Close to home…

Almost two years ago, I was placed for three months as an Ecumenical Accompanier (EA) with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (click here) in occupied East Jerusalem. Currently, my friend, Dawn, is nearing the end of a three-month placement in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank (click here for her blog). Today, this news headline appears on Ma’an News‘ website:  “Rocket lands in settlement bloc near Jerusalem”. (For the article, click here.) Dove in Bethlehem.Artist: Banksy – 16 Dec. 2010 – Photo: Sherry Ann

Accompanying Palestinians and Israelis who seek a just peace means experiencing life under the Israeli government’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories: Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. When I think about the current aggression in Gaza and southern Israel, it seems a bit removed; however, based on my and Dawn’s lived experiences, when I think about rocket fire near East Jerusalem and Bethlehem, the aggression feels much, much closer. We need to call, cry out for, an end to this occupation and the direct and indirect violence (click here). My friend, Sara, also an EA who was placed in Tulkarm in Fall 2010, has written:  “All violence against civilians, including rocket attacks from armed groups in Gaza, is strictly forbidden under international law.  However, virtually all international human rights organizations consider Israel’s blockade of Gaza to be a form of collective punishment—also forbidden under international law.  Without this being addressed there is really no hope [for] lasting peace.” Click here for her posting from 16 Nov. 2010.

One way to call for constructive action is to be present with local efforts across Canada. Click here for a list of gatherings near you; this list is provided by the Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME).

Following my last posting, I have received two encouraging messages from Canadian leaders. From the office of Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P., Member of Parliament for Saanich–Gulf Islands, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, I have learned that:  “Elizabeth May has issued a statement urging both sides to de-escalate the violence immediately, and work urgently toward a cease-fire agreement to prevent any more innocent lives from being lost. …it is equally important that we work to help ensure a meaningful and comprehensive peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.  In accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 181 and UN Security Council Resolution 242, the Green Party supports statehood for Palestine, and recognizes that only once the systemic issues underpinning the present crisis are dealt with, will there be lasting and genuine peace  and security between Israel and Palestine.”

The office of Thomas Mulcair, M.P. (Outremont), Leader of the Official Opposition, New Democratic Party of Canada, pointed me to this press release (or click here) from 14 Nov. 2012: “Reaction to the Situation in the Middle East

New Democrats are very concerned by the recent escalation of tensions in Gaza and Israel. We call on all sides to exercise restraint and respect international humanitarian law obligations to protect civilians at all times.  Escalation would be dangerous and detrimental to prospects for long-term peace and stability in the region.  We are monitoring the situation closely and continue to call on the Canadian government to pursue a balanced and constructive approach in the Middle East.”

For news from the Physicians for Human Rights, click here.

For a reflection from Rabbi Arik Ascherman (I met him in 2011 in East Jerusalem) with Rabbis for Human Rights, click here.

For information from CJME, click here. Also, CJME offers this: “CJPME invites Canadians to click here to email their political leaders to ask them to call for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. The link will take you through two steps – taking no more than 30 seconds – to ensure that your email is sent to your own MP [Member of Parliament], as well as the leaders and foreign affairs critics of each major political party in Canada.”

What to do? Read… Write to Canadian leaders…

The following message has just arrived in my Inbox from the Canadian Friends of Sabeel. As a reminder:  Sabeel is the Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. The centre was founded by Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek in 1990 and works for justice, peace, and reconciliation in Palestine-Israel. The word, sabeel, is Arabic for ‘the way’ and also ‘a channel’ or ‘spring’.

I invite you to join me in efforts for peace. I’ve just written to our Prime Minister and the leaders of the Official Opposition (New Democratic Party), the Liberal Party, and the Green Party. I have copied my message to the Foreign Affairs Minister and to the Foreign Affairs critic for the Official Opposition. For your reference, here is the information from the Canadian Friends of Sabeel.

