Transcript and written statements, media conference, Thursday, January 8,
"Prominent Canadians Speak Out Against the War on Gaza"
JUDITH DEUTSCH, President of Science for Peace,
Member of the Steering Committee, Independent Jewish
URSULA FRANKLIN, CC, FRSC, University Professor
Emerita, Senior Fellow Massey College
ANTON KUERTI, Concert pianist, Officer of the Order
MICHAEL MANDEL, author and Professor of International
Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, University of Toronto
JUDITH WEISMAN, Psychotherapist, member of
Independent Jewish Voices, founding member of Not In Our
Name, Jews for a Just Peace and The Jewish Women's
Committee to End the Occupation
DAVID ORCHARD, farmer, author, twice leadership
candidate for the former Progressive Conservative Party
and Liberal candidate in the 2008 federal election
DAVID ORCHARD: I'd like to welcome everyone here
today. Thank you all for coming out to this packed, full
house we have here today.
We're here today to raise our voices against the
horrendous assault being waged against the people of
Gaza, to condemn the Canadian government's refusal to
speak against this war against civilians, and to call
for an immediate ceasefire.
Each of our presenters will speak for a few minutes
and then we will open up for questions from the press. I
will be chairing the session. We will proceed in
alphabetical order and I will speak last. Then we will
go to the question and answer period and media will also
have time afterwards for interviews with each of the
It gives me great pleasure to be among this wonderful
group of people who have joined us today.
Judith Deutsch is the President of Science for Peace.
She is a member of the Steering Committee of Independent
Jewish Voices and was a participant in the Gaza
Community Mental Health Programme/World Health
Organization international conference, "Siege and Mental
Health...Walls vs. Bridges," at the end of October, 2008
in Gaza City and Ramallah. Judith was active yesterday
too in the sit-in, I believe, at the Israeli consulate.
So, Judith, we're going to start with you and it's a
pleasure to welcome you.
JUDITH DEUTSCH (written statement): I am a Canadian
Jewish health professional appalled by the ever
worsening treatment of the people of Gaza. The words
"never again," so fraught with memories of the
Holocaust, means "never again" for all peoples. Richard
Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the
Occupied Palestinian Territory, international law expert
at Princeton University, and himself a Jew, said that it
is not inappropriate to suggest "that this pattern of
conduct [in Gaza] is a holocaust-in-the-making." He
continues that his is a "desperate appeal to the
governments of the world and to international public
opinion to act urgently to prevent these current
genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective
Here in Canada, similar to in the United States and
Europe, there is a news blackout about the Jewish
opposition to Israel's egregious persecution of the
Palestinian people and to the voices of Palestinians
themselves. Silencing our voices means silencing the
facts about past and present. Silence means that the
Palestinians are not empathized with as individual
people. Silence means complicity in mass murder and in
the mass deception that Israel is victim even though
Israel has the fourth largest military in the world and
has the third largest nuclear arsenal — and is now using
cluster bombs and phosphorus shells in Gaza — and possibly
depleted uranium. Gideon Levy, the eloquent Ha'aretz
columnist, calls Israel "the bully of the Middle East."
Silence means ignorance about the devastating
blockade that began in earnest in 2006. When Hamas was
elected in early 2006, James Wolfensohn, Jewish, former
head of the World Bank and U.S. Special Envoy to Gaza,
warned that the new unity government needed to be
supported. He stated that "the collapse of health
services and the education system, which addresses the
needs of one million children, would be a total failure
for the new government, and would have tragic
consequences for the Palestinian people. This should not
be permitted under any circumstances." Canada was the
first country to withdraw support. It is so tempting to
forget about Canadian complicity in this crime of
crippling an entire society.
Even before this invasion, 85% of Gaza's 1.5 million
people depended on humanitarian aid for securing their
basic needs. 80% of the population lived below the
poverty line. 70% of infants aged nine months suffering
from anemia. 13% to 15% of Gaza's children are stunted
in growth due to malnutrition. Amnesty International
reported that Israel even barred infants from leaving
Gaza for life-saving cardiovascular surgery this last
October and November.
