Hoback calls for humanitarian aid into Gaza

Tyler Clarke
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Safely at home in Prince Albert on Wednesday, Randy Hoback’s phone binged -- a sound indicating that rockets had been fired out of the Gaza Strip into Israel.


Prince Albert’s member of Parliament downloaded the Red Alert phone app while he was in Israel last week on a fact-finding mission. He was joined by a handful of Tory and Liberal politicians in accepting an invitation from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Dissatisfied with hearing only one side of what he’s accepted to be a “very complex issue,” Hoback joined Liberal MP John McCallum in spending four extra days in Israel on their own dime to branch out with their own itineraries.

Hoback said that by branching away from the Jewish Federation of Canada itinerary they were able to hear a somewhat different Palestinian perspective

Reflecting on his Israeli experience at his Prince Albert constituency office on Thursday, Hoback said that while his support for Israel has been strengthened he’s also supportive of the Palestinian people.

“Before you make a judgment on it, make sure you understand all of the facts,” Hoback said, clarifying his main point -- that the terrorist organization Hamas is to blame for the current conflict between Gaza and Israel.

Hoback arrived in Israel with a delegation of Tory and Liberal politicians on July 29, after which they hit the ground running.

The “hidden story” behind the current back-and-forth stream of rockets was that Egypt closed its border with Gaza, effectively cutting off Hamas.

“Hamas was collecting taxes from people who use those tunnels to bring goods back and forth, so all of a sudden Hamas ran out of money,” Hoback summarized. “Their public opinion was sinking drastically.”

The June 12 kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers -- allegedly by members of Hamas -- is viewed by some as an intentional trigger to get Israel’s attention.

Combined with the 140 or so rockets sent out of Gaza into Israel per day for 21 days straight, Israel decided to retaliate.

“As soon as Israel responds, then Hamas gains popularity because the people rally together against Israel, and it undermines any type of negotiations for peace, or any type of transition to a more modern government in the Gaza region,” Hoback said, summarizing one of the key arguments Palestinians presented him with.

However, Hoback said that it’s difficult to imagine a country ignoring 140 rockets per day.

“If there were rockets coming into Prince Albert, how long would it be before somebody phoned my office and said, ‘you’ve got to deal with these buggers,’” Hoback said. “I’ll bet you one or two would be the magic number and there’d be a lot of pressure to do something.”

Israel is under heavy criticism in the media for the conflict’s disproportionate death toll, with Gaza deaths nearing 2,000 and the latest estimate for Israel citing 64 soldier and three civilian deaths.

Israel has an iron dome missile defense system that shoots down a strong majority of the missiles that come out of Gaza, Hoback said, noting that Gaza has no such system.

Before you make a judgment on it, make sure you understand all of the facts. Randy Hoback

Propping Palestinians up to maximize civilian casualties “because it plays better in the media outlets,” Hamas has been working to encourage public support, Hoback argued, perplexed by national media’s slant that “makes Israel look evil.”

“They basically have said that Israel doesn’t have the right to defend itself, and that it doesn’t matter what happens, they should just take it,” Hoback said.

Although Hoback joins the Harper government in supporting Israel as the “only true democracy in the Middle East,” he’s not embracing all of Israel’s actions.

“Did they do too much? I don’t know. A lot of people say they didn’t do enough … Did they make some mistakes? They probably did. It’s a war.”

Israel has been destroying the tunnels that go into Gaza as a means of cutting the flow of weapons into Hamas.

At the same time, they’ve cut the flow of food and humanitarian aid to Palestinians caught in the crossfire -- a situation that’s resulted in some classifying the situation as a form of collective punishment.

This is where Canada needs to play a role, and why Hoback said his fact-finding mission into Israel was important.

“I think we have a role in the re-building of Gaza -- humanitarian aid in Gaza,” he said, noting that Palestinians need a monitored border crossing into Gaza to receive aid.

In addition to that, safeguards need to be put in place to prevent Hamas from getting their hands on the aid, Hoback said, adding that they’ve already sunk millions of dollars of aid into underground tunnels to transport weapons.

“At the end of the day, Hamas is a problem that needs to be dealt with. There needs to be a border crossing, there needs to be a humanitarian effort, and the two-state solution needs to be worked on.”

The Canadian Red Cross in partnership with the Palestine Red Crescent Society is currently accepting Gaza Crisis donations.

As of Aug. 1, the Palestine Red Crescent has provided first aid and transport services to more than 3,800 injured people and provided relief assistance to 6,596 families.

“Red Crescent ambulances, backed by International Committee of the Red Cross staff, are working around the clock to save lives and take wounded people to hospital,” the Canadian Red Cross website reads.

The Canadian Red Cross estimates that 90 per cent of the groundwater wells in the densely populated Gaza Strip are unsafe for human use, and only 15 to 25 per cent of households are supplied with running water on a daily basis. 

Organizations: Hamas, Prince Albert, Centre for Israel Jewish Federation of Canada Canadian Red Cross Red Crescent Palestine Red Crescent Society International Committee of the Red Cross

Geographic location: Israel, Gaza Strip, Egypt Middle East Canada

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