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Warning: Middle-aged white men don't like to sign letters to protest Israel's destruction of Gaza

Reflections on ten days of picketing in Halifax

by Judy Haiven

On a sunny afternoon...
On a sunny afternoon...
Doug joins the picket
Doug joins the picket
Violet offers a person on a bike the chance to sign a letter to the PM
Violet offers a person on a bike the chance to sign a letter to the PM
Another person sign a letter to Harper, I'm holding the clipboard
Another person sign a letter to Harper, I'm holding the clipboard

For 10 days, members and friends of Canadians, Arabs and Jews for a Just Peace and the Halifax chapter of Independent Jewish Voices –Canada have stood with signs for a half-hour each day at noon.  Our signs say, “You don’t need to be Muslim to stand up for Gaza; you just need to be human,” “End the Gaza blockade to achieve peace,” and “Lifting the Gaza blockade isn’t a Hamas demand, it’s a human right.” 

We do not want Israel’s bombing and continuing war crimes in Gaza to drop from people’s hearts and minds – as they have lately dropped from the media’s agenda.  Every day a couple of us take our clipboards and ask passers-by to sign a copy of a letter we have written to the Prime Minister. Each letter urges Stephen Harper to tell Israel to stop bombing Gaza, and demands that Israel rebuild the country it has destroyed.  An overwhelming number of people we ask gladly sign a letter—nearly 300 have signed to date; we plan to send the letters to the PM.

According to Norman Finkelstein, an internationally recognized political scientist, “Nobody even talks about Israel paying reparations. It’s just taken as a matter of fact that the international community rebuilds after Israel destroys. It’s just a schnorrer state, ‘schnorrer’ being the Yiddish for a sponger. [Israel] destroy[s], [we] pay. Nobody even discusses the possibility maybe Israel should pay reparations for its death and destruction in Gaza.”  

Since early July, more than 1900 people (including 453 children) have been killed by Israeli Hellfire missiles, helicopter gunships, and heavy artillery tank shells.  More than 10,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been severely injured – we can see the video footage on our nightly TV news.  Official estimates are that 400,000 (that is one in four residents of Gaza) are homeless as their houses have been destroyed by Israel -- or so damaged they are uninhabitable. 

On top of that, 63 mosques have been destroyed,  and 83 hospitals have been seriously damaged—patients maimed and killed by the air strikes. A handful of UN schools, used to protect homeless Gazans, have been bombed by Israel – killing and injuring families desperately seeking shelter.

Many new people have joined us for the daily picket:  a shop owner and activist from Toronto who came to Halifax on vacation joined us for three days.  A  Gazan-Canadian woman pickets while she speaks on her cell to her sister locked in Gaza.  The other day, a man came by and told her that Israelis were suffering too.  Right away she tapped the keypad and offered him her phone: “Here speak to my sister-- she lives every day in Gaza right now!” A young mother, her baby and a toddler in a stroller, holds a sign. 

Who always stops to sign a letter, take a leaflet or chat? Mostly young people, men and women under 25 seem to have a keen social conscience and an abhorrence of war.  Two young men in sandals, one carrying a case of beer stopped; recent Saint Mary’s University grads in philosophy, both signed a letter to the Prime Minister.  Several high school students signed.  Tourists from Windsor, Ontario, Saskatoon, Vancouver and Yellowknife signed.  Middle-aged women sign, couples with kids sign, people with disabilities sign.

Who struts by and rarely signs? White men over 50. 

There I’ve said it –men over 50 often yell at us as they walk by—telling us we don’t know the facts, or that we have no right to comment.   Other men brush by on their cellphones and wave us away as if we are flies.  I’m starting to think these men don’t like women telling them anything – or they don’t like to see women stand up for human rights.  I wonder what their response would be if my middle-aged husband – rather than I -- asks them to sign a letter to the Prime Minister?  

Stay tuned, I’m going to find out.

If you want to sign a letter to the Prime Minister, come by the gates to the Public Gardens, any day (even this weekend) from 12-12.30 pm.  For more information see IJVCanada.org 

Judy Haiven is a member of Independent Jewish Voices-Canada (Halifax chapter) and teaches  at Saint Mary's University


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Topics: Peace/War
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