Published in the Marathon Mercury, May 25th, 2021.
This past week the United Church called on the Canadian government to “intervene with Israel and de-escalate the spiralling violence and negotiate its end.” The Israel-Palestine conflict is not new news. Some of us are old enough to remember the years following the creation of the Israeli state in the late 1940’s, others grew up with news of on-going conflicts between Israel and its neighbours. Some of our high school history classes included sections dedicated to the conflict. Yet, many of us, when Israel and Palestine hits our newsfeed, feel unprepared to have a conversation about it.
The conflict feels far away from here. The history of the conflict can seem so huge that we don’t feel like we know enough to venture an opinion. We worry about being on the wrong-side, or about seeming ignorant. I worry that these insecurities too often lead to inaction and apathy, when silence is simply not an option.
We’ve seen the images coming out of Gaza over the past few weeks. We’ve heard the reports about the almost 200 deaths, including 58 children.
In the midst of a global pandemic Palestinian families continue to be evicted from their homes and neighbourhoods in occupied East Jerusalem and Westbank by the Israeli government. The evictions are to make room for more illegal settlements. Not to mention the violent suppression of peaceful protests, the arrest and trial in military courts of Palestinian children without representation, and bombardment of Gaza persist
It is my feeling, and the feeling of the United Church of Canada as well as countless Canadian civil societies, that this is an unacceptable way to treat other human beings. No matter where you stand on the Israel-Palestine conflict, we should all be able to agree that the death of innocent families—of children—is unacceptable. Canada, along with the most other democratic nations, consider occupation and the expansion of settlements to be illegal in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention.
We have our own history of colonization, of forced evictions and violence. As people who are beginning to seek right relations with First Nations I don’t think we can be silent. I cannot imagine that the Canadian government could be looked at with much trust by First Nations when we sit idly by, watching our ally do the same to another.
As a Christian, I follower a Teacher who aligned himself with the poor and oppressed. A Jewish man who welcomed the other, including the hated Samaritan, into his vision of justice. I am trying to imagine how I would feel if it was my family being evicted from its home, if my spouse or toddler, was injured or killed in the violence. As a follower of the Prince of Peace, as a Canadian, I must raise my voice calling on the Israeli government to put an end to this injustice.
This is not a question of a Christian condemning Jewish people, there are Jewish groups such as the Independent Jewish Voices Canada which advocate for justice and peace for all in Israel-Palestine. This is a question of a powerful government evicting families from their home, violently suppressing them when they speak up about it, and deeming the death of children acceptable collateral damage as part of their efforts. On this, at least, can’t we agree? Enough is enough.
Interested in learning more? Visit united-church.ca/social-action/act-now/stop-latest-palestinian-evictions-east-jerusalem.