Gaza – Ubuntu – “It is in each other’s shadow, that we flourish.”

We are in this Israeli-Palestinian conflict, together. In this posting, I quote Mary Robinson (more info here and here) who is one of The Elders, the group of independent leaders who work globally for peace and human rights (click here). In a recent interview in celebration of Mandela Day 2014 (here), Robinson offers an observation about the meaning of life in terms of the African concept, ubuntu, (“I am because you are”) and a similar expression in Irish: “Is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.” It means, “It is in each other’s shadow that we flourish.” (quoted from here)

As described on The Elders’ website, Mary Robinson was the: “First woman President of Ireland and [is a] former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; a passionate, forceful advocate for gender equality, women’s participation in peace-building and human dignity.

“Part of the wisdom of the Elders is to remind the world that we actually have universal values that are accepted by every government in the world and yet they are not being implemented.” ” (here)

People in civil society in Israel are calling for peace and dialogue (for example, here). People around the world are calling for an end to the violence and the phrase, war crimes, is used increasingly (for example, here).

Navi Pillay is the current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. On 23 July 2014, she stated: “A seven-year old Palestinian child in Gaza has never known life outside occupation and is already living through her or his third experience of a major Israeli military operation, including the so-called operations ‘Cast Lead’ in 2009 and ‘Pillar of Defence’ in 2012, with all the unimaginable death, destruction, terror and the life-long consequences that they inflicted.

Both Palestinians and Israelis deserve better than a life of chronic insecurity and recurring escalation in hostilities.” (for Pillay’s full statement, click here) Commissioner Pillay is also quoted as saying that “… ‘147 children have been killed in Gaza over the past 16 days. They had a right to life, just like children in any other countries.’

Pillay said Israeli children shared these rights and should also be able to live without fear of rocket attacks from Gaza. The indiscriminate nature of Hamas rocket fire, Pillay said, also clearly went against principles of distinction and precaution when identifying military targets.” (For the full article and video, click here.) (Click here for an article in The Guardian.)

Commissioner Pillay ended her statement with the following: “I, and my predecessors and successors as High Commissioner for Human Rights, can only offer the facts, the law, and common sense. This we have done, and — I am sure — will continue to do, however much we are criticized for it.

We, as the International Community, the United Nations, the Human Rights Council, States, and as human beings, are obliged to do everything in our power to protect all civilians and ensure that human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled worldwide.

In Israel and Palestine, the politics of conflict, peace and security are constantly leading to the downgrading, or setting aside, of the importance of binding international human rights law and international humanitarian law. International law is not negotiable. No individual or state can be considered exempt, if they violate the law.” (for Pillay’s full statement, click here)

I am glad that Commissioner Pillay is speaking out. I am glad that Mary Robinson continues to speak out.

I was asked recently about why I blog, why I participate in EAPPI. If people like these women hadn’t spoken out, I might not exist. Surprised? Well, one of my sets of grandparents and my parents had, in some people’s eyes, “mixed marriages”. From extreme perspectives in the midst of the Irish Troubles, news of a Catholic woman and a Protestant man could set off violence (click here). For most of my life, I’ve grown up wondering how I could have both identities within me. Thankfully, with immigration to Canada, my family members could choose to marry. When I visited Palestine and Israel in 2009, I recognized some dynamics in that conflict that were familiar to me, from what I knew about the Irish Troubles. I realized that I could choose to respond to what I saw, to help someone else. It’s about looking and learning, and choosing to act. Here’s another helpful article about the conflict in Palestine and Israel (here).

Thanks for being there. We, as humanity, do impact each other and the rest of this amazing planet. Together, we can flourish.


80% of Gazans were refugees before July 2014. End the seige.

And, now the children of the children of the children are running with nowhere to hide…in Gaza. Many of the people in Gaza are refugees, several times over, living in refugee camps in Gaza (more info here and here). Tyler Levitan offered the 80% statistic in a prime-time TV interview with CTV (Canadian) this week (to watch the interview, click here). Tyler represents Independent Jewish Voices, a group that represents progressive Jewish voices in Canada (more info here and here). Tyler observes that this “siege” on Gaza is not about security for Israel, as the Israeli government would have us believe. The Israeli government is disregarding international law. The siege and blockade of Gaza must end. Once Gazans have life necessities, then thoughtful dialogue can happen. Mainstream Israelis, including some neighbours of Gaza, want to talk with, not bomb, their neighbours.

B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (click here), is publishing the names of the children who have been killed during the current hostilities.

For more information on how to support the children in Gaza, read about the Middle East Children’s Alliance (here and here).

Action: Please share this posting and the postings of these past few days with the thoughtful voices that are out there…please share this info with family, friends, on Facebook, Twitter… The more that we know, the better.

Note: IJV works with various groups like the United Network for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI, click here).

Note: To read about international law and how it is being ignored in Palestine and Israel, please enter “international” in the Search box of this blog. Or, enter any term (like “Gaza”), to read entries that date to December 2010.

Thump. Thump. Boom. Missiles? Hearts? In Gaza

Last night, on The National (CBC TV), Paul Hunter, a CBC journalist, described how his body felt the blast of a missile on a nearby apartment building in Gaza. Reverberations. Shaking. In this clip (here), he describes the “thump, thump, thump” of strikes and the “booms”. He describes “anguish” as experienced by the “village” of people gathering at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Where to go, away from the thump? Thump. THUMP.

From an inspiring song, I hear the words of Xavier Rudd, “What does your heart say?” (from Follow the Sun, here) Is it yet beating? Artists, Nobel laureates, and public intellectuals, internationally, are expressing what their hearts are feeling. See this article in The Guardian on 18 July 2014 (here) in which they observe, “Israel’s ability to launch such devastating attacks with impunity largely stems from the vast international military cooperation and trade that it maintains with complicit governments across the world. Over the period 2008-19, the US is set to provide military aid to Israel worth $30bn, while Israeli annual military exports to the world have reached billions of dollars.”

Guess what? The Canadian government is one of those complicit ‘leaders’. Click here, here, and here. Call on Canada to stop the assault (here).

Add your name to this international petition (here), calling for a military embargo on Israel (here). This fact sheet offers additional information (here).

More info – 8 crucial points (including how international law relates to the conflict) are here. Here are the numbers as of this morning (here). Here are some insights when engaging in discussion (here). Here are tips for reading the news with a critical/thoughtful eye (here). Here’s info for locating your Member of Parliament for engaging him or her in dialogue (here).

Watch this page for Uri Avnery’s comments as a long-time Israeli peace activist, here.

More news is available at Maan News (here) and The Electronic Intifada (here).

If you are in Edmonton on 25 July 2014, consider sharing what your heart says at this International Day of al-Quds’ Rally for Palestine (here); Al-Quds is also known as Jerusalem. This brings to mind an association with the phrase, ‘Jerusalem in my heart,’ with the Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish (more here and here).

Hmmm, yes. Thump. Thump, thump, thump…beating, go our hearts…

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.