One of Israel's first acts on December 27 was to
destroy the medical supply depot for the Shifa Hospital.
Physicians for Human Rights/Israel describes a nightmare
situation of hospitals without power, without basic
equipment, without anesthetics. A doctor for Medical Aid
for Palestine reports that "they're drawing blood and
there's no alcohol, there's no gauze so they are using
cotton which sticks to the wounds." (Dr. Fikr Shaltoot
for The Guardian, 29 December, 2008). Half of the
ambulance fleet is non-functioning due to lack of fuel.
Helicopters target ambulances and kill medics, and
Israel prevents evacuation of the wounded. Foreign
medical teams are unable to reach health facilities.
PHR has collected personal testimonies: in one family
six members sustained injury (from age 3 to 80). Because
of the damages to their home, the family is now outside
in an open area without food, water, light or heat. The
family members cannot move more than several meters from
where they are because every movement, even to look for
water, is met by artillery fire. The family cannot be
evacuated because the army has not allowed evacuation of
wounded and trapped victims.
Last October, I attended the Gaza Community Mental
Health Programme (GCMHP)/World Health Organization (WHO)
conference on the siege. The building has just suffered
extensive damage. Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, Director of the
GCMHP, speaks about the constant humiliation of
Palestinians at the hands of Israeli soldiers. Almost
every Palestinian family has been touched by war,
torture and imprisonment. "For many of these children
the most excruciating ordeal was to see their fathers
being beaten by Israeli soldiers — and not offering any
resistance. This is truly a terrifying experience...
This will have a lasting impact on any observer, but
particularly on children. No wonder the Palestinian
child will see his model not in his father, but in that
soldier; and no wonder his language will be the language
of force and his toys and games the toys and games of
Listen to the words of Nurit Peled-Elhanan, whose 13
year-old daughter was killed by a Palestinian suicide
bomber. Dr. Elhanan is the recipient of the Sakharov
peace prize. "I have never experienced the suffering
Palestinian women undergo every day, every hour. I don't
know the kind of violence that turns a woman's life into
constant hell. This daily physical and mental torture of
women who are deprived of their basic human rights and
needs of privacy and dignity, women whose homes are
broken into at any moment of day and night, who are
ordered at a gun-point to strip naked in front of
strangers and their own children..."
And what of the opposition that is conveniently
ignored? Yesterday I was one of a group of Toronto
Jewish women at the Israeli consulate, saying "Not in
Our Name" to the massacre and siege. Jews in all parts
of Canada abhor Israel's wars and occupation.
Why is it that we do not hear anything of the Israeli
opposition? In Israel, the Israeli Committee Against
House Demolitions on December 27 stated that, "The
responsibility for the suffering both in Israel and Gaza
rests squarely with successive Israeli governments,
Labor, Likud and Kadima alike..." Many have pointed out
that both the PLO and Hamas implicitly recognize
Israel's right to exist in affirming a two-state
solution. Israel does not reciprocate.
500 Israelis have just called for the international
community to demand an immediate ceasefire: "As if the
occupation was not enough, the brutal ongoing repression
of the Palestinian population, the construction of
settlements and the siege of Gaza — now comes the
bombardment of the civilian population: men, women, old
folks and children... Israel has returned to openly
committing war crimes..."
There are the 500 Sderot residents, who just signed a
petition calling for an end to the IDF operation in Gaza
and renewal of dialogue between Israel and Hamas. Why do
we never hear about them?
I will close by quoting the words of Mustafa
Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian
National Initiative, who wasn't even accorded the
courtesy of meeting anyone in the Canadian government
during his last visit here.
