Thursday, July 10, 2014

Speaking Out Again on the Middle East

On Tuesday evening, July 8, I spoke at an emergency rally concerning the situation in Israel and Palestine, on behalf of the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism and Independent Jewish Voices. The rally was a call for peace and a protest against the collective punishment of Gaza in retribution for the tragic deaths of three Israeli teenagers last week. Below is the text of my speech, as well as a video of me speaking.
The Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism condemns the collective punishment and violence against the Palestinian people by the government of Israel. We believe in the right to self-determination for all people without imperialistic interference, and this includes Palestine. We call on everyone to work for an anti-war government in Canada. There can be no solution without recognizing the rights of the Palestinian people.

I am also the Alberta representative on the National Steering Committee of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV). Independent Jewish Voices is a national human rights organization whose mandate is to promote a just resolution to the dispute in Israel and Palestine through the application of international law and respect for the human rights of all parties.

IJV is made up of Jewish people (and non-Jewish supporters) from across the country. We come from different walks of life, levels of religious observance, professions, and ages, but the one thing we have in common is that we believe that the occupation of Palestine is wrong and must stop. Politically, we provide an alternative to organizations such as B'nai B'rith and the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee which claim to speak on behalf of all Canadian Jews. They don't.

In light of the recent tragedies we are hearing more Jewish voices calling out for an end to the occupation, even within Israel itself. To quote Gideon Levy, who is a Jewish writer for the major Israeli newspaper Ha'Aretz: “In the Jewish state, there is no remnant of the biblical injunction to treat the minority or the stranger with justice. There are no more Jews left who marched with Martin Luther King or who sat in jail with Nelson Mandela. The Jewish state, which Israel insists the Palestinians recognize, must first recognize itself. At the end of the day, at the end of a terrible week, it seems that a Jewish state means a racist, nationalistic state, meant for Jews only.”

My heart breaks at the recent, senseless, tragic murders of the three Israeli teenagers. It also breaks at the Palestinians who have been murdered by Israel in retribution, including a 16 year old who was burned while he was still alive. IJV takes the stand that all of these heinous crimes are the inevitable result of Israel’s brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine.

In a press release that IJV issued last week, our spokesperson Tyler Levitan did not mince words. “Make no mistake, the burden of responsibility rests with the occupying power – Israel. The blood of these youth is also on Canada’s hands, as Canada’s government unconditionally supports Israel’s violent military occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza, which repeatedly fuels more violence,” he said.

The bottom line is that the occupation is not only illegal and immoral, but bad for the futures of both Israelis and Palestinians. It is causing misery and death for both peoples, and they deserve better. It is time for Canada's government to stop supporting the policies of the Israeli government and to take a stand against the brutal occupation of the Palestinians. It is time for the Jewish community as a whole to open its eyes and accept that just because we have been oppressed does not give us the right to become or to support the oppression. We must stand up for the rights of all, including the Palestinians. Our religion and our history demands it.

Finally, Canadians must put an end to the lawlessness of the Harper dictatorship which claims to stand for law and order but acts in defiance of international law - giving its support and even directly participating in illegal occupations, war crimes, collective punishment, use of banned weapons, and many other heinous crimes against the Palestinian people and humanity.


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