“Canada gives unwavering support for Israel.” Did I hear correctly? Was that report accurate? Did our government actually dedicate Canada‛s unwavering support to Israel in this current escalating confrontation with Palestinian Gaza? If so, I must protest.
Perhaps Harper‛s Canada, or some portion of that 25% of eligible voters who backed him, gives unwavering support to Israel but in this confrontation a great many citizens of Israel itself don‛t give unwavering support. If Harper and his ministers wish to declare that “the Harper government of Canada gives unwavering support” then so be it. But Canada? Not my Canada.
The Middle East is one area where, in the past, Canadian governments have striven mightily to remain uncommitted in the hope (vain hope some say) of having some calming influence over modern manifestations of ancient antagonisms. How dare we take sides? We should be voicing unwavering support for the mothers, fathers, children, infants, the sick, the aged, the frightened, the mis-led and misinformed – the ordinary human beings – living within the borders of both Israel and Gaza.
This ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict calls for compassion, not for declarations of one-sided support. The whole history of the conflict is so convoluted and confused in a miasma of mythology and fact, and sustained by competing protestations of aggravated assaults, that an absolute declaration of support for either side violates both common sense and humanity.
There is no doubt the Jewish people, as people, deserve support. The treatment administered to them throughout the ages, culminating in the Holocaust, has been truly abominable. That is now well understood and documented so I won’t elaborate. But the Palestinians have also suffered.
When I read in the Old Testament how the children of Israel took possession of the “Promised Land” and I realize that much of that land was occupied at the time by the Philistines (ancient Palestinians) I have difficulty knowing which faction were the good guys. Was the Israelite champion, Samson, a hero or a monumental public nuisance? When “the spirit of the Lord” came upon Samson he would do strange things, like paying off a gambling debt by killing thirty innocent Palestinians to get their wealth. The Lord moved him so mightily that he slew a thousand Palestinians with the jawbone of an ass. It was only after Samson had come whoring into Gaza and had then carried off the city gates that the Palestinians really put their minds to the task of laying him to rest and that had a messy ending for everyone. It is quite possible to glory in Samson‛s prowess, to writhe in sympathetic agony as his eyes are gouged out, and at the same time to feel deep sympathy for the Palestinians.
Not a great deal has changed.
The morality of the United Nations putting modern Arab Palestine on the chopping block in 1948 as a kind of offering of atonement to the Jewish people for the very real crimes of Christendom will no doubt be debated for a thousand years, but a situation where innocents on both sides are being slaughtered calls for remedial action, not for one-sided declarations of “unwavering support”.
Our Harper government has lost all sense of perspective – both historical and geographical. Problem is, history is topsy turvy and today we‛re looking at the proverbial David and Goliath story with the roles reversed. Today, Goliath is Israel and David is Palestinian Gaza. In this confrontation, history (or mythology) has been turned on its head.
Toronto stretches 43 km along the northern shore of Lake Ontario.
Gaza stretches 40 km along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean.
Toronto comprises 641 sq. kms of land.
Gaza comprises 360 sq. kms of land.
Toronto contains 2.6 million people.
Gaza has about 1.7 million people, 44% of them under the age of 15.
So Gaza is geographically about half the size of Toronto with two thirds of the population of Toronto.
Today‛s Gaza Strip has been called, with great justification, the world‛s largest prison camp. It used to be called “occupied territory” for the simple reason it was occupied by Israeli troops. Today it is not occupied but is simply walled in, blockaded, sanctioned, and starved of much of the wherewithal of decent subsistence goods. Even food and medicines are brought in under strict Israeli surveillance.
I took these pictures in 1978 in a refugee camp on the edge of Gaza City. These boys, if they have survived and not escaped, are now middle aged Palestinian men with families. They may well be among those who lost their cool and recently began firing rockets at their Israeli warders.
In the last two days those same warders have used hi-tech warplanes and armed drones to drop over 200 bombs upon them and their families. Even as I write we are told that the warders are now massing the armour and troops of one of the world‛s most sophisticated armies in preparation for a possible invasion of this imprisoned conclave where 44% of the population are children.
In this photo the wrecked ship is a dandy symbol of the sorry state Gaza was already in away back in 1978 . The fair haired guy arm-locked into the middle of this group of cheerful Gaza teenagers is not only a Canadian but is my son. He is now a family man himself. Are he and I supposed to believe that our Canada is “unwaveringly” supporting the prison warders who are poised to invade the Gaza Strip? Surely our Canada should be unwaveringly supporting the people on both sides – supporting them with deep compassion and with at least a sincere attempt to understand the convoluted histories that have created this appalling situation. In spite of Harper and his pronouncements there should be no taking of political sides for Canada. Canada’s only concern should be for people, Israeli and Palestinian alike, who are badly and deeply in need of help.