Attack on Gaza

In this message:

  • Call to action on Canadian government approval of bombing of Gaza
  • Demonstration places and times
  • Gaza attack summary from Palestinian Centre for HR
  • Escalation timeline 
  • Statement from Palestine House
  • Articles

Call to action on Canadian government approval of bombing of Gaza

Dear Friends of peace in Palestine and Israel,

In the face of another potential slaughter of civilians in Gaza by Israeli occupation forces (IOF), it is regrettable that Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird exhibits a view that Palestinian life is not even worth a mention. His brief press release is concerned only for Israel “and its citizens.”

Rather than forthrightly contextualizing the current violence as precipitated by Israeli aerial bombing and slaughter last week, IOF violence is cast as “the struggle against terrorism, the great struggle of our generation.” Rationalization and complicity with wonton destruction and death stands in stark contrast to the view of Canadians and our tradition of peace ever since Canada was the very founder of UN peacekeeping in response to the 1956 Israeli invasion of Gaza.

Stating that only one people “has the right to defend itself,” indeed those using F-16s and tanks against densely populated civilian areas, ignores or even justifies the terror rained upon by Palestinians by the IOF. No terror is acceptable. Four years ago, the IOF decimation of an already besieged Gaza Strip left hundreds of women and children dead, and thousands injured. Ignoring this history invites a repeat.The government of Canada ought rather to uphold Canadian values and views, refrain from further incendiary remarks, proclaim the value and dignity of each Palestinian as well as Israeli life, and call for an immediate ceasefire.
To make your views known, write:

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister:
John Baird, Foreign Affairs Minister:
Paul Dewar, Foreign Affairs critic for the Official Opposition:
Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the Official Opposition:
Bob Rae, Leader of the Liberal Party:
Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party:

In peace and solidarity,
The Rev. Robert Assaly

Demonstration places and times

Protests are being held in many Canadian cities and worldwide to speak out against the Israeli aggression in Gaza.  Below is the most recent information on protests being held in Canada.

Montreal | Hall Building, Concordia University, 5:00 p.m. (second demonstration) [link]
Toronto | Israeli Consulate, 180 Bloor Street (E. of St. George TTC), 6:00 p.m. [link]
Vancouver | The Art Gallery, Hornby and Robson Streets, 5:00 p.m. [link]

FRIDAY, 16 Nov
Calgary | City Hall, 3:00 p.m. [link]
Ottawa | Israeli Embassy, 50 O’Connor b/w Queen and Albert, 12:00 p.m. [link]

Montreal | Hall Building, Concordia U, 1455 de Maisonneuve West, 6:00 p.m. [link]

For more information on worldwide events taking place or to add your city to the list of protests, please click on the link below:

Gaza attack summary from Palestinian Centre for HR

Below is an article featured today from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, giving detailed accounts on the current situation in Gaza, including the number od assaults and the number of people killed / injured.

New Israeli Military Escalation against the Gaza Strip;
Leader of Hamas’ Armed Wing and His Bodyguard Extra-Judicially Executed and Death Toll in Rises to 13, Including Two Children and a Woman, While 115 Civilian, Including 26 Children and 25 Women, Wounded

Since Wednesday evening, 14 November 2012, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have escalated military attacks on the Gaza Strip.  They first extra-judicially executed the leader of the Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades (the armed wing of Hamas) and his bodyguard.  This attack was followed by a series of aerial, ground and sea attacks on civilian and paramilitary targets throughout the Gaza Strip.  As a result of these attacks, 11 Palestinians, including 4 civilians (two children, a woman and an old man) have been killed and 115 others, including 26 children and 25 women, have been wounded.  IOF have escalated the situation in spite of the quiet atmosphere that followed a previous wave of escalation.  The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is following up developments of this new offensive on the Gaza Strip…

PCHR reiterates condemnation and expresses utmost concern for these crimes, and
1- Warn of deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip in light of this new Israeli military escalation and the tightened closure.  

2- Calls upon the international community to act immediately to stop these crimes, and renews the call to the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligation under Article 1 of the Convention to ensure that it is respected at all times, and their responsibilities under Article 146 to pursue perpetrators of serious violations of the Convention, which are determined in Article 147, which lists violations of the Convention amounting to war crimes.

