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Reaping the whirlwind

The more Palestinians remain dehumanized the less cost there is to Israel’s annihilating them, their children and their homes

Middle EastWar ZonesHuman Rights

Palestinians inspect the ruins of a building destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, October 8, 2023. Photo by APA Images/Wikimedia Commons.

It has taken decades, but Israel is finally reaping the whirlwind of the violence and terror that it has sowed. Today, European and North American political leaders call the Palestinians “monsters,” “terrorists,” and “sheer evil”—the Palestinians are taken to be the same as Hamas.

Hamas, of course, is a political party, the elected leadership of Palestinians in Gaza. But Hamas does not speak for the Palestinian people. The militant organization may have won the majority of votes in the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, not because most people in Gaza necessarily revered them, but largely due to the fact that Fatah (its main rival) was old, corrupt and collaborationist. Canadians are familiar with the concept of a protest vote.

The more the Palestinians remain dehumanized the less cost there is to Israel’s annihilating them, their children and their homes.

Israel is furious that Hamas has dared to attack them. For the first time in the shameful history of Israel’s colonization and “settling” (grabbing) of Palestinian land, Israeli civilians have paid a horrific price. The death toll in Israel now rivals Palestinian deaths from the Israel Defense Forces’ deadly incursions and bombings over the last decades.

Still, the international community is doing all it can to support Israel. Because the Palestinians dared to fight back, aid from all European Union countries has been stopped (it may later be restarted due to mass starvation in Gaza).

The United States already gives more military aid to Israel than any other country—$3.8 billion each year. Canada also gives money, but largely in the form of tax breaks for the rich who donate to Israeli charities. In 2018, Canadians donated more than a quarter of a billion dollars to Israel, and this number is increasing. According to Yves Engler, “tax deductible charitable donations are the most consequential and politically unjustifiable Canadian contribution to a state and movement seeking to eliminate Palestinians.”

In 2018 registered Canadian charities raised over a quarter-billion dollars for Israel-focused projects. Since the federal government introduced deductions for charities in 1967, billions of dollars in subsidized donations have gone to Israel. In 1991 the Ottawa Citizen estimated that Canadians sent more than $100 million a year to Israel and possibly as much as $200 million. Assuming $100 million has been sent to Israel yearly since 1967 and with approximately 30 per cent of the $5.4 billion total subsidized by the taxpayer, that’s around $1.7 billion in Canadian public support.

In a recent statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implored the Palestinians to leave Gaza; they risk their lives if they stay.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has been tracking deaths in Israel-Palestine since 2008. Its data shows that 5,600 Palestinians died up to 2020 while 115,000 were injured. 250 Israelis died during the same period while 5,600 were injured. Image courtesy Statista.

But they can’t leave. Gaza is sealed at the top and bottom. There is no entry to Israel and no entry to Egypt. Where are Gazans supposed to go?

They have tried to escape in the past. The 2018–2019 Gaza border protests, which became known as the “Great March of Return” rallies, saw thousands of Palestinians in Gaza peacefully walk to the border fence every Friday for 18 months. These civilians calmly stood at the boundary line to demand their right to return to their land and homes in Israel proper.

They were greeted by Israeli sharpshooters who killed nearly 300 unarmed women, children and the elderly. Israeli military personnel killed three paramedics and injured 655 more. More than 30,400 Palestinians were wounded; they suffered countless amputations and thousands of other serious injuries.

Every week Israel shot at hundreds of Palestinians with tear gas, live ammunition and rubber bullets. Dr. Tarek Loubani, a doctor from London, Ontario was well away from the fence, administering care to wounded Gazans when he was shot in both legs. Loubani and other medics were deliberately picked off to show Palestinians and the world who’s boss—and remind them that Israel controls their lives.

Indeed, since 2008, Israel has killed more than 5,600 people in Gaza, bulldozed more than 35,000 Arab homes and forced Palestinians to continue to live in squalid refugee camps. For the last 16 years, Gaza has been under a draconian siege by Israel. The international cry to lift the siege could be heard around the world. Where is that call now?

What kind of lives do Palestinians live? Prior to last week, their lives weren’t worth much. From January 1 to October 1, 2023, Israeli troops killed more than 200 Palestinians—the majority teenage boys and children. Gaza’s unemployment rate stands at around 64 percent. Estimates are that only three percent of the water in Gaza is potable. The sewage treatment system has been bombed by Israel many times; raw sewage flows down the streets. The IDF has shot journalists, tear-gassed school children, attacked ambulances and vandalized mosques. The IDF has also launched major assaults with missiles and helicopter gunship attacks on Gaza in 2006, 2008, 2012, 2014, and 2021. These attacks and incursions killed and injured tens of thousands.

In the last five days, Israel, yet again, is denying Gazans water, food, fuel, electricity, medical supplies and humanitarian aid. Israel will allow nothing to cross the border into Gaza. On Monday, October 9, Israel blew up the main phone and internet service provider, so there is a “blackout” on what’s going on in Gaza. Meanwhile, Netanyahu committed to a “complete siege on Gaza”—often called the “world’s largest open-air prison.” More than 2.1 million people live in an area 6.6 percent the size of Halifax Regional Municipality. Over 80 percent are refugees descended from 1948 when Israel drove their grandparents from their homes, and destroyed more than 400 villages and towns.

Nothing excuses the murder of innocent Israeli civilians—whether at a music festival or in their homes. But if that is true for Hamas, it is also true for the IDF. The numbers of dead prior to Hamas’s violent incursion speak volumes. Palestinians who live in Gaza and in the West Bank have been systematically murdered by a state that is determined to cleanse its lands of Palestinians and build a nation only for the Jews. Who will stop Israel?

Judy Haiven is a member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada. She is a retired professor of management at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. A member of the editorial board of Canadian Dimension, this article is her own opinion.


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