On December 29, he wrote of Gaza's Guernica pointing
out that Israel carried out provocative attacks
throughout the period of the ceasefire and did not live
up to any of its obligations of ending the siege and
allowing vital humanitarian aid to resume in Gaza. He
states: "There is another reason — beyond the internal
politics of Israel — why this attack has been allowed to
occur: the complicity and silence of the international
community... Israel may be pulling the trigger ending
hundreds, perhaps even thousands of lives this week, but
it is the apathy of the world and the inhumane tolerance
of Palestinian suffering which allows this to occur."
"The evil only exists because the good remain
DAVID ORCHARD: Our next presenter is a woman who
needs no introduction. It's Dr. Ursula Franklin who is a
Pearson Medal of Peace recipient and a Companion of the
Order of Canada, a research physicist and an author
renowned for her work on technology and human rights.
URSULA FRANKLIN: Thank you, David. I'm glad to be
with you. I am not glad for the need to be here. I have
been on too many of these panels, deploring too many
things. Anton Kuerti, distinguished members of Science
for Peace, Michael Mandel or other friends among "the
usual suspects" — all of us have been on too many of these
panels having far too little impact.
Having heard the wonderful, precise and up-to-date
presentation of Judith Deutsch, I would like to take
advantage of my age — being probably the oldest among
you — and remind you of what I think goes beyond all the
horrors of day by day in Gaza and in the rest of the
world: and that is an incredible betrayal of the very
people who were in fact — and are in fact — constantly cited
as a justification for what is going on now, i.e. the
victims of war and oppression, and their memory.
When the war ended in 1945 — and I do remember the
bombing of Berlin with unpleasant acuteness, especially
when I think of people now in Gaza, and their
helplessness — there was a global moment of clarity. When
the horrors of what happened in the concentration camps,
that took all my maternal family, began to be revealed,
there were two quite universal reactions. One was: "had
we only known" and the second: "never again."
But "never again" did not mean solely that no Jews
should ever again be in a concentration camp. "Never
again" meant no human beings should ever again be in a
position where naked power could determine their lives,
nor that there would ever again be people among us who
do not matter. And I remind you that Jews were not the
only ones in the concentration camps.
But what united all in this moment of history, be it
those who were supposedly the innocent bystanders and
didn't know, be it those who had suffered and lost their
health and families, or those who like me were
spared — the young — ALL felt there was a moral mortgage on
their lives, and that it would be there for the rest of
their lives. They felt compelled to act on this "never
again," to act on the " had we only known." Discharging
some of this mortgage meant for them to try and
translate the "never again" into political reality and
to draw conclusions from the knowledge of the past and
of the present.
There was a moral mortgage on those like George
Ignatieff, who said, "My gifts have to be used to
develop international instruments that make it
impossible for evil doers to be undetected and
What is going on right now, I see with absolute,
profound sadness and depression as a betrayal of a
generation that attempted to learn and draw conclusions
from the holocaust It is a betrayal of all those around
the world who not only said, yes, there has to be safety
for those of Jewish faith, there had to be reparations
for those who were hurt, to the extent to which
reparations are possible, but that there must also be
knowledge, consciousness, legal and political
instruments and the will to make "never again" both
global and compelling.
What we see now, beyond the horrors of the day, is
contempt, disregard and the complete betrayal of a
generation that worked for peace. Some of those are
here; some of them are my friends. There are women
across the world united in their wish to see, not only
their own children, but everybody's children safe. They
are the people who know intellectually, legally, and in
terms of the evidence of the past fifty years, that
making somebody insecure does not make even the most
It doesn't matter whether you believe in God, Allah
or in a great cheese in the sky, the plain evidence is
that more war, more violence, more weapons produce
further suffering, further wars and more extensive
destructions. It is a betrayal on those who not only
pointed this out, but lived lives that showed that other
ways of social and political ordering are possible. And
we should not forget that other ways are possible and
We have seen incredible progress over a wide variety
of social change. None of them were obtained by
What I bring to you, to this press conference, is
this: do ask for a ceasefire in Gaza, do say that the
Canadian government has international obligations to
prevent war and violence, but do not forget the
obligations to the past.
