Hundreds of thousands worldwide marched this weekend to demand a ceasefire in Gaza and end the siege. We are filled with grief about the bombardment of the al-Ahli Baptist Hospital that killed and wounded hundreds of Palestinians.
While the source of the blast is disputed, the stage for such a tragedy was set by relentless Israeli attacks that forced thousands of civilians to seek refuge in a place that should be safe. Israel’s offensive punishes the civilian population for the Hamas attack. While IDF tanks pile up along the border, Israel’s bombardment has already killed more than 3,000 Palestinians.
Earlier this week, 801 scholars focusing on international law and conflict studies sounded the alarm about an impending genocide. New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights released a report with the same warning.
More than one million people — almost half the population of Gaza — have been displaced within the tiny coastal enclave. In the war’s first week, Israel cut food, water, and electricity to Gaza. Only now do we hear talks of reopening the Rafah crossing. Fuel reserves at all hospitals across Gaza are expected to run out, putting thousands of patients at risk. When will it end?
Let us be clear: these are war crimes. Human Rights Watch confirms Israel has rained down white phosphorus — a chemical weapon that burns flesh on contact — in densely-populated Gaza. Israel, which has lied before about breaking international law, denies the allegation.
On Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., almost 300 Jewish Voices for Peace protesters were arrested while staging a sit-in for a ceasefire. In Canada, Independent Jewish Voices-Canada and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East have echoed the demand. On Parliament Hill, the New Democratic Party has supported a ceasefire.
Israel ordered 1.1 million Palestinians to leave northern Gaza before a planned ground invasion. Some Israeli officials openly advocated for another Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe,” when over 700,000 Palestinians were uprooted, dispossessed, and expelled from their homes and land from 1947 to 1949. The invasion allows the Israeli state to commit ethnic cleansing, pushing Palestinians in northern Gaza into an even smaller open-air prison or beyond the Gaza borders.
Palestinian deaths in the besieged strip have already surpassed the number of civilians killed in the 51-day Israeli bombardment of 2014. Israel has fought five wars in Gaza since 2008. With no military solution in sight, Gaza is left to dust each time.
A ceasefire can lead to a political process that abolishes structures of occupation, ending the suffering of regular, working people, Jewish and Palestinian. We march the world over to demand an end to the sixteen-year-long siege on Gaza that has cut off its population, half of which are children, from the world.
Some Israeli authorities publicly use dehumanizing language — often a precursor to genocide — to make a case for collective punishment.
The President of Israel, Isaac Herzog, appears to hold the entire Palestinian population responsible for the tragedy in southern Israel on October 7.
On Oct. 17, Herzog posted and then deleted: “This is a struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle.”
The Israeli defence minister described Palestinians in Gaza as “human animals” while ordering a “complete siege” on Gaza.
These public pronouncements by officials promote racial tropes about savagery and barbarism, steeped in Islamophobia. The dehumanization of an entire population enables their mass killings, too.
Doctors Without Borders is right: “The indiscriminate bombing must stop. The egregious level of collective punishment currently being meted out on the people of Gaza must end.”
Canada’s support for Israel’s war on Gaza emboldens crimes against humanity. We march for a ceasefire and an end to the blockade. We refuse to look away from the threat of annihilation facing 2.3 million people in Gaza.
Click here to read and share the statement signed by dozens of civil society organizations and unions calling for an immediate ceasefire.
This article was first published in the Toronto Star.
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