To read PCHR’s complete report, please click on the link below:

Escalation timeline 
Following a two-week lull in violence, Israeli soldiers invade Gaza. In the resulting exchange of gunfire with Palestinian fighters, a 12-year-old boy is killed by an Israeli bullet while he plays soccer.
Shortly afterwards, Palestinian fighters blow up a tunnel along the Gaza-Israel frontier, injuring one Israeli soldier.

An anti-tank missile fired by Palestinian fighters wounds four Israeli soldiers driving in a jeep along the Israel-Gaza boundary.
An Israeli artillery shell lands in a soccer field in Gaza killing two children, aged 16 and 17. Later, an Israeli tank fires a shell at a tent where mourners are gathered for a funeral, killing two more civilians, and wounding more than two dozen others.

One Palestinian civilian is killed and dozens more wounded in Israeli attacks. Four Israeli civilians are also injured as a result of projectiles launched from Gaza, according to the Israeli government.
During an Israeli government cabinet meeting, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz urges the government to “cut off the head of the snake… take out the leadership of Hamas in Gaza.” He also calls for a cutting off of water, food, electricity, and fuel shipments to Gaza’s 1.7 million people.

Palestinian militant factions agree to a truce if Israel ends its attacks.

Israel breaks two days of calm by assassinating Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing. According to reports, at least eight other Palestinians are killed in Israeli attacks, including at least two children. Palestinian militant groups vow to respond.

Click here for a link to an earlier IMEU factsheet:
Self-Defense or Provocation?: Israel’s History of Breaking Ceasefires

Statement from Palestine House
Gaza under Attack Again and again
Thursday, November 15, 2012

On Wednesday 14, the Israeli army resumed its military offensive against the Gaza Strip by launching a score of blistering, intensified and indiscriminate air strikes against different parts of the Strip leading to the assassination operation targeting commander Ahmed Al-Jaabari and the death of 11 Palestinians , while at least 60 were injured, some seriously including elderly, children and infants.

Israel has declared a comprehensive war against the Palestinian people in Gaza –  which the military calls “Operation Pillar of Defense” while it is a mere aggression against innocent people.  Palestine House condemns in the strongest possible terms the criminal Israeli attack against innocent Palestinians in the Gaza strip which has been under siege and blockaded since 2007 , a situation that has caused a sharp decline in the standard of living, unprecedented levels of unemployment and dire poverty.

We urge the international community to denounce the use of disproportionate  force which is always persued  by Israel as a norm in violation of international law and civilians are often killed or injured . It is left ,however, to civil society and people of conscience to stop the ongoing massacre in Gaza.  The international and human rights organizations are required to warn Israel against carrying out a ground invasion to the Strip.

The Israeli leadership is now reportedly considering expanded war with Gaza, potentially including ground invasion, brigadier –general Yoav Mordechai told Israeli media “there are preparations , and if we are required to, the option of an entry by ground is available”. Israeli troops have massed on the Gaza border, poised for an invasion which would resulted in very critical consequences to the world peace and stabilization in the region.

We call Prime Minister Mr. Harper and his government to reconsider their biased and unbalanced policy towards the inhuman actions of Israel. We remind Mr. Harper that Gaza has been enduring Israeli policy of extermination, assassinations and vandalism under brutal occupation for more than four decades. Occupiers are not in the position to claim that their aggressive actions are being conducted for defensive purposes.

Palestine House and many Canadian solidarity groups are calling you your friends to a attend the rally in front of the Israeli Consulate (as well as other rallies that are being held across the country)
Date :Thursday , 15 November
Time: 6 PM
Location: 180 Bloor West (Toronto)



Mainstream media has also failed in its reporting of the current situation in Gaza. “Bias and dishonesty with respect to the oppression of Palestinians is nothing new in Western media and has been widely documented. Nevertheless, Israel continues its crimes against humanity with full acquiescence and financial, military, and moral support from our governments, the U.S., Canada and the EU.”

