If you think Palestine/Israel is “too complicated” to understand, read on

By Judy Haven 

Few thinking people in Canada think it’s a good idea for civilians to carry guns.

Yet Israel’s national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir is calling for Israelis (Jews) to carry guns because, in his words, it’s the only way to provide safety for them. “I call on the public who meet the criteria: carry guns.”

But isn’t the best way to provide safety not to invade another people’s land, destroy their homes and streets, cut off their water, electricity and phone lines and kill/maim women and children?

That is what the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) has just done in its two day “raid” on the Jenin Refugee Camp in the Occupied West Bank. It is the worst invasion of Jenin, the CBC World at Six radio news reported, in 20 years. Twenty years ago, the IDF invaded Jenin, killed 80 and wounded hundreds.

Of course, we hear virtually no Palestinian voices. First, we hear some Israeli general who was in charge who totally justified the relentless attacks because there are “terrorists” in Jenin. Then we hear a Canadian woman who works for the UN who is mortified by the attacks. Then we hear from Ben Gvir who says the best thing for Jews is to carry guns.

Is something wrong with this picture? I’d say so. In Jenin, twelve people are dead – for no reason at all in Jenin, and hundreds wounded attacked by drones manned with missiles, army bulldozers which razed homes and streets, and artillery – all carried out by the IDF.

Commentators now say that Israel doesn’t care about the potential collapse of the Palestine Authority (PA) – which is meant to police Jenin. Israel just wants to destroy the armed resistance of the Jenin Brigades.

Who are the Jenin Brigades?

Since 1967, Israel has forcibly and illegally occupied Palestinian land of the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Israel also controls everything that goes on in the Gaza strip – ensuring there is virtually no way in, or out, blockading goods from Gaza, preventing Gaza fishers to earn a serious living from fishing in the Mediterranean Sea. The UN has passed scores of motions calling for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories to no avail.

The Jenin Brigades are the resistance. People living under subjugation of a foreign power have a right to fight back. And that is what the people in Jenin want to do.

United Nations resolution 37/43, dated December 3, 1982, “reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.”

The international community is calling for some kind of international intervention, but as Marwan Bishara, a senior political analyst for Al Jazeera says, no international force has ever intervened against Israel on behalf the Palestinians. He said acerbically, “We are closer to divine intervention than international intervention.”

My own experience of Jenin was in 2010, when I went on a study tour of Palestine and Israel.  We went to the Freedom Theatre of Jenin – a theatre based on the principle that cultural expression is meaningful to all – especially to those living under foreign occupation. The theatre is a community space that encourages young people from Jenin to act in plays, to perform in films and to raise the level of awareness, pride and culture in the community.

I met the theatre’s co-founder, an Israeli with a Jewish mother and a Palestinian father, the late Juliano Mer Khamis. He noted, “What we do in the theatre is not trying to be a substitute or an alternative to the Palestinian resistance in the struggle for liberation, just the opposite. This must be clear… We join, by all means, the Palestinian struggle for liberation, which is our liberation struggle. We are not healers. We are not good Christians. We are freedom fighters.”

What happened in Tel Aviv?

A Palestinian deliberately drove a vehicle into a crowd near a mall. Eight people were injured. The 21-year-old-man was then shot dead by an armed Israeli civilian walking by.

Try to imagine, for one second, life under military and brutal occupation. Water, electricity and telecommunications are often cut by Israel. More than 60 percent of your town or village is unemployed. There is little food and no sanitation. Garbage and feces run down streets because Israel has destroyed infrastructure. At any time, Israeli troops can ride into your town or your refugee camp to destroy houses, fire guns at children or disabled people, and terrorize your relatives and friends. Not only that, the more than 600,000 Israeli-Jewish settlers who live in scores of illegal settlements (on land stolen from the Palestinians) attack you, kill your livestock, poison your wells, or pistol whip you and your family when you are harvesting your own olives.

Little wonder some Palestinians slip into Israel proper and target Israelis – I’m surprised there are not more of them.

Judy Haiven is a Halifax member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada, and a principal of Equity Watch, a Nova Scotia based non-profit that fights against discrimination, sexism and bullying at work.

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