Canadians watch Gaza violence with disbelief and pain
By: Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan
As Israel escalates its attacks on the Gaza Strip and the Canadian government continues to support Israel blindly, some Canadians are seeking to provide balanced and accurate information to the Canadian people. They are also trying to raise their voices to end the mindless killings and the violence.
Toronto academic Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish has invited all residents of Toronto to join him and his children at Queens Park to call for an immediate end to all hostilities and to stop the bloodshed of innocent people.
Dr. Abuelaish stated: “My family has paid the tragic price of injustice, hatred, ignorance, violence and fear. We are fortunate to live in the diverse and democratic society of Canada where people of goodwill can come together peacefully and call for tolerance, reconciliation and peace. Let not one more family suffer the loss of a child because of injustice, intolerance, ignorance and hatred. Only when good and decent people do nothing to protest injustice can extremists flourish.”
In January 2009 an Israeli attack on Dr. Abuelaish’s home in Gaza killed three of his daughters and a niece. The assault stopped only after Dr. Abuelaish made frantic phone calls to Israeli journalists who phoned the Israeli defense ministry. Dr. Abuelaish took up a teaching post at the University of Toronto in 2010, bringing his remaining five children with him. His book, I Shall Not Hate, became a bestseller.
Some Canadians are asserting that the present violence did not erupt with the murder of three Israeli settler youth in the West Bank. The Israeli government blamed Hamas, though there is no evidence that Hamas arranged that operation. Israel then conducted mass arrests in Gaza and imposed a collective punishment on Gazans, leading to Hamas launching rockets against Israeli civilians. This is despicable but it pales in comparison to Israel’s attacks on defenseless civilians.
Israel withdrew its illegal setters from Gaza in 2005. But it imposed a brutal and illegal air, land and ground siege, making life a never-ending nightmare for Gaza’s 1.7 million inhabitants.
In the Occupied West Bank, Israel builds illegal settlements, grabs Palestinian lands, erects a wall that cuts off people from their fields, stages raids, jails women, children and men and maintains hundreds of mobile checkpoints that disrupt lives and choke the people’s livelihood.
Independent Jewish Voices, a small group that favors a just peace in the Middle East based on international law, blames Israel for the present violence because of its continued occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza. IJV also blames those who support Israel blindly and ignore its violations of international law and of human rights.
Similar sentiments have been expressed in the US by Jewish Voices for Peace. Eran Efrati, a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a seventh generation Jerusalemite, wrote in part: “For weeks, the government knew that the three kidnapped teenagers were dead. But they instituted a gag order on the media, lied to Israelis and the world, and falsely claimed that the mass arrests and collective punishment were all in the hope of finding the teenagers alive.”
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East have distributed information to set the record straight that the violence is largely one-sided. Its main points:
1. While all deaths in such conflicts are tragic, the Palestinian casualties are always tens or hundreds of times greater than the Israeli toll.
2. Thanks to US aid, Israel is a military superpower with nuclear weapons, latest fighter jets, deadly helicopters, sophisticated missiles and an anti-rocket defense system. Palestinians are defenseless.
3. The Israeli attacks on Palestinian homes, offices and other civilian targets violate international law.
4. Israel precipitated the rocket attacks by its siege, blockade, attacks and arrests of Gazans and its massive attacks killed innocent men, women and children. Rockets from Gaza have not killed a single Israeli.
5. International law prohibits punishment of an entire community for the crimes of a few. Israel has imposed collective punishment on Gazans since 2007.
6. Polls suggest that most Gazans know the rockets are ineffective, but they see them as a symbol of resistance, however futile, to an illegal, brutal and never-ending occupation.
Though the Western mainstream media and politicians provide a biased, distorted account on the Middle East, people around the world have been learning the truth through visits and social media. Polls indicate that the people of the world, including Canadians, view Israeli policies negatively.
Demonstrations against Israeli violence have taken place in many countries, including Canada. Yet the response to the Israeli assaults has been muted this time.
This is perhaps because people of the world are stunned by the cruel violence in Syria that continues unabated and has killed or displaced millions of people. Brutalities in Iraq against innocent people of different sects and religions have shocked people all over the world, including Canada.
Canadians, including Muslims, are watching the situation with disbelief and pain. There doesn’t seem to be much that they can do to make the Middle East, or the world, more humane, just and compassionate.
Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired Canadian journalist, civil servant and refugee judge.