Following is an excellent interview by Al Jazeera’s with Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian American journalist, and co-founder of Electronic Intifada, an online publication about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The interview details the timeline of  recent events and gives a clear analysis on the siege on Gaza, and the complacency of the international community.

Peace grows from within…not through attacks and provocations…

Peace… salaam… shalom… We have marked Remembrance Day this week in Canada… I spent the morning of 11 Nov. 2012 with my spiritual community at Southminster-Steinhauer United Church (click here) and was moved by the reflection shared by Rev. Dr. Nancy Steeves (click here). The title for this posting is an attempt at re-stating her reflection. On that afternoon, I practised yoga with others and we sent our shared collective energy into the world in support of…peace…

This morning, on CKUA (independent and original radio broadcasting from Alberta and available on-line – click here), I heard this news report:  3 Israelis had been killed in southern Israel; 15 Palestinians had been ‘reported’ to have been killed in Israeli-occupied Gaza. The definite nature of the first part of the statement compared with the tentative nature of the second statement irked me. I perceive that this hesitation characterizes Canadian society’s positioning on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the one hand, I’m disappointed by this qualification (i.e., that 15 Palestinians may have been killed versus 3 Israelis definitely being killed). However, I’m also encouraged that not only were Israeli deaths reported (and I am deeply saddened by this news) but also Palestinian deaths were reported (and I’m deeply saddened by this news)… in our Canadian media. This is a hopeful shift in Canadian news discourse, because in the past and still in mainstream media, news that is supportive of the Israeli government tends to dominate. Here is an article by Simon Tisdall with The Guardian in the United Kingdom (click here).

My heart is wrenched as I think of my Israeli and Palestinian friends and acquaintances including members of Other Voice (click here) – Israelis and Palestinians supporting hope and non-violent actions. See my posting from 30 June 2011 here.

Eric Yellin & Ronni Keidar.Other Voice. Gaza in background – 26 Jan. 2011 – Photo: A. Farr

Life in Sderot means living with red-code warnings of rocket attacks from some parts of Gazan society. Click here for a youtube video recorded on… 11 Nov. 2012. Life in Gaza also means living in fear. Click here for a video from an Australian news agency.

Below I have pasted a news release from the Israeli Peace Blog – Gush Shalom (click here). I received the release in my Inbox yesterday. The author is Uri Avnery, a past member of the Israeli government’s Knesset (or parliament – the legislative part of the government) and peace activist. See his blog – click here.

“Press Release 11/14/2012

Netanyahu and Barak have decided to deliberately violate a cease-fire which had just been stabilized.At the price of great and ongoing suffering on both sides of the border, the government’s aim  had been accomplished: social issues will be removed from the public agenda and the [Israeli] election campaign.“Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak have decided – for the second time in a row the State of Israel will conduct general elections under the shadow of war in the Gaza Strip. The cease-fire which already started to stabilize has been broken deliberately and shattered to pieces. The inhabitants of the communities of southern Israel, who just started to breathe freely, are sent right back to air raid alarms and to running to shelters” said  former Knesset Member Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom.

“At the price of great suffering on both sides of the border, the government’s aim has been accomplished: the social issues, which threatened to assume prominence in these elections, have been pushed aside and removed from the agenda  of the elections campaign. Forgotten, too, is the brave attempt of Mahmoud Abbas to address the Israeli public opinion. In the coming weeks, the headlines will be filled with constant war and death, destruction and bloodshed. When it ends at last, it will be revealed that no goal has been achieved and that the problems remain the same, or perhaps exacerbated. “

Adam Keller, Gush Shalom +972-54-2340749

For assistance:

What to do?? If we sit back without questioning the hesitations in Canadian and global political discussions, we let the provocations continue. Click here for a video posted today. Or, we can start naming peace in this moment, in each action we take here at home… I invite you to forward this posting to a friend, to an acquaintance… Engage someone in conversation… and make peace… shalom… salaam…

Cello Player in a round-about. Sderot, Israel – 26 Jan. 2011 – Photo: Sherry Ann