Please make it clear that when people suffer from
brutal powers outside their control, no "bystander"
ought to forget or deny the moral mortgage on those who
were spared war and violence. The obligations enshrined
in the "never again" are systemic, and global, They do
compel all of us not ask on which side of the fence, the
war, the barrier, the house of worship a child was born
before extending our care and respect.
And in your deliberations, in your reports, please do
not go easy on those who govern in the shadow of the
mortgage of the past, which is a moral and binding
obligation. It is not like the documents in the recent
mortgage crisis, when institutions could offer loans to
people who knew they could not pay them back.
On the contrary, within a generation blessed with
health, with advances in technology, with great efforts
to bring education, schooling and opportunity to those
who did not have it before, many have tried hard to pay
back some of the moral mortgage, by working for a
The world community has developed and ratified
international and nation legal and practical instruments
designed to constrain violence and brutality. Their
blatant disregard cannot remain unreported and
It is an immoral and despicable default of the
elected and the non-elected decision makers in Canada
and the world not to acknowledge that their conduct and
behaviour has to be constrained by these new
instruments. As journalists, don't allow the powerful to
forget the moral mortgage that is upon them; they live
and work because of what those before them had
Thus I would ask you not to forget the context of
your "news" .
DAVID ORCHARD: Thank you Dr. Franklin. Our next
speaker is Dr. Anton Kuerti.
Dr. Kuerti is a nationally and internationally
acclaimed Canadian concert pianist and recording artist.
He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a human
rights activist. It's a great pleasure, Anton, to have
you with us today.
ANTON KUERTI: It's a pleasure David. It's also an
I am not an expert on the Middle East and I am not an
expert on what is a war crime. But I think I can
recognize one when I see one. The utter contempt with
which Israel is attacking schools, universities, medical
clinics, aid missions, and their pattern of targeted
assassinations year after year, after year leaves no
doubt in my mind that this is an unspeakable atrocity.
I ask you to make a little thought experiment. What
if it were the other way around? What if F16s and
helicopters and 1,000 lb bombs had killed almost 1,000
Israelis? Would the world sit there and just say it's
all Israel's fault because they keep assassinating a few
people? No. Certainly, there would be immense opposition
and outrage all over the world. And nobody would hang
the Security Council up and say, "No, no. We've got to
make this absolutely evenhanded." They would say, "This
has got to stop."
I'd like to read to you, a paragraph. Since I'm in
the arts, I thought it might be nice to turn this a
little bit also in an artistic direction. I'd like to
read to you a paragraph from the book Birds Without
Wings by Louis de Bernières, who also wrote Captain
"Where does it all begin? History has no beginnings.
For everything that happens becomes the cause or pretext
for what occurs afterwards. And this chain of cause or
pretext stretches back to the Paleolithic age when the
first Cain of one tribe murdered the first Abel of
another. All war is fratricide and there is therefore,
an infinite chain of blame that winds its circuitous
route back and forth across the path and under the feet
of every people and every nation, so that a people who
are the victims of one time become the victimizers a
generation later. And newly liberated nations resort
immediately to the means of their former oppressors. The
triple contagions of nationalism, utopianism and
religious absolutism effervesce together into an acid
that corrodes the moral metal of a race. And it
shamelessly, and even proudly, performs deeds that it
would deem vile if they were done by any other."
I'm afraid that really applies to the present
situation. We have what I think is basically a red
herring saying, "Well, Israel had to defend itself."
Of course, every nation has a right to defend itself,
but at what price, at what cost? I mean just as two
years ago the entire nation of Lebanon and whole decades
of attempting to make progress and build a decent
country, were simply eradicated in a few days of
murderous assaults. I mean, there has to be some
proportionality between what has been done to you and
what you are doing to others. Otherwise, it just
If fear that if indeed the tables were turned and
Israel was experiencing this incredible assault, I fear
very much that the atomic bombs would fly. The fact that
they have made these bombs is already a condemnation of
their society. Making them is morally the same as using
them. None of the major powers have attempted, as they
did with Iraq, to say, "No. This country must not have
nuclear weapons." I don't know why that hasn't happened.
