Text of speech by DAVID PARKER, CKDU radio journalist and member of the Pan Canadian Bil’in Solidarity Network, to Public Rally against ‘visit’ of War Criminal Netanyahu to Canada, May 30, 2010. The text has been updated to deal with the Israeli attack on the humanitarian aid convoy on May 31st.
HALIFAX (May 30, 2010) – WELCOME TO EVERYONE gathered here in Halifax today. It’s nice to be here, breathing in the fresh air from the North Atlantic Ocean. If we were in the West Bank, we would probably be breathing in tear gas. Demonstrations in the West Bank are regularly repressed by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) with tear gas, sound grenades, rubber bullets, dirty water, and live ammunition. This is some of what I experienced during my time in the West Bank and Palestine.
I’d like to read a statement that was released by Gaza Civil Society on May 31st, in response to the attack on the Freedom Flotilla:
We, Gaza based Palestinian civil society organizations and international activists, call on the international community and civil society to pressure their governments and Israel to cease the abductions and killings in Israel’s attacks against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla sailing for Gaza, and begin a global response to hold Israel accountable for the murder of foreign civilians at sea and illegal piracy of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza.
We salute the courage of all those who have organized this aid intervention and demand a safe passage through to Gaza for the 750 people of conscience from 40 different countries including 35 international politicians intent on breaking the Israeli-Egyptian blockade. We offer our sincerest condolences to family and friends who have lost loved ones in the attack.
The violence that happened on the flotilla attack has been followed all throughout this week by further violence in the region. In the northern West Bank, near the illegal settlement of Yitzhar, a Jewish-only settlement, settlers set ablaze Palestinian agricultural lands, burning 100 dunams of olive and almond trees. On Wednesday, an Israeli settler ran down a Palestinian car, which left a 48-year-old Palestinian man dead, in the Hebron area. And also in Hebron, on Thursday, a settler shot at high school-aged Palestinian children returning home after an end of year exam: two 16 year olds were hit, one in the abdomen and thigh, the other in the chest.
On a more personal note, on Monday at a demonstration at the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem, 21-year-old American citizen, Emily Henochowicz, was hit in the eye by a high velocity tear gas canister. She’s currently in Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, where she underwent surgery to remove her left eye, and other reconstructive surgery on her face.
Emily is a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement. She’s an artist at the prestigious Cooper Union in New York. I met her while I was demonstrating in the West Bank. She had so much courage, much more than me. I was with her in Al-Walaja, when she sat peacefully in front of a bulldozer that was demolishing Palestinian homes, until the Israeli forces dragged her away with eight other activists by hand and foot. She was so courageous in Sheikh Jarrah, where she kept watch with other activists 24 hours a day, to stand with the Palestinian families under attack from the local settlers.
I had never looked at her art work before she was injured, but since then I’ve seen it, and it’s amazing. You can see it yourself at her website, thirstypixels.blogspot.com. She has one image called Al Walaja Cake, with a layer of Palestinians, a layer of IDF soldiers, and a layer of cameramen to give it that worldly feel.
My heart goes out to Emily’s family and close friends during this time of suffering.
The International Solidarity Movement, has called on people around the world to do three things. The first is to attend local events against the illegal Gaza blockade. Let’s give ourselves a round of applause for being here today!
The second thing to do is contact your political representatives, and demand international pressure on Israel. On Tuesday, we presented a letter to Megan Leslie, asking her to raise the issue in Parliament. The third thing to do is support the call from Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel.
Here in Canada we’re boycotting four different commercial companies: We’re boycotting Chapters and Indigo bookstores, who own about 70 per cent of the Canadian book market, and their subsidiaries Coles Books and Smithbooks. We’re boycotting Mountain Equipment Co-op’s seamless underwear and hydration packs that are made in Israel; we’re boycotting wines that are made in the Golan Heights (these are sold at SAQ in Quebec, if you see them at NSLC in Nova Scotia, you can boycott them); and finally we’re boycotting AHAVA dead sea beauty products, sold internationally in beauty stores.
