Canadians need to be concerned about the humanitarian emergency in Gaza. Canada explicitly supports the aggressor, Israel, in its military attacks and in its siege. Canada is a primary trading partner with Israel through CIFTA, which includes arms and surveillance equipment. Moreover, Canada and the US ascribe to the predominant perception that Israel is at existential risk from Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and that the suffering of Palestinians and Israelis is equal. In reality, Israel has the fourth largest military in the world, is a non-signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is a nuclear weapons state. In the 2006 war, the Israeli military used cluster bombs and depleted uranium, and is under investigation for the use of Dense Inert Metal Explosives (Dime).
According to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, between September 1, 2005 (when Israel ostensibly left Gaza) and July 25, 2007, 668 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli security forces. Over half were noncombatants and 126 were children. Elaborating on the disproportionate use of force, the report further states that during the same period, Qassam rockets and mortar shells killed 8 Israelis, four of them civilians. Amnesty International, condemning the disproportionate use of force and collective punishment in a March 2008 press release, states that in the previous two months, 230 Gazans were killed and three Israelis.
At present, two-thirds of Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants are refugees of planned ethnic cleansing dating back to 1948. Although ostensibly withdrawing its Jewish settlers from Gaza, Israel retains control of Gaza's land, sea, and air borders, controls access to water, and in violation of the Geneva Conventions, destroys basic infrastructure which is leading to starvation and disease. Hospitals lack medicine and electricity, 70 per cent of infants aged nine months now suffer from anemia, and diarrhea is on the increase, partly due to lack of clean water and the lack of hygiene. The most recent figures indicate that 13 to 15 per cent of Gaza children are stunted in growth due to malnutrition.
The Canadian government's (all parties) silence and collusion needs to be analyzed. Many civic groups and NGOs have called for the end of the siege and suspension of military aid. The North American group Jews for a Just Peace demands an end to US military aid until the occupation ends. European Jews for a Just Peace demand suspension of trade agreements with Israel until the end of the occupation and of ethnic cleansing.
The current situation is extremely ominous. In 2003, Canadian academic James Ron published a book in which he compared ghettos and frontier territories in Serbia and Israel. He said that ghettos restrain state aggression to some extent as they lie within the boundaries of national legal constraints. However, when a territory is extruded and becomes a frontier, aggression can be perpetrated with relative impunity. Israel's outright destructiveness in "frontier" Lebanon is much more extensive than in the West Bank and Gaza ghettos. In the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, up to 20,000 Lebanese Palestinians were killed and 0 Israelis.
Defining Gaza as an "enemy entity" leaves the door open for extensive loss of life. A confirmation of Ron's hypothesis recently came from Labour Knesset member Matan Vilnai who threatened Gaza with a "shoah" (Holocaust). Canadian citizens must demand that their government representatives act with integrity.
1 Pappe, Ilan (2006). The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oneworld: Oxford.
2 Ron, James (2003). Frontiers and Ghettos: State Violence in Serbia and Israel. University of California Press: Berkeley.
Judy Deutsch is a Toronto psychoanalyst.