I think the missiles being sent by Hamas, just as
much as the Israeli assault, are signs of desperation.
But I think the desperation of the Gazans is much
greater than the desperation of the Israelis, because
the Gazans really have suffered the most horrendous
deprivation over many years, not just the last 12 days.
Even during the ceasefire Israel assassinated 22 people
in Gaza. They continued to murder people in the West
Bank, although no rockets were emanating from there. I
think as despicable as the rockets being sent into the
civilian population of Israel were and are, they are a
desperate cry for help that the world chose to ignore.
Israel's behaviour makes me ashamed of being a Jew
and Canada's servile support of the United States
position that it's all Hamas' fault makes me ashamed of
being a Canadian.
DAVID ORCHARD: Thank you, Dr. Kuerti.
The next speaker is going to be Michael Mandel. Now,
Michael Mandel is an author and professor of
international law at Osgoode Hall Law School. He has
taught at several of Italy's major universities and has
been a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Law of the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
MICHAEL MANDEL (written statement): I'm absolutely
sure the vast majority of Canadians, like the vast
majority of the people of the world and even a
substantial minority of Israeli Jews, are simply
appalled at what has been going on for the past two
weeks in Gaza.
I can't add anything useful on this so I want to use
my time to say something about the Israeli government's
justification: namely self-defence against the rockets
and mortars fired into Israel from Gaza.
I think we all understand the importance here of
proportionality and necessity as moral and legal
requirements of self-defence. These rockets and mortars,
over a period of six months of truce did not kill or
injure one Israeli. And nobody was hurt from rocket fire
from Gaza between the end of the truce on the 19th of
December and the Israeli attack on the 27th.
In the entire period of October, 2001 (when the
mortar and rocket attacks from Gaza began), to the start
of hostilities by Israel on December 27, 2008, rocket
fire killed a total of 14 Israelis. But if that's
tragic, and it is, what about the fact that during the
same period Israel killed 1700 Palestinians in Gaza?
So everybody understands it's disproportionate to
kill 700 Palestinians, including 219 children, and to
wound more than 3,000 to protect against the really
minimal threat these rockets represent.
Even more important is the question of necessity.
It's clear to everyone that there were diplomatic
alternatives open to Israel — mainly an end to the siege
and the blockade — to avoid an end to the truce. It seems,
however, these would not have served the purely
political goals of crippling Hamas as a political
adversary, showing "toughness" on the part of Kadima and
Labour in the current election campaign, and other such
unacceptable grounds for war, in other words for killing
so many people.
So this war fails the test of self-defence because it
was neither necessary nor proportionate.
But there is an even more fundamental principle of
moral and legal self-defence and that is the
self-evident one that an aggressor has no right to
self-defence, in the sense that an aggressor cannot rely
on self-defence to excuse violence perpetrated in
defence of his aggression.
Of course, Nuremberg also established the principle
that aggressive war is "the supreme international crime"
and the Charter of the United Nations enshrined this
principle by banning wars of aggression.
Though the governments of Israel and America and
their allies (including Canada) have tried to portray
Hamas as the aggressor, and the mass media,
unfortunately, have faithfully parroted this line, this
is really the exact opposite of the situation.
The central, inescapable fact here is the illegal
military occupation of the Palestinian territories, an
aggression against the Palestinian people now of over 41
years duration — talk about "enough is enough"
— as the
Israelis say about the rockets in Gaza.
The occupation is illegal because it is not in
self-defence (which is the only justification for an
occupation), but for the purpose of colonization. Israel
is there for the Palestinians' land and everybody knows
it. Colonization is not only contrary to the Geneva
Conventions, it is a war crime in Canada; you can look
it up in our Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.
