Feb.1, 2009--The streets, papers, airwaves, community centres and schools have been filled with talk about the recent and ongoing devastation of Gaza. Much of the current conversation involves the quoting of statistics and the brandishing of horrific images, used to blame one side or the other. Anger has been spilling out during rallies in the streets across the country and has also reached into campuses, especially at Wilfrid Laurier University, where initially promising dialogue devolved into name-calling and verbal attacks. It is time to move beyond the unproductive dialogue of blame, to grasp the wider meaning and significance of this conflict and its connection to global patterns and systems of oppression. We must understand the broader causes and implications of this conflict as part and product of an apartheid situation with a complex history. It is essential that we remember that it is not one particular date or battle, but a long history of relationships of struggle and oppression which have led to this and other conflicts.
International relationships are rife with unequal interactions regarding political, economic, and social state determinations. In these relationships, one country often controls another's resources and mobility, and purposefully inhibits their capacity for self-determination through cultural and economic repression, as well as exploitation. This characterizes all occupations, not just the situation in Gaza, but also the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The significance of Gaza lies not only in the experience of tragedy currently unfolding but also in the ability to highlight global systems and patterns of oppression and violence which attack every marginalized group struggling for freedom, fairness, and self-determination. Largely because of the increasing conflation of government and corporate interests, there are significant ties to resource and geostrategic control in these occupations, which are reprehensibly underreported. Understanding these connections and motives is essential if we are to begin envisioning responses that are sustainable and peaceful.
A common facet of too much of the reaction here has been the extension of condemnation of Israel to all Israelis. Media has been complicit in this; the tremendous uprisings of Israeli citizens—from the blockading of airfields to mass street demonstrations—against their government have not made it to the airwaves here. Sadly, this has brought out anti-Semitic attitudes. This nature of corporate media is not about to change; it highlights the dire need for real media. In this type of situation it is not necessarily the loudest voices who should be heard, but rather those who are accurately representative of the current situation and all its complexities—those who have done their research and those with direct experience. The power of knowledge is being wielded by both sides in this debate, however not in the interest of pursuing the truth. One must analyze the intent behind certain ‘facts’ and ‘figures’ and seek to present them in a way that is both honest and accessible to the communities we are a part of.
Much of what has been used to legitimize the attacks against Gaza is the fact that Hamas is a ‘terrorist’ organization, who believes in the use of violence and seeks to destroy Israel. When discussing the impact of systematic oppression on a people Nelson Mandela remarked, “The people's patience is not endless. The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight... We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means within our power in defense of our people, our future and our freedom”. Although Hamas and the ANC are vastly different organizations, both recognized that the current situations being forced upon them by colonizing powers must be responded to for the survival of their people. We need not look far to find other examples of institutionalized oppression through the segregation and marginalization of entire populations. Colonialism is not just alive in the Middle East but remains prevalent in Canada to this day. Our government’s continued refusal to recognize the rights of Canadian First Nations communities—highlighted most obviously by the failure to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—illustrates the extent of their will to cling to power and a fundamental lack of regard for justice, equality, and human rights.
Aboriginal resistance in Canada demonstrates that even if one’s means are entirely peaceful, colonizing powers are loathe to relinquish control, and will use any means, including blatant misrepresentation of the truth as well as violence to entrench and maintain their dominant status. State violence recently perpetrated against the people of Barriere Lake in Quebec is representative of this. During an explicitly peaceful protest, which was the culmination of several years of frustration at failed attempts to establish negotiations with the Canadian government, the Sureté du Québec (Provincial Police) used tear gas and ‘pain compliance’ on a crowd that included children and elders. The Canadian government’s unquestioning support of Israel is no surprise when one recognizes that Lawrence Canon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, was the same MP who has continually refused to meet with the leaders of Barriere Lake as their local Member of Parliament. To condemn Israel would be to admit the indefensibility of subscribing to a system which devalues the rights of entire populations. The recognition that the significance of Gaza lies in not one place and time but is an example of global trends of colonial subjugation serves to undermine the strength of Canada’s unwavering assault on aboriginal populations. What the people of Gaza, South Africa and Canada have most in common is that each of their situations demonstrate that regardless what form of resistance marginalized groups choose, they will be identified as a threat and treated as terrorists.
It is imperative that we call upon the media to stop delegitimizing resistance to colonialism and all forms of oppression. It is a tragedy that it takes a death toll such as this to begin public conversations regarding the perverse exercises of power against oppressed groups. Occupation is a crime and will persist unless we begin to challenge all manifestations of colonialism, both at home and abroad. It is time to cease tolerating state violence and expose its fundamentally nefarious nature. The ongoing occupation of Palestinian territory has been called an apartheid, linking it to the former situation in South Africa. Especially in this context, we should never forget that South Africa’s apartheid policy was based on Canada’s Indian Act, an ongoing piece of colonially exploitative and oppressive, race-based legislation. It should not take the death of more than 1200 to remind us that we must challenge the impunity with which the Israeli and Canadian governments continue to act.
For Immediate Release, Feb. 6 2009
[email protected] changes the conversation on Gaza
Student activists 'Candianise' analysis of Gaza conflict
WATERLOO- Today at a roundtable discussion of the ongoing conflict in Gaza, [email protected] ([email protected]) members will share a prepared statement that presents a new Canadian perspective on the ‘problem.’ Student-activists from [email protected] will explain how atrocities in Gaza are representative of global conflict patterns that also exist here in Canada. The statement seeks to explain the ways in which our means of dealing with domestic conflict are reflected in how we make sense of and represent Gaza.
[...] Over the past month, heated public debate at Wilfrid Laurier over the Gaza conflict has received local and national media attention. The official [email protected] statement that was released earlier today on their website (www.peaceculture.org) said, “It is time to move beyond the unproductive dialogue of blame, to grasp the wider meaning and and significance of this conflict and its connection to global patterns and systems of oppression.”
[...] [email protected] spokesperson Rachel Avery said that, “there have been polarizing impacts from the limited scope of the discussion in media and other public dialogue which simplistically present a conflict between warring fundamentalist religious nations.” The Statement by [email protected] seeks to “dispel the notion that this is a purely religio-ethnic conflict, and to represent it as an inevitable by-product of long and consistently misunderstood histories of oppression and violence,” Avery explained.
[...] [email protected] is a group that started as an LSPIRG working group in late 2006, but has since become unaffiliated and has incorporated many community members and has members from University of Waterloo as well as Laurier. [email protected] is a direct action group that targets perpetuators of war and environmental destruction, and stands in solidarity with local Indigenous groups fighting against colonialism and oppression. Information about [email protected] can be found online at peaceculture.org.