I’ve been home from Israel and Palestine for about a month now. Since getting back I’ve done a lot sleeping, caught up with friends and family, ate some indian food, watched too much Netflix, and I’ve taken Freya for lots of walks. I’ve also spent a lot of time processing my time away. What did I learn? What was my impact? How should I react when hear from friends in Jayyus about the most recent set of military incursions, night raids, and senseless child arrests? What can I do here in Canada? How do I keep walking in solidarity from thousands of miles away?
I’ve also had some friends and family members ask me what they can do to support an end to the occupation, the protection human rights and international law in the region, and an end to one of the oldest conflicts our world has ever seen.
So a month later, here are a my thoughts…. Three things that people like you and I can do here in Canada and around the world to support a “just peace” for both Israelis and Palestinians.
1. READ THE NEWS WITH A GRAIN OF SALT… OR MAYBE A BUCKET OF SALT.
Our media here in Canada does an extremely poor job of painting a realistic picture of the conflict. As I’ve spoken about in previous posts, a Palestinian who is shot by an Israeli soldier is rarely considered newsworthy. When a Palestinian child is arrested and held without charge, when the military impedes a student from getting to school, when homes are demolished, when tear gas is shot through a family’s window in the middle of the night… these stories do not make international headlines. Acts of violence committed against Israelis are covered at an alarmingly disproportionate rate, and if your only understanding of the conflict is coming from western media then you are missing a huge piece of the story.
Another reason to read our news with a grain a salt is that it tends to paint an overly cohesive picture of the Israeli and Palestinian public opinion. I would have never known before my trip how many Israelis I was going to encounter who were dedicating their lives to ending the occupation, supporting human rights, and working in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Netanyahu may be the Israeli voice that gets the most air time, but he most certainly does not represent the full spectrum of Israeli public opinion. Similarly, I would have never guessed how many Palestinians I would meet who were so openly critical of both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. There are a spectrum of views in every society and Palestine and Israel and no exceptions.
Here are some alternative news sources that can help to balance out the often one-sided narrative we get here at home:
- B’Tselem is a widely respected Israeli human rights organization that frequently updates its website with press releases, photos, videos and statistics about the situation in the occupied territories: www.btselem.org
- EAPPI is the organization I was working for in Palestine and Israel. The organization’s blog is frequently updated with stories and perspectives from EAs currently in the field: blog.eappi.org
- UNOCHA – oPt is the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied territories. Although this is no traditional news source, UNOCHA releases weekly and monthly reports on the the situation in the occupied territories that are easy to subscribe to by email: www.ochaopt.org
- Haaretz is a left-wing Israeli newspaper that often sheds light on issues we don’t hear about in Canada. The newspaper’s website will often ask you to subscribe to view their articles, but if you follow Haaretz on Facebook, these articles are available free of charge: www.haaretz.com
- The Palestine Moniter consists of a team of international journalists based in West Bank who aim to be “a counterweight to the bias against Palestine found in many international news sources”: www.palestinemonitor.org
We have a federal election coming up in October of this year. In our last two federal elections about 40% of eligible voters didn’t vote. Amongst young people aged 18-24, more than 60% didn’t turn up to the polls. Now I’m the first person to point out flaws in our electoral system. It’s a system that often perpetuates the vast inequalities that exist in our society, and it’s easy to become disillusioned and not vote at all. However, when it comes to the way our government is living out its foreign policy, I think voting in this upcoming election is extremely important.
Canada’s foreign policy on Israel and Palestine is much more balanced than one would think from listening to our Prime Minister’s stance on the conflict. During the Gaza war this past summer, as UN designated shelters were bombed and more than 2,000 Palestinians lost their lives, our government stood idly by. The only piece of our foreign policy I heard on repeat during this time was that Israel has a right to defend itself. Our government provides a substantial amount of monetary aid to the Palestinian people, but one of the common sentiments I heard from Palestinians I met was “we don’t need aid, we need respect”. I hope in October we can elect a government that will not shy away from condemning human rights abuses, regardless of the perpetrators. I hope we can elect a government who will begin to represent the Canadian people by being well-informed, thinking critically, and giving a damn about international humanitarian law, rather than blindly supporting a government that is currently under investigation for war crimes.
3. THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU BUY.
If you’ve read much about about international campaigns that aim to support an end to the occupation, then you’ve probably heard of BDS or Boycott Divestment Sanctions. The BDS movement argues that citizens around the world should boycott Israeli goods, divest from corporations complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights, and calls for international sanctions against the Israeli government until the country meets its obligations under international law.
I’ve met Israelis who are in full support of BDS as well as Israelis who are understandably against it. Personally, I’m not sure. I don’t see any solutions emerging from this conflict in which the state of Israel does not exist. Many of the most hard working and diligent peace activists I’ve met have been Israelis. There is also the argument that boycotting Israel will leave the major corporations and political leaders that are spearheading the occupation untouched , while only really punishing those on the lower end of the income scale like students, artists, or working families, many of whom already oppose the occupation.
In spite of this, I still believe that the way we spend our money has the potential to create change. Two economic tactics that I fully support are:
- Boycotting goods and services that come from Israeli settlements and the companies that supply them.
- Supporting the Palestinian people by purchasing fair trade Palestinian goods.
More information about boycotting settlement goods:
- The United Nations’ call for a boycott on international businesses profiting from Israeli settlements.
- The United Church of Canada’s “Unsettling Goods Campaign“
- A fact sheet on settlement products sold in Canada from Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME).
- When settlement goods are sold at Canadian retailers their labels currently read “Made in Israel” making it difficult for consumers differentiate between products that are manufactured in sovereign Israel and products that were manufactured in the occupied territories. To learn more about the the United Church of Canada’s campaign to have settlement products clearly labelled, click here.
More information on buying fair trade Palestinian products:
- Zatoun is a non-profit organization that sells fair trade Palestinian olive oil, soaps, and spices with proceeds going directly to “Palestinian farmers, children living in occupied Palestine and to create awareness for peace in Palestine”
- Canaan Fair Trade is a Palestinian enterprise that sells fair trade Palestinian olive oil, soaps, spreads, almonds, couscous and more.
- Ghassan’s Gift Shop is owned and operated by 18-year-old Ghassan Al Jabari, a Palestinian teenager living in Hebron. On his website Ghassan sells hand made pottery, glassware and embroidery, most of which are hand made and locally sourced.
So there you have it. It’s been wonderful writing to you all… Thank you so much for reading! In the coming weeks, I’ll begin doing presentations about my experiences living in the occupied territories. If you’re part of a group, church, or organization that you think would be interested in this type of presentation then please don’t hesitate to be in touch by email or using the form below. I’d be thrilled to come and spend some time with you.
Salaam Alaikum, Shalom Aleychem, Peace be with you,