By Hanna Kawas
As we approach the 70th anniversary of the total dismemberment of the Palestinian people and nation, and as Israeli military snipers continue to pick off unarmed protesters in Gaza with the utmost arrogance and impunity, we call on our Jewish friends to say that now is the time to clearly disassociate from the Zionist narrative.
Now is the time to publicly say that Zionism as a political and racist ideology is the source of immense Palestinian suffering, almost beyond comprehension.
Now is the time to show the next generation of Palestinian youth that there is hope for a future peace with justice, based on equality and the right of return. Now is the time to fully recognize that Zionism has developed one of the most repressive state mechanisms that exist today, and also recognize that the seeds for that were planted over 70 years ago.
When top Israeli government officials and military generals can openly and brazenly state that “There are no innocents in Gaza” and justify the targeting of children, there is nothing left for anyone who embraces social justice and humanity to ponder.
In this context, Palestinian solidarity groups in Vancouver and their supporters recently sent the following letter to the Peretz Center, regarding their past and current involvement in local celebrations of “Israel Independence Day”.
The letter detailed how such actions not only amount to a betrayal of Palestinian hopes and aspirations but also give cover to the Zionist lie of representing all Jews. The Center promotes itself as supporting “values of universal social justice” and regrettably this type of façade still holds sway in many progressive circles, an issue not unique to just Vancouver. As the signatories of the letter noted, universal social justice must apply to Palestinians as well.
Otherwise, the concept is hollow. To date, over six weeks later, there has been no official reply from the Board of Directors.
But Palestinians call out one last time: Stand up now and stop denying the Nakba!
This is the full text of the letter addressed to the Peretz Center Board of Directors:
In 2012, we questioned your involvement in local “Israel Independence Day” celebrations as a community partner. We know you are aware that for Palestinians this is akin to celebrating our genocide. We expressed our concerns to you at that time and were informed that “the Peretz Center is essentially not a political nor a lobby group.” As we noted then, being a community partner in such celebrations is a political stand that denies the Palestinian people their rights and their existence, whether that is acknowledged or not, and we sincerely hope you will not insult us again with a similar answer.
We note that last year, 2017, you were also a community partner for the 69th celebration of “Israel’s founding” and are on the list for the upcoming 70th anniversary. We are not sure if you understand how distressing all of this activity is for Palestinians. You said previously in 2012 you did not want to be “marginalized in the Jewish community”. Please read the full response on our website from 2012 to which we want to add that you should recognize that Palestinian and Arab progressive activists also face such dilemmas on a daily basis. Do you think we have never been approached by groups and others with significant support and resources that hide their anti-Jewish agenda under the guise of being anti-Israel or anti-Zionist? Yes, of course we have, and we make every effort to refute such advances, often publicly. This is the least we can do in moving forward the anti-racist struggle. However, your insistence on allying with powerful Zionist forces, under the pretext of not alienating yourselves from “the Jewish Community”, only serves to reinforce the dangerous conflation of all Jews with Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, thereby contributing to anti-Semitism.
Do you realize that the Jewish Federation of Vancouver (which organizes the “Israel founding” celebrations that you support) also promotes 3-week trips to an IDF base for volunteers? An “experience like no other” we are told on the Israel and Overseas Experience page for the Jewish Federation (this is even worse than the Fantasy Camps a la Jerry Seinfeld!).
Your website states that the Center has “endeavored to maintain its core identity and values of universal social justice, Jewish secularism and….”. Surely universal social justice applies to Palestinians as well. And surely your mandate of Jewish secularism is in conflict with celebrating the founding of a theocracy, an “exclusive Jewish State” that by definition makes Palestinians second and third-class citizens. We recognize that these are difficult issues, but if not dealt with in a bold manner, will eventually make a mockery of not only your Center’s ideas but also the future of genuine peace and justice for Palestine.
Here are a few simple points that we ask you to answer to give us clarification and a better understanding of your position.
- Do you recognize the illegality of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, as mandated by numerous UN resolutions?
- Do you recognize the Palestinian right of return, according to UN resolution 194?
- Do you recognize the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality?
We await your reply and will post both our letter and your response on our website.
The letter was signed by the Canada Palestine Association of Vancouver, the BDS Vancouver-Coast Salish, and endorsed by the Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights UBC, the UBC Social Justice Center, the UBC Talon Alternative Student Press, SAFE Vancouver – Solidarity Against Fascism Everywhere, and the International League of Peoples’ Struggle Canada.
– Hanna Kawas is Chairperson of the Canada Palestine Association and co-host of Voice of Palestine. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: http://www.cpavancouver.org.