That's why the International Court of Justice, in its
2004 decision, condemned as illegal not only Israel's
"separation wall" which cuts deeply through Palestinian
territory including East Jerusalem, but every settlement
one inch over the Green line, otherwise known as the
The withdrawal from Gaza by the Sharon government in
2005 (after killing off the Hamas leadership) doesn't
change this one bit, morally or legally. This is not
only because Israel solemnly declared in the Oslo
Accords that the West Bank and Gaza were "a single
territorial unit, the integrity and status of which will
be preserved during the interim period" (that is, until
a final settlement is reached) and not only because the
withdrawal from Gaza went hand in hand with a
strengthening of the occupation of the West Bank, with a
more than compensating increase in the number of
West Bank Hamas legislators are still in Israeli
jails, along with about 8,000 other Palestinians
(compared to one soldier in Gaza captivity).
But the deeper reason the withdrawal from Gaza did
not affect the situation is because the people of Gaza
and the West Bank are in fact one people. Any attempt to
separate them is entirely artificial.
Imagine if you can that a foreign army has conquered
your country and is then forced by resistance to
withdraw from a part of it, but you continue to fight
from the liberated part to free your — literally — brothers
and sisters in the still occupied part. Is it really
possible that you have been transformed into an
aggressor and the aggressors into victims?
But, of course Israel didn't just withdraw from Gaza,
it blockaded and besieged it. A blockade is not only a
humanitarian atrocity, it is also an act of
aggression — that's what Israel called it when Egypt
threatened to block the Straits of Tiran before the 1967
war, and Israel didn't have to try and smuggle in the
bare essentials through tunnels to survive.
And on what was the blockade based? And on what,
ultimately is this attack based? It is based explicitly
on the fact that Israel cannot abide Hamas in government
in Gaza. Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tzipi
Livni, made this clear when she said there could be no
truce because that would "legitimize" Hamas.
This, even though Hamas was elected as the government
of the whole of the Palestinian Authority (including the
West Bank) fairly and legally, according to all the
official international observers.
So how does one defend killing all these people in an
attempt to overthrow a legitimate government? Israel
gives two reasons, familiar to us all by now.
First, because Hamas is a "terrorist" organization.
But, according to all the legal definitions of
"terrorist" that I am aware of, terrorists are those who
deliberately kill civilians for illegal political
ends — in this case the Israelis, not to mention the
Americans, have deliberately killed ten times as many
civilians as Hamas has.
Second, because Hamas doesn't "recognize Israel's
right to exist." Of course, it is willing to make peace
with Israel in the sense of a long-term truce — stop the
rockets if you will — which it offered immediately upon
being elected in 2006 and has offered continuously ever
But Israel says this is not good enough — Israel
insists that Hamas recognize Israel's "right to exist,"
in other words its moral legitimacy — as a Jewish state
that has displaced millions of Palestinians. In other
words, Israel won't make peace with Hamas until Hamas
converts to Zionism! With nothing in return. It's not
only that this is impossible. It's that it's
preposterous. It shows Israel can't be sincere, that it
doesn't really want peace, but the land, at any cost in
other people's blood, and even some of its own. Israel
demonized Arafat and toyed with Abbas and now they are
seeking to marginalize and destroy Hamas. All to avoid
the Palestinians realizing their right to
I want to close by asking us to imagine how different
the world would be if the Palestinians were recognized
as equal human beings — just equal, not superior — with a
merely equal right to self-determination, and
self-defence. How different the mass media's reporting
would be. As an ashamed Israeli journalist once wrote,
Israel, with all its might, is asking for pity, but the
Palestinians are only asking for justice and their
rights under international law.
DAVID ORCHARD: Our next speaker is Judith Weisman.
Judith Weisman is a Toronto psychotherapist, a member of
Independent Jewish Voices, and a founding member of Not
In Our Name, Jews for a Just Peace and the Jewish
Women's Committee to End the Occupation of Palestine.
JUDITH WEISMAN: Thank you.
