Thursday, January 15, 2009

Canadian government's support of Israel is to be condemned loudly

Gaza City. Palestine Chronicle photo

Today, I wrote another letter to the editor, this time to another local newspaper. Will they publish it? I exceeded the recommended 350 words; it's closer to 700. For the last letter to the editor I wrote, which was published last Saturday, I stripped my words down to 250 to be sure they didn't take the liberty to edit key things I had to say. But today, I can't mince words. Today, I can't excise words.

Of course, like most newspapers across Canada, our local newspapers are no longer locally owned. Editorial content often comes from away. I once wrote a scathing letter to the editor about how the voices of someone from Toronto who knows nothing of northern Ontario, should stand in and represent the north. I wrote about how editors of local newspapers had lost control of the Editorial page. I talked about the corporate control of newspapers and the framing of news by what is left out. My letter was not published.

The following letter may not be published, either. It is always a tricky negotiation of language to say what you want to say in the language that offends no one in order for your letter to be published in newspapers whose editorials support the ideologies that you critique. In my letter, I could not write how troubling it was to read that because of the delay in reaching the victims of Israeli war crimes, paramedics in Gaza have witnessed rats and dogs eating the bodies. Imagine the nightmares and trauma this front line workers have to deal with.

If I wrote that, my letter would be rejected for being too melodramatic, sensational, and biased.

That's why I love the web: self-publishing that cannot be contained to any borders.

I'd like to begin my letter on human rights by first thanking the Canadian government for evacuating my family, my husband and 3 children, from Lebanon in 2006 when Israel bombed that country mercilessly, sending terror not only into the hearts of the people cowering in Lebanon, but also into the hearts of people around the world, like myself, who had to sit at home behind their tv and computer screens and watch helplessly.

Canada's humanitarian record grew from its well-coordinated evacuation and generous assistance to its citizens caught under Israeli bombs, aircraft, warships, tanks, and snipers.

At the same time, however, Canada's humanitarian record suffered a blow.

The Harper government, in our name, stepped up to support the "right of Israel to defend itself." That is, the right of Israel to go on the military offensive and bomb Lebanon, a country that has a democratically elected pro-Western government with no air force and a small ineffectual army not armed with any "precision" military equipment. Hezbollah has seats in the elected parliament, but it is not the Lebanese government, nor representative of the Lebanese people. That, however, was irrelevant to Israel, and the innocent people in Lebanon had to suffer terribly the summer of 2006.

Today, once again the Israeli army is engaged in a full scale military invasion, but this time the people of Gaza are made to fear its wrath. Gaza is a strip of land roughly the size of the Sleeping Giant peninsula. Unlike the Sleeping Giant, however, people do not have free movement. In Gaza, people are forcibly contained and denied exit (or entrance), which is policed by Israel. Some have likened Gaza to an open air prison.

The Gazan people's suffering under the Israeli army today is unlike that of the Lebanese in a number of crucial ways, with a key one being that the Gazans have been subjected to debilitating sanctions.

Canada's humanitarian record suffers a blow, once again. The Canadian government spearheaded supporting these punitive sanctions, as if starving innocent people is the way to resolve the question of how to deal with colonization of their lands. Incredibly, Canada called for sanctions against a refugee population! 80% of Gazans are refugees or their descendants who had been expelled from their homeland, Palestine, during its usurpation for the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

As I write, over 1000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, 4500 injured, and many more terrorized and internally displaced, with bodies still lying under the rubble of destroyed buildings. As I write, Israeli military forces under the banner of "security" and "defense" have entered densely populated central Gaza City and have "accidentally" hit another UN building where a raging fire now burns humanitarian supplies. Two hospitals are under siege. The building where the few international journalists allowed into Gaza by Israel are staying has received a hit. More children, women, elderly and innocent Gazans are dead, burned, crushed, have had limbs amputated, and are suffering terrible injuries as witnessed by Dr. Miles Gilbert of the UN.

Paramedics in Gaza are doing courageous work under overwhelming and exceedingly dangerous conditions to help the injured, to retrieve the killed, and to help the civilian population. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is documenting each death, injury and destruction across the Gaza Strip. This archive of death and destruction is available at the click of your mouse.

Learning of the distressing news about civilian casualties and suffering in Gaza, the world community has condemned Israel for its excessive and brutal use of force and the targeting of civilians. Many—including Jewish voices—assert that Israel is committing war crimes.

The Canadian government and its representatives—PM Harper, Peter Kent, John Baird, Michael Ignatieff and others, however, have become pariahs in not speaking out to condemn Israel in its criminal abuse of Palestinian human rights. Recently the UN Human Rights Council voted to condemn the "massive violations of human rights" by Israel in Gaza. Thirty-three countries voted in favour of the resolution, but Canada voted against.

Concerned voices crossing all political beliefs, nations, religions, and skin colours have spoken out to condemn the state of Israel for committing terrible crimes against humanity on the Palestinian population of Gaza.

It is time for our government representatives to support applying international law—laws our nation has helped create—to defend the people of Gaza and their human rights and stop kowtowing to the political goals of the state of Israel.

Our humanity is at stake.


Merche Pallarés said...

I've read all your wonderful articles. Let me know if they published your excellent letter! Thanks to you, I'm learning so much about these awful Canadian politicians because, as you probably know, we hardly ever read any news about Canada in the European press... By the way, I tried cutting and pasting the letter to the politicians but to no avail, I'm afraid... Another thing, I'm so happy to read that so many intelligent and humane Jews are, finally! speaking out against horrible Israel... Hugs, M.

marja-leena said...

I've had similar experiences with letters to the editor. I really hope your excellent letter gets published - let us know! Thankfully, yes, we have this new media that reaches around the world.

I hope you don't mind - I linked to your blog in my post on this crisis in Gaza. I hope I described you correctly but let me know if I should reword anything. My emails don't seem to go through.

northshorewoman said...

Merche, your work of translating into Spanish writings that are in English that make clear what is happening, is important and worthy work to help the Palestinians. It is just this sort of learning across languages that is so necessary. How much misinformation, ignorance, and pain are a result of not knowing what another thinks and says because of language barriers?

Marja-leena, thank you. Yes, that is fine. It is also good and worthy work to link to people and groups all over the net who have information that moves beyond the daily news on tv. A big problem is that many well-meaning people do not know how or where to find news or information, or how to sift through the reams of stuff on the web. So, linking to justice-minded websites and blogs that have done that work is key to help spread real knowledge, not snippets of misinformation.

ps. I love those photos you took of the dancing ballerina girls! These ethereal girls and their white swirls made be think of white doves and peace, and so I searched and found those images of white doves in Gaza online.