In another example of Canadian complicity with Israeli apartheid, three Palestinians from Bil’in were denied visas to enter Canada this Monday. They were coming to testify at the Quebec Appeals Court against two Canadian companies sued by the village of Bil’in for doing business in illegal Israeli settlements on their land. Fifty per cent of the agricultural land that belongs to Bil’in has been cut off from the villagers by the Apartheid Wall, which was declared illegal in 2007, when the Israeli High Court ordered a new route for the wall to give back twenty five per cent of the village land to Bil’in.
There are night raids in Bil’in. On average, every two weeks the Israeli soldiers enter the village sometime between midnight and 5 am, and stay for a few hours. They invade people’s houses, harrass the residents, looking for friends or family members; when they finally find them they detain them without charge in Ofer prison for weeks on end, or more. Children in Bil’in have reported difficulties in sleeping at night, due to these night raids.
The village of Ni’lin, neighbouring Bil’in, has been mourning their dead since July 2008. Yousef Ahmad Younis Amera, age 17, and Ahmad Husam Yusef Mousa, age 10, were assassinated by the armed forces of the occupation. Arafat Rateb Khawaje, age 22, was shot in the back and killed on December 28th while taking part in a demonstration in solidarity with Gaza. Nil’in has sent eyewitnesses to the UN to testify about Israel’s assassination policy.
To mark 43 years of occupation in the West Bank, Palestinians and Israelis demonstrated on Friday, June 4th, near the village of Beit Nuba, which was demolished by Israel in 1967, near route 443. Route 443 is restricted for use of Palestinians, and is known as an apartheid road.
In an open letter published earlier this week, Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper declared that if it was any other state, Israel would hail a boat with 800 activists and 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid sailing to Haiti, for example. But since it’s Israel, it’s a whole other story. The passengers are labelled as terrorists with radical Islamic party ties, yet Israelis and members of Israel’s own government were on the flotilla.
Halper said the flotilla sailed with a number of messages: firstly, to lift the siege on Gaza. The siege is illegal. Civilians cannot be collectively punished. People are brought to their knees and forcibly made to accept being controlled and dominated. This has been the thrust of Israeli policy.
Secondly, the ship’s message is to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Halper says:
Israeli policy is frighteningly reminiscent of other dark regimes, in which Jews suffered from controlled malnutrition. 1.5 million people in Gaza receive as little as 850 calories a day, less than half of the recommended daily intake. Dov Wiesglass, Ariel Sharon’s Chief of Staff, made a joke out of this. «It’s like a meeting with a dietitian,» he said. «We need to make the Palestinians lose weight, but not starve to death.» Instant coffee, fresh meat, rice, beans, spices, honey, chocolate, jam, bananas, coriander and pasta, among other things, are considered luxury foods for Palestinians, and not allowed in.
Gaza is an unreconstructed war zone. Israel long ago destroyed the sewage system: people have drowned in periodic floods of sewage engulfing whole communities. The flotilla is bringing a drop in the bucket of what is actually needed: temporary shelters, playgrounds for children, cement, steel, construction materials, medical equipment, medicines, and other school supplies.
Many Israelis know less of these facts than internationals do. The Israeli government denies the existence of an occupation. Living in a prosperous bubble, Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman says the flotilla is violent propaganda against Israel, as if Israel has nothing to do with the conditions of life in Gaza or the occupation.
On a final note: one example of Israeli repression is the denial of entry into Israel of many prominent figures. Internationals such as Noam Chomsky are now routinely refused entry to Israel and the occupied territories, for their support of Palestinians. I would love to get a ticket to a dinner party with people who have been refused from Israel. I would get to eat with Noam Chomsky, Judge Richard Goldstone, Professors Richard Falk and Norman Finkelstein, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, all of whom are considered threats to Israeli public safety and order.
Harper, Harper, You Must Act!
Israeli Apartheid Is A Fact!
Brick by Brick, Wall by Wall!
Israeli Apartheid is Going to Fall!