Conflict between Palestine and Israel was reignited Wednesday, November 14th as part of Israeli mission “Operation Pillar of Defense” which state officials have deemed necessary due to what they have called increasing and unacceptable rocket-fire against Southern Israel by Hamas. Since Wednesday, Israel has been engaged in mass bombing of Gaza, which took off after the successful assassination of Hamas chief, Ahmed Jabari. Israel has successfully hit the office of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, an important media outlet, as well as civilian homes. Israel has taken three civilian deaths on their own side, with Hamas fire coming down on Southern Israel.
Violence has intensified, and thus far no ceasefire that both Israel and Hamas can accept has been presented. As of Monday, November 19th the violence has resulted in 111 dead, with 30 deaths alone occurring on Monday, more than half of which were civilians according to Al Jazeera. Although there is some discrepancies among tolls, most sources list about 100 dead – about 60 of which civilian.
Although this violence may seem rudimentary, and similar to past outbursts that appear common between the two populations, this spur of violence has the potential to become much more serious due to the current political landscape. Traditionally, Egypt has acted as a broker of peace but the Muslim Brotherhood has loose affiliation with Hamas. To complicate the issue further – much of American military spending in the region is allocated to the Egyptian army; ultimately putting Egypt in a delicate situation. Further, Hamas’ missile capacity has greatly increased – they are now capable of hitting targets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, thanks to weaponry provided by Iran.
Since tensions already run high between Iran and Israel, the possibility of the conflict coming to fruition is certainly a possibility to consider. This being said, there is cause to be hopeful for better tidings – as the two parties tentatively signed a cease fire on Tuesday, November 20th.
Western media outlets have dissolved reporting upon this topic to a “blame game” of who shot first.
The fact of the matter remains that both sides are firing into populated areas, and Gaza remains mostly defenseless. Canada’s official position on the conflict is strongly pro-Israel, according to Defence Minister Peter Mackay Israel is simply defending its population.
Myself, Meagan Potier (Managing Editor at the Political Bouillon), and John McMullan (a Concordia student and the primary photographer in this essay), were curious about an alternate Canadian perspective. On November 17th we became aware of a demonstration that was taking place the following day in affiliation with Concordia’s SPHR. Although the Facebook event listed over one thousand attending, we were pleasantly surprised by the number of supporters. Although the crowd was at first a modest several hundred, it grew to a represent a varied demographic of young men and old men, young women and old women and children. There were supporters from every walk of life – from Quebec Solidaire representatives, to a CLASSE spokesperson, to prominent activists for Palestine. The demonstration represented a diverse group of supporters who all had individual spins on the conflict that converged on one point – this is a situation of human rights, and human life.
Opening statements at the rally on Sunday were made by Bruce Katz from Coalition Justice and Peace in Palestine, as well as pro-Palestine collective Tadamon, a representative from CLASSE as well the events coordinator – Sara Shaltony, from Concordia’s SPH.
(Translated from French) “We are in solidarity with Palestine and with Gaza. Students must act in solidarity, students must stand up. Our systems of governments, our institutions, they are rotten. Our media is complicit in the Israeli genocide, how can we let these people not live? The international rights system is not working.We need to question authority. We need to stand up. We need to be loud. We will not be complicit in the crimes of Canada’s government.”
Coalition for Peace and Justice in Palestine – Bruce Katz: (Translated from French) This situation is an apartheid against the Palestinians and the people of Gaza. We cannot allow the Palestinians to suffer with apartheid. Coalition Paix and Justice will never abandon the Palestinians work against the systematic oppression of the Palestinians, and we will fight for a recognition of the Palestinian state.
Protestor and recent Concordia graduate Kyla Wells stated:
“The news is so biased. Media is so biased, It just seems wrong. It is a violation of rights. Canada is supporting the United States, and the United States is supporting Israel. We should be protecting these people. Hamas is not terrorism, Hamas is a revolution with a bad rap.”
Another protester, a German filmmaker:
“It’s a complicated thing, yes, however it is never too complicated. Hamas is complicated, Hamas is not necessarily good, however when the people are suffering it is Hamas who tends to them. Hamas is strategic in that way. And ultimately they were elected, and Israel should recognize the authority of an elected official.”
Jewish community members from an Anti-Zionist movement prominent in Montreal;
“The issue is not just Palestine, the issue is Zionism. Zionism is false. Jews believe in God, not land. It is Israel who is doing this, not Jewry as a whole. True jews are against this violence. We have no right to our own state, we are exiles, we can live together. We’ve been in Montreal, participating in 2002 as Zionism came to the public. Canada’s role, our own role, is to do the best we can for Jews, not for Israel.”
Young protestors we spoke to had differing opinions concerning the Hamas regime, as well as Canada’s role in Palestine, however all converged as earlier on the concept of human rights.
“We support Gaza, we think Canada should best help the situation by removing themselves from it in most ways. We should not become involved militarily, we should send food, send aid to Palestine and end the blockade but this is all. As students, young people, we must stand up for them, and we must pray for them.”
“Israel is not acting in self-defense. Palestine throws a rock and Israel drops a bomb, it is not right. Canada needs to know the truth, Canadians need to know that Israel is instigating. Israel is a country with no official borders, it is a country that wants to conquer. Canadians must be informed, and must oppose Harper’s actions. Hamas in Palestine is defending their people, we call them terrorists but this is not true. Hamas might not be the best, but they are the most pragmatic option that exists. The Jews are exiled, and have no real right, no claim to their own state. Jews call the Muslims awful things, violent things, and then kill in the name of Jewry. This shouldn’t even be an issue of religion, it is one of Human rights.“
The last person we spoke to was the event coordinator Sara Shaltony from SPHR concordia:
“We are here to protest the massacre in Gaza. 70 people have been killed in Gaza, 24 of whom have been confirmed as children. This is ethnic cleansing,the same ethnic cleansing that Israel has been pursuing since 1948. This is population control. We are here because we are angry, Canada has been complicit, [and must recognize that the actions of Israel] are not self-defense. It is Canada’s responsibility to champion human rights and speak out on Israel’s violence, and push pressure on the government to lift the siege on Gaza. [This isn’t really about] one states or two states. This is about human rights. [Whether or not it is one state or two state] it will be the same if Israel refuses to respect the human rights of Palestinians. Hamas is resistance. When you are being bombarded you must resist. We lack a formal army, so we are called terrorists. But the IDF is killing children, civilians.”
– Meagan Potier & John McMullan