A letter from Gaza to Justin Trudeau

Dear Mr Prime Minister, why do you support Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza?

Gaza hospitals
Colleagues of Palestinian nurse Razan Al-Najjar cry at the news that she was killed during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border on June 1, 2018 [Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa]

Dear Prime Minister,

We hope this letter finds you and the Canadian people well.

We have watched with great interest your political career since you assumed office in 2015. We have witnessed how your commitment to freedom and diversity were reflected in the composition of your government. We have also followed with enthusiasm many of your activities, especially those that reflect your humanity, openness, support for civil rights and the struggle against racism.

We have seen you engage with different communities – with Arabs, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and others – during their holidays. We have also deeply appreciated Canada’s generous support for the Palestinian people, in particular, Palestinian refugees, through institutions such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

However, it was with pain and sorrow that we found out that Canada voted against a resolution of the World Health Organization’s General Assembly seeking to send a team of investigators to Gaza and the West Bank to document the “health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory“.  

Our disappointment grew even more when we saw several of your personal tweets, in which you lent support to Israel’s assaults on Gaza.

You are perhaps unaware of the tragic circumstances in which the people of Gaza have been trapped in. Already in 2003, distinguished Hebrew University professor Baruch Kimmerling described Gaza as “the largest concentration camp ever to exist”.

In 2006, a brutal blockade was imposed on Gaza after the Palestinian people, in elections that former US president Jimmy Carter praised as “completely honest, completely fair,” elected Hamas into power.  

The consensus among humanitarian and human rights organisations is that Israel’s blockade constitutes a form of collective punishment and therefore is a flagrant violation of international law.  

I see this extraordinarily inhuman and unjust process of strangling gradually two million civilians in Gaza that really pose a threat to nobody,UN humanitarian coordinator for Gaza, Robert Piper, observed last year. Echoing him, UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein recently deplored the fact that Gazans have been “caged in a toxic slum from birth to death.” 

Did you know, Mr Trudeau, that 95 percent of the water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption and 97 percent of the sea water is polluted? Did you know that Gazans get only four hours of electricity a day? Did you know that 50 percent of essential medicines are unavailable and most of our patients in need of urgent medical care are barred from travelling out of Gaza? Did you know that 70 percent of our population are refugees and half are children?  

On March 30, we started the Great March of Return as part of our peaceful struggle for freedom, a decent life and the right to have our land back. Israel has killed more than 120 Palestinians and injured more than 14,000 (many of them permanently) in what Amnesty International has called a “murderous assault“.

And this deadly and unwarranted violence was unleashed on us even though the protesters were overwhelmingly nonviolent and posed “no imminent threat” to Israeli snipers, as human rights organisations have observed.

The people of Gaza applaud your courageous statement, in which you declared that “Canada deplores and is gravely concerned by the violence in the Gaza strip that has led to a tragic loss of life and injured countless people.  We are appalled that Dr Tarek Loubani, a Canadian citizen, is among the wounded – along with so many unarmed people, including civilians, members of the media, first responders, and children.”  

We Palestinians will never forget this Canadian physician, who risked his life to save Palestinian lives in Gaza. 

We are a people, Mr Prime Minister, who love life, stability and prosperity. We do not desire death or foment war. We are not attacking anyone. We are not violating the borders of anyone. On the contrary, we are banging on the gates of a giant prison, demanding our freedom and a decent life.

Mr Prime Minister, we hope and trust that your love for freedom, justice, equality and decency will prompt you to reconsider some of your harsh statements and take a position that is consistent with the values you uphold.

On behalf of the two million Palestinians living in Gaza, I would like to invite you to visit us and to see with your own eyes the dire conditions we are living in after 12 years of Israeli siege. We are also confident that you will carry away with you warm memories of our kind and gentle people.

Best regards

Basem Naim 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.