Sunday 5 November 2023

Responsibility for the (Israel/Gaza) war is not one-sided


On October 27, 2023, Harry Shannon, an emeritus professor at McMaster University, published the following article (now slightly revised) in the Hamilton Spectator, p. 27.  I tried to post a link to it on my Facebook account, but was prevented from doing so by Facebook’s ongoing dispute with the Canadian government. Facebook does not permit sharing Canadian news at the moment. However, Harry has given me permission to post the whole thing, so here it is.  I think Harry’s balanced and compassionate opinion on the Israel/Gaza war is well worth reading. 

Responsibility for the war is not one-sided

by Harry Shannon

Author’s siblings in kibbutz near Gaza narrowly avoided fate of residents in nearby community

"My brother lives with his wife on Kibbutz Saad, near the Gaza border. That weekend, my sister was visiting from Jerusalem. Saad is right in the middle of some 20 or so villages and kibbutzim which were attacked by Hamas. Literally across the road is Kfar Azza, where there was a horrible massacre. Documents recovered from dead Hamas terrorists showed detailed plans to attack Saad. But for some reason, Saad was spared and my family members survived.

At the same time, I have Palestinian friends. I have worked with health researchers in Ramallah. I know many Jews would be afraid to visit the West Bank. Several years ago, I told an Israeli cabby that I was going to Ramallah. “Don’t tell them you’re Jewish,” he said. “They’ll kill you.”

He was very wrong. I have been warmly welcomed, not in spite of being a Jew, but even because of it. The vast majority of Palestinians just want what we in Canada consider a normal, peaceful life.

But instead they’re subjected to arbitrary arrest, separate roads, a separate legal system, travel restrictions, and so on, all based on their ethnicity – apartheid by any other name.

I’ve been appalled at some of the recent rhetoric, not just what’s been said, but also what hasn’t been said. Sarah Jama’s post on X (Twitter) on October 10 has been castigated for not condemning Hamas. She certainly should have and she belatedly did so. Those who have criticized Jama are absolutely right to revile Hamas. But they are equally wrong not to denounce Israel’s grossly disproportionate response.

Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard believes “Israel is racing to the moral abyss.” He writes that 75 years of imposing refugee status, 56 years of occupation, and 16 years of siege on millions of Palestinians “have normalized a situation where there are people worth less. Much less.” He cited a statement by Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, considered a moderate. Appallingly, Herzog said that all Gazans are responsible for Hamas’ crimes.

Jews of all people should understand the potential consequences of demonizing an entire population.

Justin Trudeau and other Western leaders have been quick to condemn Hamas and support Israel, though they caution that International Humanitarian Law (IHL) must be obeyed.

 Yet it is clear that Israel is violating IHL. The blockade of water, food, and medicines (and more arguably, fuel) is collective punishment of civilians – not just a breach of IHL, but also thoroughly immoral and indeed a contravention of Jewish law. The demand by Israel that over a million civilians move from northern to southern Gaza is likely a violation – and most certainly inhumane. Even so, Trudeau, Biden, and other leaders issue Israel a free pass. They are spinelessly silent on Israel’s flouting of IHL and they have failed to press for a ceasefire.

Hamas’ murders and abduction of hostages, while horrendous, did not come out of thin air. When I spoke to my sister on October 7, she reacted (albeit before she knew the full extent of what happened): “I guess we [Israelis] deserve this – but that doesn’t make it any easier when you’re going through it.” She knows that Israeli settlers on the West Bank have for years committed terrorist attacks on and murders of Palestinian civilians, usually with impunity. Unlike terrorism by Hamas, they are almost never condemned in the West.

As does Michael Sfard, my sister acknowledges that responsibility for the war is not one-sided.  If the conflict is ever to be resolved, both sides and their supporters must first own up to their crimes."



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