February 20, 2024

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Truth Before Reconciliation in Palestine

Truth Before Reconciliation in Palestine

“In setter colonial nations like Canada and Israel, true peace and justice require some form of truth and reconciliation. But reconciliation and healing do not come without truth. And the truth is, a genocide is being carried out in Gaza AND the West Bank right now. It’s been underway for 76 years.”

Azeezah Kanji is a legal scholar. She’s very meticulous with her facts and very demanding with her research. I know because I have co-authored with her.

Most of what I write here comes from “The Architecture of Anti-Palestinian Elimination”, a brief Kanji wrote for the Yellowhead institute, an Indigenous-led research and education centre based in the Faculty of Arts at Toronto Metropolitan University.

Kanji writes about how the world regularly accuses Hamas of terrorism and war crimes, but is largely silent when Israel commits these same atrocities far more frequently. I add here that media, politicians and spokespersons routinely accept Israeli talking points about Hamas’ actions as fact without evidence or before the evidence has been validated. Whereas, despite the abundance of evidence concerning Israeli crimes, these are either not reported or glossed over as the consequences of a just war.

For its actions on Oct 7, Hamas is accused of mass killings, execution of civilians, and attacks against children, the elderly and the disabled. They are accused of holding civilians captive, home invasions, burning people alive, beheadings and torture. Some of these offences have been confirmed by credible impartial observers while evidence of others has yet to be presented or confirmed. The lack of evidence has not prevented media from reporting on all these accusations as valid. Likewise, politicians and officials from Israel, the US and Canada have repeatedly referenced Israeli talking points, propaganda, and lies as fact.

In case you need them, there are clear examples offered up in Kanji’s brief of how Israel commits but is never held to account for any of the exact same crimes listed above, which it commits over and over and over again. I reference a few below.

You may have seen the graphs and charts showing thousands of injuries and deaths among Palestinians under military occupation since 1967 up to this current conflict. Meanwhile Israelis suffer significantly fewer deaths by comparison. If you’re like me, you probably wish even a single year would pass without any deaths on either side. But these deaths have occurred and it is clear how Israel is using the billions in military aid it receives from the US, Britain, Europe AND Canada.

Why we are sending aid to Israel, a country which exports weapons and sells security technology to law enforcement agencies around the world, is a huge question in and of itself. There are sources that claim that 90% of Israel’s products and services are subsidized by the aid it receives from other countries. This suggest Israel’s economy is highly vulnerable and its aid partners could have considerable leverage over the country’s ability to carry out its genocidal practices. They simply choose not to use it.

Getting back to the issue of war crimes, let’s look more closely at the balance sheet. According to Amnesty International, the vast majority of killings of Palestinians by Israelis often happen under the circumstances where they are “systematic, unlawful, and arbitrary”, and the perpetrators, are never charged or prosecuted by Israel for their crimes

According to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, police and IDF soldiers routinely shoot and kill Palestinians, even when they pose no danger.

Kanji gives us several examples of attacks against children, the elderly and disabled. I’ll share a few here, starting with 2008 when an Israeli officer, who fired the entire magazine of his automatic rifle into a 13-year-old Palestinian girl. He is quoted as saying that he would have done the same even if she had been three years old. According to The Guardian, the officer was acquitted on all charges by a military court.

In 2016, Haaretz, an Israeli news service, reported that after shooting a Palestinian with Down Syndrome, Israeli soldiers fled without looking back. In 2020, an Israeli officer who killed a Palestinian with autism was acquitted. These incidents are reported by B’Tsalem.

Human Rights Watch published a report in 2009 detailing Israel’s extensive use of white phosphorus munitions. White phosphorus burns people alive. Once it starts, it will not stop burning until all the oxygen is consumed. When it comes into contact with skin, white phosphorous often burns to the bone. That’s what IDF drops on children in this and previous bombings of Gaza. International humanitarian law prevents the use of white phosphorus weapons in heavily populated civilian areas, like Gaza.

Amnesty International also notes, how Israel routinely holds Palestinians civilians captive. Since 1967 Israeli authorities have made widespread use of something called administrative detention to imprison thousands of Palestinians, including children, without charge, without trial, under renewable detention orders, which means they can imprison people for years.

How Palestinians were expelled from their homes

Almost every night armed Israeli soldiers conduct home invasions, waking men, women, and children, to carry out everything from acts of intimidations to vandalism to murder in the occupied territories. According to United Nations figures, these home invasions occur more than 200 times each month.

