Friday, October 13, 2023

Teaching the Conflict

If I were explaining it all to a class of 15-18 year olds - and I would because they need to know, here's what I would say: my imperfect lesson with my own stance front and centre but wide open for debate and disagreement, and in a way that would just take up just one class because kids need help to understand the issues and a place to openly discuss it and ask questions, but without it overriding the curriculum significantly.

Remember being told "two wrongs don't make a right"? It was a probably a long time ago. I haven't heard the saying in eons. But I think we need to bring it back. Consider what you think. 

First, some backstory. This is the clearest brief video I could find, but be aware it's seven years old. 

What benefit might there be to maintaining this conflict instead of coming to a resolution?

Currently, Palestinian people living under Israeli rule have to move through checkpoints to get to school or the store, many have lost their homes and workplaces, and life is very difficult. The illegal Israeli settlements on the land block them in. Be aware that just saying that is controversial. It's very complicated. 

For context, the Gaza Strip is about the size of Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge put together, but with four times the population, and the blockades and lack of fuel make it difficult to move around, and many of the buildings have been bombed and are uninhabitable. 

Last Saturday, Hamas, the extremist group in the Gaza Strip, attacked Israel in heinous ways: killing over 1,000 people including children in their homes and young people at a music festival, and taking over 100 hostages to be killed if Israeli attacks on Gaza continue.  

There's no evidence babies were beheaded by Hamas, but even Biden believed that propaganda. That's part of the terror machine: spreading stories even more barbaric than the truth. In times of chaos, always wait a while before trying to sort out what's true. Sometimes it takes a few days, sometimes years.

In retaliation, the Israeli government enacted airstrikes, killing over 1,500, and cutting off water, power, fuel, and food to the area. A couple Israelis went on Tiktok to taunt Palestinians by running water and turning their light on needlessly. What do you think motivates people to do that kind of thing in a conflict? We all have mirror neurons that typically provoke us to feel pain when others are suffering, but what makes them shut down enough to celebrate harm to people who might have nothing to do with Hamas? How do we learn to hate entire groups of people for the actions of a few?

Then Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, gave the citizens of the north side of Gaza  - over a million people - 24 hours to evacuate to the south, so that the military can destroy Hamas' infrastructure. Hamas told them all to stay put. 

This is going down today

The Israeli military is vastly superior to anything Hamas might have ready. What would you do if you lived there? What affects your decision? 

Imagine everyone in K-W having to move into Cambridge and find a place to stay today, but there's four times as many people and far fewer places to live and no public transit to take you and the bombing hasn't stopped. And you know, as you pack your things, just what you can carry (if you decide to leave), that your home will likely be gone soon. It's like a fire about to wipe out the area, except it's intentional

One military journalist reported that in any evacuation, many old people refuse to leave. You get there, and it's all the elderly, disabled, and confused left in the rubble. Are there people you know of that you'd be willing to take with you, knowing they don't have family to help? What would you do if your mom refused to leave her home? 

Someone's bound to ask, Why do any of them stay there in the first place?? For people living here, in a multicultural area with freedom to move around, and particularly for people who don't have any type of religious or traditional ties to this area, it can be really hard to explain how difficult this situation is. If Alberta wanted to take over Ontario, I'd be on the first bus to Québec! I have the means and my heart isn't attached to this province.

Many think it's impossible to get a million people out by the end of the day, so they might be hit by bombs. The area is 50% children - it's a very young demographic - so many of the dead or wounded will be children. Why do you think people care more about the children involved? Some hospitals have refused to try to evacuate patients, and many will stay with them. Healthcare workers called family and friends to say good-bye. The Israeli government just gave one hospital two hours to evacuate, which is pretty impossible. 

What would you do if you were in Israeli's parliament? How do you decide the best way to react after a terrorist attack? Israel's choice to retaliate, knowing citizens will be caught in the cross-fire, is being backed by the US, UK, France, Norway, Germany, Austria, India, Poland, Spain, EU, and Canada. Australia supports them, but specifically urged restraint.

On the other side, South Africa equates Palestine's situation to Apartheid and sees Hamas' attack as a response to prior attacks from Israel. Also on this side: Iran, Yemen, and Qatar. Saudi Arabia called for a two-state solution and an immediate halt to war.

Of course Hamas's choices don't represent the people of Palestine any more than PM Netanyahu's choices represents the people in Israel. There are people living in the area who are sickened by both of them. Many people living there want peace. Keep in mind that most people in Ontario don't want the Greenbelt paved, but here we are. A democracy doesn't always produce actions that are the will of the people. We can never forget that these are all human beings, just like us, desperate to protect themselves and their loved ones. 

And support from governments on either side is just official governmental support. For instance, in Norway, the Norwegian Refugee Council spoke up in opposition to their government's position in favour of Israeli retaliation:

"My colleagues inside Gaza confirm that there are countless people in the northern parts who have no means to safely relocate under the constant barrage of fire. The loss of civilian lives caused by deliberate or indiscriminate use of force is a war crime for which the perpetrators will have to answer. We fear that Israel may claim that Palestinians who could not flee northern Gaza can be erroneously held as directly participating in hostilities, and targeted. The US, the UK, the EU, and other Western and Arab Nations who have influence over the Israeli political and military leadership must demand that the illegal and impossible order to relocate is immediately rescinded."

