or, maybe they believe they are grinding out wins, and since there are more of them than there are of us, it’s harder than it otherwise would be to dismiss what they’re saying as pure cope (which I have done). I don’t honestly claim to know what pro-Palestinian folks actually believe, because, much like our foreign minister, they seem to change their viewpoint as often as it will benefit them. Believe women, unless the believing of women is done in the service of war. War is bad, unless it’s the Houthis declaring that they will risk war by blockading the Red Sea. The Houthis are a violent and openly antisemitic militia, but they are good, while Ukraine’s Azov battalion is bad. The Azov battalion is bad and their domestic supporters are bad, but those domestic supporters shouldn’t be charged with war crimes while citizens who volunteer for the Israeli military should. Supporters of Israel should be charged, but a child planning terrorism against Jews in Canada shouldn’t be charged. You can sound exactly like a Trump supporter denying that their guy is a racist or a criminal, and nobody will say a word because it’s all in the service of opposing a ‘genocide’. And so on.

What looks to be an endless chain of bad faith statements and whataboutism can be pretty potent when it’s said by an overwhelming number of people with absolutely ferocious intensity. 

In fact, the pro-Palestinian folks have make a pretty convincing case these past few months that there are no consequences to threatening violence, especially during shopping mall protests against Spanish clothing chain Zara—which itself was based on an interpretation of an ad campaign. Ditto for scaring kids sitting on Santa’s lap as they chanted “Jesus was Palestinian!” The only concession they make to shame is wearing masks. But really, who’s going to stop them? The cops, who don’t want to escalate? Should they fear a resurgence of the trucker convoy or other poorly defined ‘white supremacist violence’, especially when the convoy spent an inordinate amount of time trying to show how not racist they were? Or maybe we can count on the regular folks who argue that this isn’t winning them any friends or support? 

Except this isn’t about winning support for them—it’s about demanding obedience. For all the crying and moaning about how you’ll being called antisemitic for not supporting Israel enough, nobody has bothered to point out that it is literally impossible to be pro-Palestinian enough unless you are taking orders directly from Samidoun or the Palestinian Youth Movement. If they say “ceasefire now,” and the Canadian government backs a ceasefire, they’re not interested in what kinds of problems it will create for the Canadian government if the guy who said, in full view of the world, that there would be an endless procession of Oct. 7ths praises the Canadian government. If pro-Palestinian folks worried about being perceived as too extreme, or, even worse, ‘being a dick’, they’re doing an Oscar-worthy job of not showing it. Again—I don’t claim to know what they think or believe, but if their behaviour is any indication, I’d say they have a chance to do and say whatever they want because Canadians, with their obsession with being reasonable and avoiding conflict, are willing to indulge this behaviour.

And, since that’s the way it now goes everywhere outside Israel, can you blame them? 

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