Activism for Gaza
Talk from a Free Gaza Teach-in Toronto Jan 10, 2009
In the limited time that I have, as an activist-educator with a long experience of supporting the plight of Palestinian, I want to raise this question: How should we defend the Palestinian people? What are the potential and challenges in our present solidarity efforts?
We are involved in an international struggle, however, our strength in support of the Palestinian people can best be realized at the national level. I try to explain this. We are a nation at war; by which I mean
1. While we continue our denunciation of
2. Mobilizing our fellow citizens cannot be achieved without reversing the current monopoly of interpretation of the war which imposes
3. This struggle to inform Canadians about the situation in
The United Nations Human Rights Rapporteur in the
The Israeli airstrike today, and the catastrophic human toll that they caused, challenge those countries that have been and remain complicit, either directly or indirectly, in
I remind all Member States of the United nations that the UN continues to be bound to an independent obligation to protect any civilian populations facing massive violations of international humanitarian law-regardless of what country my be responsible for those violations. I call on all
I am outraged with the reaction of the Harper Government, which support the position of Israeli Government without reservations and by doing so turns us into accomplices in the war crimes of the Israeli army. The leaders of the opposition parties too are accomplices in these war crimes by not directly challenging the ruling party.
The current Israeli war against Palestinian is conducted with utmost brutality as if the policy of ‘shock-an-awe' is a norm of war. In the midst of this carnage of killing and destruction there is a war of word, a war of interpretations, and a war of discourses which is effectively tied to the killing and destruction. Israel started this new round of war with an extensive propaganda campaign. Israel propaganda is typical of modern wars. It consists of censorship, disinformation, misinformation and deceit.
Israel has declared Gaza a ‘closed military zone,' and has banned media presence inside this large concentration camp. Israel is trying to impose its own interpretation of what is happening. In order to do so, Israel has launched a vast propaganda campaign using a host of women speakers to disguise the brute militarist nature of its settler colonialist regime. Goliath presents itself as David.
Israel invokes the right of self-defense, and in order to exercise this right, it has felt justified to attack, conquer and punish by any mean possible. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel has issued a statement stating that "dozens of Palestinians form the Gaza Strip had been detained by Israel forces during its current attacks on Gaza, ... some of them have been transferred to Israel for interrogation, and ...Israel had dedicated an army camp as a place of detention for ‘unlawful combatants...' This is the same policy which allows the US to arrest people everywhere in the world and torture them indefinitely in identified prisons such as Guantanamo Bay or unidentified prisons.
However, asserting the right of self-defense comes with the total denial of the right of Palestinians to resist the occupying power. In fact, the Palestinians, as an occupied people under brutal oppression, are entitled, according to international law, to resist Israel including the use of force. Obviously, neither side is entitled to attack civilian populations.
What I have stated above, are some examples that we, activist-educators, should incorporate into our public educational awareness campaign about the war on Gaza. Without mass mobilization, organization and solidarity, the Canadian state and all other imperialist powers will continue their wars on Aboriginal People, Black people, women, and poor people. This is the brotherhood of the masclunist, racist, capitalist states. They need their armies, weapons, and prisons; they need the United Nations and other international agencies they have created, but now that they have created a unipolar world order, they openly violate the very rules of the game they have agreed upon. Thus, Israel and the United States commit war crimes and the rest of the choir sings along. We live in a ‘lawless world' writes Phillipe Sands (Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules. London: Viking Adult, 2005).
The war on Gaza, is a moment in the long and brutal suppression of the right of Palestinian people to land and to live in peace. It is also a moment in the long history of imperialist powers longing for expansion and occupation. I call it a moment, as it will be repeated again in Palestine and elsewhere. Our challenge is to link the Gaza moment to Jenin, Hebron, or Sabra and Shatila. The war in Gaza is not the war between Zionism and Islam, Jews and Muslims or Jews and Arabs. The war against Palestinian people is a particular form of imperialist aggression, other wars are waged against people of Iraq, Afghanistan, peasant in India, Aboriginal population, Darfur, Haiti, working classes, street children, and oppressed nationalities. This war is a conflict between a colonialist regime and colonized people. It is a conflict between a colonial settler regime originating in Europe and an indigenous people. The potential to rally support against the colonial-settler regime of Israel is in building solidarities among these social moments, which constitute the most powerful force in the world. One may think that I am being unrealistic, however, in the tradition of the struggle of the 1960s, I respond: Be Realistic, Demand Impossible!
In the context of Toronto's academic environment, the question is are we prepared to ask our academic institutions to embrace the idea of boycotting, divesting, and sanctioning? (For more on this issue see Naomi Klien, January 7, 2009 "Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction," The Nation). To demand access to university facilities for open discussion on the issue of occupation? To demand opportunities to be provided and funded for student and faculty exchange with Palestinian academic institutions? To request funds from the Canadian Government for re-building the educational institutions Israel has destroyed in Gaza? In this context, it is also important that we urge academic institutions to respond to the request of the CAUT, The Canadian Association of University Teachers, Statement on the Gaza Conflict, January 6, 2009) on providing assistance to the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel in providing vital medical supplies for treatment of the thousands injured in Gaza.