And in Canada, MPP Sarah Jama put out this statement:

click the pic for easier reading

Views?? Is it a reasonable position? Should it be okay for a Canadian politician to speak against an official Canadian position? 

ETA: Extension activity (remember those??) - Read and comment on this article by Shree Paradkar in The Star, which ends with, "We need to know that to be on the right side of history requires that we grow a backbone in the present."

Some people have called Jama's statement anti-semitic because it blames Israel for their treatment of Palestinians over the last 75 years. Let's look up the word "semitic." What definitions did you find? Is it anti-semitic or in any way bigoted the way she called out the Israeli government? How would you express your concern for what's going on, given that there are many people in our area who are Jewish and many who are Palestinian. It's horrible that Israelis died and horrible that Palestinians died. Would you raise the larger context of the conflict, or stick just to what happened this week? Consider this online post by a Guelph professor:
"One can be horrified by the killing and kidnapping of children by terrorists and be horrified by the killing of an average of one child every four days for the last 15 years by an overwhelmingly superior military power. In fact, I can't believe everyone isn't."
"Dear Jewish friends: I love you all and want you to be safe. Especially today. Dear Muslim friends: I know you are not Hamas and don't blame you for their actions. I also want you to be safe. Dear Hamas and its supporters: fuck off."
Should politicians keep their views to themselves? Should teachers and professors??

Premier Ford said Jama should step down. Marit Stiles, the leader of the provincial NDP, called for an apology as "Jama's statement didn't align with the party's position," but didn't call for her removal as, "I understand the personal impact that is having on her as someone with Palestinian family members . . . At the same time, I have made it clear that all members of our caucus condemn Hamas' terror attacks." Jama responded,
"'I understand the pain that many Jewish and Israeli Canadians, including my own constituents, must be feeling. I apologize.' She also said she condemns 'terrorism by Hamas' and believes 'violence against civilians is never justified, and there is no military solution to this conflict.'" 

Thoughts on the call for apology or the apology itself?

That Ottawa prof got flack for his comment and said,

"It should not be a controversial position to not want innocents to suffer and die. But apparently, unless you specify which innocents, you're a monster. People suck."

And an old Jon Stewart clip is making the rounds again. What's going on with this part of the issue??

It's a complicated issue, for sure, but I think we need to be able to talk about it openly. I believe it's not at all anti-semitic to want people to no longer be made to live in barely survivable conditions because there's a violent extremist group in their midst. And I think better living conditions and freedom of movement and access to food, water, and fuel might actually prevent ongoing extremism. I don't say that because I have any animosity towards any people of the Jewish faith, but because it hurts me to see people suffer. Any people. 

And I'm heartbroken for those Israeli hostages. I can't see an exit strategy for Hamas since Israel is very unlikely to back down. 

This is a very dark day, knowing terrible things are about to happen.

ETA: Biden said, at the end of the day: "We can't lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians had nothing to do with Hamas." A little late.

And the International Red Cross said who are on the ground there said,

"Thousands of buildings have been destroyed. Mass casualties are unlike anything seen in past years. The medical system is on its knees. As Gaza loses power, hospitals lose power. Water cannot be pumped. Sewage systems will likely flood. People have nowhere else to go. International humanitarian law is clear: civilians mus be protected. Critical infrastructure mustbe protected. Even wars have limits."

Some yahoo responded, They deserve it for killing babies. Dude, the citizens did nothing to harm Israelis. They don't have any power to stop Hamas. They're just trying to survive. If the leader of your country harmed another country, do you and your family deserve to die because of it?? So frustrating. They're bombing hospitals, just like the Americans did in Iraq. It's got nothing to do with taking out the military; it's about destroying a people. 

So far, at 6 am on Oct. 14, at least 2,215 Palestinians, including 724 children, have been killed and 8,714 others wounded. Killing Palestinian children doesn't bring Israeli children back. 

ETA: Some James Baldwin, in 1979 in "Open Letter to the Born Again":
"The state of Israel was not created for the salvation of the Jews; it was created for the salvation of the Western interests. This is what is becoming clear (I must say that it was always clear to me). The Palestinians have been paying for the British colonial policy of 'divide and rule' and for Europe's guilty Christian conscience for more than thirty years." 


Anonymous said...

I would just tell any person the truth. The modern state of Israel was created by a UN resolution. Israel's Aran neighbours have tried repeatedly to destroy the state and want to kill all the Jews who live there. We have a similar situation in Eastern Europe. Just like the Palestinians who don't want an independent Israel, the Russians don't want an independent Ukraine, After all, Ukraine used to be part of Russia. The Ukrainians want their own country though, especially after all of the historical persecution they have faced. Just like the Jewish people, as a result of all of the historical persecution they have faced, want their own home. Doesn't seem all that complicated to me.

Marie Snyder said...

It's definitely a matter of colonialism making the world so much worse, as Jessica Wildfire explained yesterday. But now that we're here, sharing land with people we've invaded or people who invaded us, we have to find ways to live that don't include bombing the shit out of one another. Surely, after thousands of years of this fight over patches of land, we're smart enough to find ways to co-exist together, to stop allowing or enabling the suffering of others regardless which side they're on, or which side their parents are on or our flippin' ancestors.