Israeli human rights organizations, Yesh Din, Physicians For Human Rights, and Breaking The Silence reported in 2020 that each year hundreds of Palestinian boys ages 13 to 17 are arrested, without warrants, from their homes in the middle of the night by Israeli security forces. Families are not told where their sons and brothers are being taken and what are the charges.

According to Middle East Monitor, Israel detained 570 Palestinian children in the first half of 2023, BEFORE the Hamas attack. Forms of torture of these children include beatings, psychological torture, and the withholding of medical attention.

Amnesty International documents cases of men, women, and children being tortured. Forms of sexual torture have been committed for decades by Israeli military, security and prison services.

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and The World Committee Against Torture both reported in 2005 that the majority of Palestinian women prisoners are subjected to some form of psychological torture and ill treatment throughout their arrest and detention, including various forms of sexual violence.

These are the kinds of human rights abuses and war crimes that corporate media are not going to report to you. We rely on the United Nations, international human rights agencies and independent media to be able to comprehend the depravity, brutality, savagery of this occupation. That is precisely why Israel, the US and other colonial nations, particularly settler colonial nations, are actively and intentionally diminishing international law, eroding international human rights standards and undermining the United Nations.

Image: ‘On Antisemitism, Anti-Zionism and Dangerous Conflations’ from JewishVoiceForPeace.org 

They were fine with it when the United Nations, dominated by the colonial powers of the day, upheld the UK’s Balfour Declaration, which served up 55% of Palestine to Jewish refugees from Europe. Today, Zionists refer to this UN decision as an indicator of the post-World War II “international consensus”. The Balfour Declaration can be understood as the Palestinian version of the Doctrine of Discovery, which also impacted Palestinians centuries ago. But when the United Nations comes down on Israel, declaring their continued seizures of Palestinian lands and the establishment of Jewish settlements on those stolen lands to be illegal, and when human rights agencies report the war crimes and abuses on both sides, suddenly the US, Israel, Canada and all their allies ignore, block and defy the “international consensus”.

In sum, Kanji notes that Israel is an occupying nation. It has placed the Palestinian territories under siege in violation of several UN resolutions. Their military and policing actions are not self-defense. Their control of the territories’ resources, water, food, imports, exports, fuel, power, and medical supplies which they regulate in such a way as to inflict collective punishment on civilians (also a war crime), make Israel by definition an aggressor, not a defender.

And we have to remember, as disgusted as we might be by Hamas actions on October 7, that attack was perpetrated on illegal settlements located on illegally seized lands. In other words, those attacks happened on Palestinian lands occupied by Israeli civilians. This does not excuse any war crimes Hamas committed. Nevertheless, Palestinians have the right to resist occupation without violating international law. Such complicated facts are never reported my most Western media outlets.

It is not my intention with this essay to dehumanize anybody. To be crassly cliché, I have Jewish friends I love and respect. I honour their ancestors who survived the pogroms and the Nazis, here and in Europe. I admire the fiercely anti-Zionist Jews I have worked with as an activist. I thank all the Jewish Americans who put their lives on the line to stand beside Black folks, my family included, during the Civil Rights movement. Antisemitism disgusts me and offends my spirit, as it should everyone. But opposing Israel and Zionism is not antisemitism, it is standing for justice.

In setter colonial nations like Canada and Israel, true peace and justice require some form of truth and reconciliation. But reconciliation and healing do not come without truth. And the truth is, a genocide is being carried out in Gaza AND the West Bank right now. It’s been underway for 76 years.

Your Indigenous ancestors, lived and died under genocidal conditions. Chances are, if you are reading this, you are engaged in reversing and healing from the forms of genocide that still remain on Turtle Island. Hopefully you are aware of how the perpetrators of genocide here and in Palestine cooperate to ensure we do not unite against them. Will you do what they want, shrug and look away? As so many did when your ancestors fought back? Or will you act?

Mohammed El-Kurd’s full speech for the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

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About The Author

Zainab Amadahy

Zainab Amadahy is of mixed race background that includes African American, Cherokee, Seminole, Portuguese, Amish, Pacific Islander and other trace elements (if DNA testing is accurate). She is an author of screenplays, nonfiction and futurist fiction, the most notable being the adequately written yet somehow cult classic “Moons of Palmares”. Based in peri-apocalyptic Toronto, Zainab is the mother of 3 grown sons and a cat who allows her to sit on one section of the couch. For more on Zainab and free access to some of her writings check out her website. www.swallowsongs.com.

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