I think everything that's important has already been
said, except for one thing, and that is that this didn't
just start when Israel began to invade and bomb Gaza.
This didn't just start when Israel invaded Lebanon. This
didn't just start when Israel invaded the West Bank and
Gaza and the Golan Heights. And it didn't just start in
1948, when Israel ethnically cleansed over 700,000
Palestinians from their own homes and homeland and
killed many of them in the process.
It started at least in 1897. And what started it was
the virus and the horror that I now consider is Zionism.
Zionism is the scourge of the Jewish people. It is
Zionism that has created all of this. It is the Zionists
with their nationalism and with their rejection of all
that is good within Judaism who have created a horror in
I came today — actually my arm had to be twisted,
because I have not been that well — but I had to speak out
once again. I had to say what is in my heart because I,
a Jew and a former Zionist, who was a committed Zionist
and wanted to live my life in Israel, as a supporter of
Israel, wanted to live in a Kibbutz, where I would live
on the land of another people, not knowing and not
understanding what it was about. It took me many years
for the scales literally to fall off my eyes and to see
what Israel had wrought among the Palestinians, and the
influence that Israel now has around the world, and the
power that Israel and the United States together are
using to control so much of what is happening in the
I'd like to end by reading a poem that came to me and
is written by Lawrence Boxall, who is an anti-war
activist and a member of Jews for a Just Peace in
Listen, O Israel, for the dull, dim thud
of your hard'ning heart, drained of joy.
Amidst dying embers of compassion
for the orphans and the widows
whose protruding round eyes
stare from starved faces
at your abundant good fortune,
you offer the sulphurous fumes of arrogance
Hear, O Israel, the stunned, dull tones of the
wresting his dead baby from the cold arms
of his dead wife.
Your soul, O Israel,
hardened-immune to the suffering stranger,
chills my blooded veins, for you forget
"you were once a stranger in the land of Egypt"
was a reminder to take pity on the stranger.
Instead, you have become as Pharaoh and his hosts,
to escape the pain of the stranger that stares
accusingly at you.
Your young, full-bellied army tortures the stranger
even as you delight in the stranger's humiliation
and witness your cruelty with banal calm eye,
efficient, sophisticated, consummated.
My tears, O Israel,
flow hot and flow cold
as ice and fire dance, prance, tear through my mind
maddened, maddening to watch the soldiers of Pharaoh
emblazoned with Magen Dovid, the Star of David,
hardened like steel
against the vulnerable soft flesh of your victims,
all the while
oblivious to the lapping sound of the waters of the
I choke on the fear of what you have wrought
to open the flood of this sea
that will consume both you and me.
Hear, O Israel, All is Vanity and we are all
Humanity is all one.
DAVID ORCHARD: I am here today to call for an
immediate ceasefire and a halt to the horrific violence
being waged largely against the civilian population of
Gaza is a small territory about the size of Montreal
with roughly the same population, about one and a half
million people. Eighty per cent of the population of
Gaza are refugees. The average wage is about two dollars
a day. This population is under all-out attack by one of
the most powerful military machines in the world. For
the most part, the population has no means of defending
itself and for 13 days and nights has huddled in terror
trying to avoid the bombs and the missiles.
Schools have been hit; mosques, homes, markets,
playgrounds and the Gaza university. When the world
community at the UN tried to stop the violence, the call
for a ceasefire was blocked by the US. And Canada, to
its shame, has fully supported the US, actually opposing
the call for an immediate ceasefire.
These actions by Canada and the US amount to a green
light for the killing to continue. They make our
governments complicit in the crimes being waged in Gaza.
So we are here to speak up for all Canadians who
can't sleep these nights, for all Canadians who weep,
for all Canadians who are ashamed of our government's
position and to add our voices to those of the
Europeans, to the voices of most of the world, in
calling for both an immediate ceasefire, an end to the
blockade of Gaza and an immediate opening up of the
crossings to let in desperately needed food, fuel,
medicines and the basic necessities of life.
Thank you very much.