I have a Palestinian friend who lives near me in Toronto. She wants to visit her family in Gaza but can’t. The authorities, both in Canada and Israel, are making it very difficult to get the right documents or permission to get there. It’s wholly unfair.
For many months she’s been trying to get answers from various officials to help her. There’s one in Israel who has stonewalled her and before doing so treated her with outright suspicion. In his eyes she is a “security threat” and not a person.She hasn’t been to Gaza for many years. There’s always some excuse it seems that Israel comes up with to make her return all but impossible. They want her to remain in Canada, away from her fellow Palestinians where she just might join efforts to collectively resist against the occupation. What Israeli official wants that?
Our Canadian Member of Parliament (MP) keeps delaying. The MP’s office says they’re “working” on helping her but without any tangible follow through. Like the Israeli official they are buying as much time as possible without having to give an outright “no.” They want her to give up.
It would be different if she were Ukrainian. Our government, like much of the West, is doing all it can to help Ukrainians both in Canada and abroad through this difficult time of the Russian invasion. They are what Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky call “worthy victims.” Not Palestinians. They are to be regarded with suspicion, potential terrorists. Besides their suffering under the illegal Israeli occupation is “old news.”
My friend is beautiful: kind, generous, hospitable. I am very fortunate to know her. When I think of how she’s being prevented from visiting Palestine it makes me upset. I recognize that this article will not do much for her but it’s allowing me, aside from processing feelings, to provide you a window into the indifference and cruelty she faces just because she’s Palestinian.
Because power, even those who present themselves as “social-minded” and “progressive”, sees her as a liability. It’s in a reality racist lie, an aspect of the world that needs to be eliminated. Indeed it should never have been normalized in the first place.
Our MP has been public about be an unwavering Zionist (their own words). And so I wonder too how they can possibly be taking my friend seriously, the pain of her being unable to reach her family, when at the same time being a Zionist necessarily involves supporting the occupation, the endless misery and frustration of Palestinians in the territories, opposition to their right to live free of Israeli brutality and determine their own futures.
The MP does not respect my friend enough to tell her the truth about where she stands. In practice you cannot be a Zionist and friend to the Palestinian people. If Zionism was simply about creating or establishing a homeland for the Jewish people matters would perhaps be different. But Zionism is tantamount to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. It is genocide.
I once had a phone conversation with the MP. It was during the May 2021 Israeli siege on Gaza; it was also before I knew they were a staunch Zionist (the odd variety to be exact, a “liberal” one). During the conversation I expressed my concern about the Canadian government not doing enough to pressure Israel to end human rights abuses against Palestine, let alone the illegal occupation. I thought perhaps she could raise the issue in Canadian Parliament, including how the abuses were effectively being sanctioned by Israeli apartheid.
The MP was not happy. In a stern voice they said there is no Israeli apartheid, there after steering the discussion to “those who want Israel wiped out.” I knew then that my MP didn’t care about Palestinians. They were instead trying to manipulate me to feel sympathy only for Israelis, as if there was no occupation, no Gaza that was in the process of being aerially bombarded—massacring children and whole families.
The MP is otherwise “nice”, has that pleasant personality that endears her to voters. But Palestinians won’t ever achieve justice through niceness and so in that regard it means nothing. Justice will only happen when Israel’s criminality stops, no longer aided by the West, and are held accountable for all the wrongs they’ve committed against Palestine. That involves of course making it unnecessarily difficult for Palestinians to return to Palestine.
My friend has been too patient. I hope she will forgive me if she recognizes herself in this article. She is a private person. But the injustice she suffers is a public matter and I love her too much to say nothing about it. She and all Palestinians are entitled to be with their families.