Big Ottawa demonstration against Israeli bombing of Gaza Does Israel have the right to defend itself?
Over 1000 people, carrying Canadian and Palestinian flags, demonstrated in Ottawa on July 12 against Israel's bombing of Gaza. After hearing speeches at the Canadian Human Rights Monument, (see below) the crowd marched onto Parliament Hill. It is the same monument where Nelson Mandela spoke when he visited Canada. The monument reads 'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.'
NECIP was one of the organizations invited to make a few remarks. Others included Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), the Association of Canadian Arab Palestinians (APAC) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). Here I am with Catherine Casserly, Secretary of NECIP. In my short speech, I tried to focus on the reasons why Israel is attacking Gaza for the 5th time in 10 years.
Statement to Gaza demonstration in Ottawa
July 12, 2014 by Peter Larson, Chair, National Education Committee on Israel/Palestine
As we speak, Israeli warplanes have launched a major assault on Gaza for the fifth time in 10 years. Over that period, thousands of Palestinians have been killed, many more injured.
Canada’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Baird says this is justified because “Israel has a right to defend itself”.
This is a difficult argument to deal with, but we must deal with it, because many Canadians find it persuasive.
Mr. Baird is right on one point. Under international law, every state has the right to defend itself. Today, Israel is recognized by the United Nations as a state. If Israel were attacked by troops from Egypt or Syria, international law would say it had the right to defend itself.
But Israel is not being attacked by a foreign power. The Palestinians in Gaza are not a foreign power. They are a displaced people who come from the very land that today is called Israel.
What do the people in Gaza want - apart from an immediate halt to the bombing, of course.
But their main hope is for something very simple and very basic. They want to go back to their homeland and be treated as equals.
Of the about 1.6 million people who live in Gaza today, over 80% of them are not originally from Gaza. They are refugees.
Their farms and houses are located in what today is called Israel - from Jaffa, and Ramla, and Sderot and dozens of other small villages.
They were driven from their homes and farms in 1947/8 by the military action of Jewish militias. This huge military operation, which today falls under the UN definition of “ethnic cleansing", is what the Palestinians call the "NAKBA" or the disaster.
The NAKBA was in direct violation of the UN resolution which partitioned Palestine.That resolution specifically promised:
“No expropriation of land owned by an Arab in the Jewish State (i. e Palestinians) shall be allowed except for public purposes.”
Canada voted for that resolution.
Despite that promise however, neither Canada nor the international community did anything when, starting the day after the UN vote, Jewish militias began driving Palestinians out of Palestine, killing many and confiscating their lands, without any compensation.
Many of those Palestinians fled to Gaza, where they and their descendants are still today.
Later the UN affirmed that the Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return if they agreed to live in peace with their Jewish neighbours. Canada also voted for that resolution.
But despite those UN votes, Israel still won’t let the refugees return.
Is it because there isn’t enough room for them?
Not at all. In the last 20 years, Israel has welcomed more than a million immigrants – mostly Jews from Russia.
No – the Palestinians from Gaza are not allowed to go back to Israel for one simple reason: they are not Jews.
Since 1948, Palestinians have tried every tactic imaginable to have their rights restored:
at first they believed the UN promises and naively thought that countries like Canada would enforce its resolutions
when that didn’t work, they looked to Gamal Nassar of Egypt,
later under the PLO they took up armed struggle,
out of desperation some tried terrorism,
and as we all know, they have also tried negotiation many times.
So why is Israel attacking Gaza today?
The real reason it is attacking Gaza is that the 1 million refugees in Gaza won’t give up. They want their lands back.
Israel hopes that by crushing the Palestinian resistance it can make them give up their dream of returning to their homeland.
I don’t think that is going to happen. They are now showing any signs of giving up.
But Israel will never have peace until it deals fairly with the issue of the refugees.
HOWEVER, THERE IS A SIMPLE, PEACEFUL SOLUTION!
But there is a simple way to solve this issue.
The rockets that Hamas sends into Israel could be stopped overnight.
All Israel has to do is say six simple words: “We are sorry. Please come home”.
National Education Committee on Israel/Palestine
National Council on Canada-Arab Relations