Solidarity Halifax member Larry Haiven made this speech at last Saturday’s rally in solidarity with the people of Gaza:
My name is Larry Haiven. I’m a member of Independent Jewish Voices – Canada, a national organization with a chapter in Nova Scotia.
We are group of Jews in Canada from diverse backgrounds, occupations and affiliations who have in common a strong commitment to social justice and universal human rights. We come together in the belief that the broad spectrum of opinion among the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by those institutions which claim authority to represent the Jewish community as a whole. And so, a short four years after the last Israeli massacre in Gaza that killed 1400 Palestinians, over a third of them women & children, we again see bombs raining and the Israeli forces poised to inflict close quarter punishment on those abused 1.5 million inhabitants of 365 square kilometres, 15 X smaller than Halifax Regional Municipality, the largest open air prison in the world.
And as usual, the unquestioning defenders of Israel ask the question “What other country would put up with rockets landing on them?” As if history began two minutes ago when I bit your foot and not with the sixty plus years when your foot was grinding my face into the dirt.
I think there is no better testimony to the real context of recent events than the autobiography of Dr. Ezzeldin Abuelaish, the Palestinian physician from Gaza. Dr. Abuelaish spoke in Halifax just last week.
As you will recall, while cowering in their apartment during the last invasion of Gaza in 2009, three of the good doctor’s daughters and his niece were killed and another daughter horribly injured by an Israeli tank shell. This despite the fact that Dr. Abuelaish worked in an Israeli hospital, knew many prominent Israelis, and had called in to a friend who was the host of an Israeli television station to report “There is a tank in front of our house. They’re going to kill us, please do something.”
The Israeli television host Shlomi Eldar, says he “I kept trying to get the IDF on the phone. Taking out Hamas targets was one thing, but attacking the home of a doctor was another. I wanted to make sure they knew whose house they were aiming at.”
Viewers all over Israel and later the world, heard the doctor’s anguished cries on television in real time, when the Israeli forces fired and killed the four children, decapitating one of them.
While many Israelis were shocked, a group of them met the doctor when he arrived at the hospital with the dead and injured, angrily berating him for taking attention away from the righteous cause their soldiers were pursuing.
Dr. Abuelaish’s story is not a single isolated example. It is just a high profile and horrifying personal exemplifier of what Israel is doing and has done to the Palestinians.
But it is Dr. Abuelaish’s backstory that sets the true context to the horrible events of 2009. Born and raised to crushing poverty in the Jabalia refugee camp of parents who were forced to flee what later became Israel in 1948, he bucked the odds to study medicine and establish himself as an expert in fertility, counting colleagues across the world and in Israel. But he never forgot the misery of his childhood and describes it eloquently in the book.
The 2009 events with his daughters are shattering but so horrifying that tears could not come to my eyes. It is a quieter event about a year earlier, described in the book, that is the most poignant and resonated most with me as I know it will with you.
Away in Europe for a medical conference, Dr. Abuelaish learned that his wife, suffering from leukemia, had taken a turn for the worse and had been admitted, after intolerable bureaucratic hassle, to the Israeli hospital where he worked. Then began what he describes as a journey to hell. Desperate to get back to her, he was blocked and humiliated at every turn by Israeli officials, both stupid and malicious, despite his prestige,despite his pristine security record, despite all the good connections he had. When he finally got to the hospital she had slipped into a coma from which she never awoke.
Dr. Abuelaish has sworn not to hate and has dedicated his life to that, and good for him. He is superhuman. Other Palestinians are merely human.
Casting our minds back to the current events, I want to quote from Chris Hedges in a piece he wrote a few days ago, before the Gaza events, but so prescient:
“Rebellion always mystifies the oppressor. It appears irrational. It does not make sense. The establishment asks: What are their demands? Why do they hate us? What do they want? The oppressor can never hear the answer, for the answer is always the same—we seek to destroy your power. The oppressor, blind to the brutality and injustice meted out to sustain dominance and prosperity, escalates the levels of force employed to protect privilege. The crimes of the oppressor are seen among the elite as the administering of justice—law and order, the war on terror, the natural law of globalization, the right granted by privilege and power to shape and govern the world. The oppressor cannot see the West’s false humanism. The oppressor cannot, as James Baldwin wrote, ‘understand that our “history has no moral justification, and the West has no moral authority.’”
Note: Statements made by individual Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.