Gaza suffers – What say you?

I read and hear in the news that a ceasefire may be in development between Hamas and the Israeli government. However, I also hear that the two combatants will not consider a ceasefire before they each reach their respective “objectives”. How is that a ceasefire? Is not a ceasefire a halt to hostilities, before military objectives are achieved? And what underlies military objectives? I believe that political-economic factors are driving the violence.

We, EAs, look to Gaza from Israel – 11 Feb. 2011 – Photo: A. Farr

Why only reach for a ceasefire? More resolution is needed regarding the Israeli government’s illegal occupation of Palestine, particularly the blockade of Gaza. Human beings in the Gaza strip have nowhere to go, as the Israeli army pushes into Gaza from the air and on the ground. Where is compassion in this moment?

I appreciate the prayer that Gary Paterson, the Moderator of the United Church of Canada (UCC), offered on 15 July 2014 (here). What action might be taken, now? I have just written to the Moderator asking that the UCC release a public statement to Canadian society and to the federal government to speak on the world stage against the killing of civilians in and near Gaza. And to offer humanitarian and medical assistance to those who are suffering. Please consider contacting the Moderator via this page (here).

The people of Palestine have been crying out for generations… They have gifted so many Ecumenical Accompaniers like me with their stories of non-violent efforts to seek a just peace. For example, click here , here, and here. Note: I served in Group 38 with EAPPI. Currently, members of Group 53 are preparing to travel to Palestine and Israel in August.

Peoples in Israel who have also suffered from the occupation and seek a just peace have been speaking out for years…They, too, have shared their stories with Ecumenical Accompaniers. For example, click here and here.

Globally, citizens are speaking out. See here . Sign this petition here.

Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem, speaks out… Click here.

Jewish Voice for Peace in the United States is advocating against American support the arms trade with Israel. Sign this petition here.

Independent Jewish Voices in Canada speaks out. Friends there encourage us to write to Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and to your Member of Parliament here.

My Muslim friend speaks out… Click here.

KAIROS speaks out… Click here.

The World Council of Churches speaks out… Click here.

The Dalai Lama speaks out… Click here.

What say you?

“Somebody”? Choosing our words. Choosing our paths.

Anyone remember a moment in life when, perhaps as a child, we were asked about an event and tried to skirt around the details of what happened? Perhaps, we did something that a parent or caregiver suspected was a poor choice? Anyone remember saying, “Somebody said it was okay to do (whatever)?” And, then, we were asked: “Who said it was okay?” And, perhaps we looked away and tried to avoid saying who that somebody was… Maybe we wanted to protect that somebody. Maybe no one actually did say anything – maybe we just wanted our actions to be okay, permissible, all right. Maybe we began to wonder about the choice that we made…

This recollection and a squeamish feeling passed through me yesterday as I watched the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in a TV interview regarding all of the civilian deaths in Gaza, Palestine. He is quoted as saying:

I’m very sad. When I see that I’m very sad. We’re sad for every civilian casualty. They’re not intended. This is the difference between us. The Hamas deliberately targets civilians and deliberately hides behind civilians.  They imbed their rocketeers, their rocket caches, their other weaponry, which they use to fire on us in civilian areas… What choice do we have?…

All civilian casualties are unintended by us but actually intended by Hamas. They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can because somebody said, and I mean, it’s gruesome, but they use telegenically-dead Palestinians for their cause. They want– the more dead the better.” (Click here and here for more text and here for a clip of the original CNN interview.) (I have bolded the “somebody said” text.)

I had heard the same clip on CBC Radio in the afternoon. Then, in the evening I watched the interview clip on CBC’s TV programme, The National. Yes, Netanyahu’s eyes shift up to the right and down to the left as he searches for words and lands on, “somebody said”. “Who” exactly said that, Mr. Netanyahu?

I’ve just spent a few days in the backcountry of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I was ‘unplugged’ from electronic media and am grateful for that respite. With some family members, in addition to experiencing incredibly beautiful views and company, I had the honour of meeting a Calgary author, Nancy M. Hayes, and her husband, Ross E. Hayes. She gifted us with a copy of her 2013 book, Weaving Threads: Travels on the Silk Road (click here and here). Now, I return to my electronic Inbox and feel bombarded by terrible news, worldwide. However, as I read her book, this observation resonates. Nancy asks: “Forty years have given me time to think about what’s happened in Iran. Would world politics have taken a different course if people like me had spoken up and had tried harder to find answers to our questions?” (Hayes, 2013, p. 75)

Hmmm. Yes, I am a person like Nancy, insofar as we are western Canadians who hike. And, it’s time to start speaking up again. I’m wondering how to start. Also, yesterday, a friend asked me, “What is happening with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI, click here and here), amid the terrible news in Palestine and Israel?” And another friend sent me a care-filled email, after seeing me across the room at our spiritual gathering (click here) and observing how sad I looked. Yes, I was feeling the weight of the suffering of the peoples in Palestine and Israel and feeling sad about news about friends who are now living with cancer.

Okay. I am choosing to speak up by asking again, “who” exactly said that Hamas ‘wants’ its people dead?

And, wait a minute – other parts of yesterday’s news reported that an Israeli soldier may have been “kidnapped”… Wait, wait… If a soldier is participating in a military incursion and if s/he is captured, would that person not be a prisoner of war (a POW) rather than a kidnapping ‘victim’? For more on this, click here and here. Let’s think about word choice in journalistic media and social media.

And, how big is Gaza, anyway? 360 square km. Smaller than the western Canadian city of Edmonton (684 square km). With news that the Israeli army seeks to push 3 km into Gaza (see here), imagine how Palestinians in Gaza may have fewer and fewer places to hide from the attacks? The Israeli forces warn civilians to evacuate but where can they go?

What can we do? Think about the words being used and what is happening – people are suffering and dying due to violence. Seek information from many sources. Ask questions. Seek direct answers, by persisting…

    "Listen" - Plain of the Six Glaciers, Lake Louise, Alberta - Summer 2010 - Photo: Sherry Ann

“Ecoutez” “Listen” – Plain of the Six Glaciers, Lake Louise, Alberta – Summer 2010 – Photo: Sherry Ann

“Somebody”? Really? And are “some bodies” simply dying? We can choose our words to demonstrate that no one is just “somebody”. Each of us is a person and has a responsibility to care for life and to choose our words and our actions. As I return from the backcountry, I am ready again to choose a path…and I choose to walk and work toward non-violence and peace.