Seventy-five years ago marked what Palestinians call the nakba, translated to ‘catastrophe’. Today, as we witness the indiscriminate killing of Palestinians in Gaza, with Israel having dropped over 6,000 bombs in six days, some say we are witnessing a second nakba.
The Israeli government refuses to abide by international law as it denies sending humanitarian aid into Gaza and targets schools and hospitals. This siege is an amplification of the atrocities Palestinians have been experiencing since the outset of the settler colonial project of Israel in 1948.
Here in Toronto, our government has chosen to ignore the suffering of Palestinians and instead calls for the criminalization of pro-Palestinian protests and statements. Mayor Olivia Chow released a statement following a pro-Palestinian rally on Oct. 9.
“The rally to support Hamas at Nathan Phillips Square today is unsanctioned, without a permit and I unequivocally denounce it. Glorifying this weekend’s indiscriminate violence, including murder and kidnapping of women and children, by Hamas against Israeli civilians is deplorable,” she said in her statement.
York’s initial tweet regarding the issue almost completely focused on the safety of the Jewish community. This ignores the deep fear and pain that diasporic Palestinians are currently experiencing as they wait for news of loved ones while navigating the increasing racism towards Arabs spreading across North America. These rising anti-Arab sentiments are reflected in the recent killing of a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy by his family’s landlord.
As a Jewish member of the York community and a member of Independent Jewish Voices, I feel immense grief and anger at this moment. Grief for lost lives and for those who are frightened by these atrocities.
I am also angry that the world is allowing this genocide to occur. I am angry that our government officials continue offering aid to the Israeli military. I am angry that our school officials condemn our student unions for daring to stand up and say they are against ethnic cleansing.
I am especially angry that all this is supposedly happening in my name and to protect my safety. Palestinians don’t perpetuate anti-semitism, right wing extremists — like the ones behind the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting — do. So, why is York claiming my safety is in danger from my Palestinian peers?
On Oct. 15, I joined with a couple hundred other Jews from Toronto to mourn the countless lives lost in Gaza and demand that the Canadian government call for a ceasefire and the allowance of humanitarian aid. While we gathered together in prayer, a Palestinian couple stumbled upon our action on their way home. The woman broke down in tears and began hugging my friend and thanking us for being there. She spoke of the worry she felt for her family and friends back home, as well as the feeling of abandonment from Canadian politicians and media. We hugged and cried and welcomed her to join us.
Right now, Jewish community members all over the world are standing up and telling the world that we do not agree with the violence and hatred of the Israeli government. Israelis too are criticizing their government for these war crimes.
In Europe, Palestinian solidarity protests and even the Palestinian flag are being banned. Across Canada, these protests are being condemned as violent and hateful. Yet, myself and other Jews who have attended the protests all week are greeted with hugs, gratitude, and reminders of our shared humanity.
However, these stories are not being covered in mainstream media. These moments of solidarity, co-resistance, and coexistence are not being acknowledged by our politicians or school administration. Rather, our administrators are fanning the flames of division.
The power of settler colonial ideology knows no geographic bounds. Canada cannot call out Israel’s settler colonial regime without acknowledging its own, which is perhaps why it remains complicit. York cannot condemn the slaughter of Palestinians without acknowledging its alleged investments in both the Israeli military and Canada’s extractive industries.
As Malcom X once said, “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” Those of us in the West no longer have the luxury and privilege of silence. We must speak up right now for Palestinian rights, from Turtle Island to Palestine.