Voices from Gaza; Voices from Canada


gaza rallyI have quite a collection of essays written by my students in Gaza from when I worked there in 2010.

As a writing project, I gave my senior students, the topic “When I am President” and then told them to write an essay explaining how they would tackle the job.

An interesting recurring theme kept popping up as I read through the essays. There seemed to be a consensus among the students that their first step would be to eliminate Hamas and Fatah, seeing them as being the main obstacles to both peace with Israel and to a good, decent life for Palestinians.

When we were discussing these points in class and the fact that I would share the contents of these essays, my students nervously asked that they remain anonymous.

It wasn’t reprisals from Israel they feared but from Hamas.

One of my students told me that when he was 15, he attended a rally in memory of Arafat. During this rally, he was arrested by Hamas and by their rough handling of him, had caused a severe injury to his shoulder which still was giving him pain 2 years later.

I know journalists who have been arrested and tortured by Hamas for covering non-Hamas promoted events.

When I see some so-called “peace activists” (but the ones who really aren’t interested in a peace that includes Israel) vehemently defending Hamas, calling them the “legitimate democratically elected government” of Gaza, I have to wonder which Gaza those people are talking about.

The election has long since been over and re-election dates have also long passed, and with it, any semblance of “legitimacy”.

The people are in a stranglehold and Hamas is achieving what seemed to be its goal: to further polarize the people away from building towards a real peace. This has been amply proven over and over again in recent events.

When you’re in Gaza, it is so polarized that it’s easy to not even realize it, something like the frog in boiling water. Because his temperature is rising slowly, he doesn’t really notice that he’s being boiled to death. To be fair, when you talk to some people in private, you do hear another voice, one that is not militantly anti-Israel

But I see this polarization even happening here in Canada. People attend “pro Palestinian” rallies thinking they are standing up for human rights, for peace and justice.

The rally starts out with talk of solidarity with oppressed people and then come the speeches blaming Israel for every wrong done and then, as a climax to the rallies, the Hamas supporters turn it into a real festival with Islamist chanting that none of the Canadian participants understand, but when I asked, I learned that they are chants to incite violence against Israel.

How can people who claim to be supporting the “democratic rights of Palestinians” participate in pro Hamas rallies? It’s no wonder so many equate “Hamas” with “the people of Gaza”.

I had tried to join a local Palestinian support group called Canada Palestine Association. The group was a mix of Muslims, agnostics, atheists and one who kept calling himself a Palestinian Christian, so I felt that I would be welcomed into this group. I paid my fees and began to attend meetings. After a couple of weeks, I got an email saying that they would vote as to whether or not I would actually be allowed to remain a member citing that my religious views were too extreme. Anyone who knows me knows that I am anything but extreme.

I am a Christian, I have never hidden that fact. I never dreamed that being in the same group as another who called himself a Christian would be a problem, especially since I had been sincerely supportive of their supposed cause of peace.

But perhaps I wasn’t hateful enough. Or maybe I wasn’t supportive enough of Hamas.

There was a vote and I was unceremoniously dumped, although they didn’t feel the need to return my membership fee.

This was before I had really started questioning everything, but was certainly part of what led me to take a closer look.

It disturbed me then and it disturbs me now to see how this Vancouver pro-Palestinian group shut me out. I don’t believe it was simply because I am a Christian, unless it’s because for me, it’s a matter of faith and not militancy.

Gaza doesn’t need more terrorists. Gaza needs people of vision and creativity who will pursue another way, a better way, to making a cooperative peace with Israel.

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A Canadian girl with a decidedly unCanadian experience, Linda is a seeker of truth and enlightenment. Formerly married to a Palestinian journalist from Gaza, she lived there and told their story well… until she visited Israel and confirmed her suspicion that she had been exposed to way too much propaganda. As Linda continues to seek truth and enlightenment, she now tells a very different story….one that shows Israel for who she really is – a place of warmth and hospitality….and freedom.