George Floyd has changed the world. His tragic death created a bond of international solidarity that no force can stop, no matter how they try.
As a person of Middle Eastern descent living in the diaspora, I’ve always taken an interest in the situation in Israel/Palestine. Palestinians I met would tell me they were from Jordan or Lebanon (which wasn’t untrue) until they knew I was non-judgmental. To be Palestinian, in the eyes of many, meant that one was a terrorist.
A few months ago, the great scholar Cornel West was refused tenure at Harvard University. He believes it was due to his stand on Palestinian issues.
At the University of Toronto, renowned human rights lawyer Valentina Azarova was denied a position, it appears, due to her advocacy for Palestinian rights.
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I became reluctant to even mention Palestinian rights in my columns because this was always met with a scathing indictment from HonestReporting Canada, the media watchdog that seems to attack anything that’s even remotely critical of Israel.
As a public school teacher, I never bring up the Israel-Palestine issue and only reluctantly comment when directly asked by my students.
This has been the environment in the North American press and academia for decades, even though the number of deaths of Palestinians has exceeded the number of Israelis killed by order of magnitude, even though Palestinians have continued to be forced from their homes, and even though they don’t have equal rights, even if they are Israeli citizens.
Something is different now. Israel has disproportionately bombed Palestinian civilian populations many times in retribution for homemade rockets fired by the terrorist organization Hamas. This time, Western journalists are challenging the narrative of Israeli officials and making an effort to provide a balanced view of the conflict.
Comedians John Oliver and Trevor Noah have questioned the heavy-handed response from Israel.
And the alternate media, from which young people increasingly get their news, has been openly critical of Israel.
Italian dockworkers have refused to load weapons bound for Israel onto ships. World leaders, including those from Western Europe and even Canada, are pushing Israel for a ceasefire. The United States, Israel’s largest weapons supplier, has pushed for negotiations. The fighting will end. It’s inevitable – and a ceasefire now appears to be holding.
We should note that many Jews are among the most staunch and courageous critics of Israel. They’ve suffered condemnation from their communities for decades yet remain true to an understanding of scripture that recognizes a God of compassion.
Despite the situation, I believe in a united future for Israel/Palestine. Though my grandparents left the Holy Land more than 100 years ago due to religious persecution, I know in the depth of my being that Semitic people, whether we are Jewish, Christian or Muslim, share an ancient bond as Children of Abraham. Regardless of how we’re told to hate, we know that we’re family and we will find a way to peace.
The world has clearly changed. We’re seeing the same global response we saw after a police attack on a peace march led by Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., in 1965. It’s the same response we saw during the peace movement that ended the Vietnam War. It’s the same momentum we saw in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s that culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The same energy that saw people take to the streets in May and June 2020 after police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd is moving us. We cried out “Black Lives Matter,” but we understood this was a cry of solidarity for oppressed peoples around the world, and we knew this included the Palestinians.
Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and works with at-risk students. For interview requests, click here.
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