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Letter to the Editor: Promoting peace and dialogue in world issues

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s most complex geopolitical conflicts. One would imagine that a multifaceted conflict such as this would deserve thoughtful discourse. 

However, complexity and nuance does not fit into the tidy narrative of “oppressor versus victim,” which has become a popular  — if grotesquely inaccurate — way of looking at the conflict. This binary mentality rejects facts for ideology, and demonizes certain marginalized groups instead. The use of inflammatory language, cherry-picking selective information and discarding the context, has brought the conflict no closer to peace and coexistence. 

The ongoing war in the Middle East is tragic. All should be devastated by the loss of innocent life — Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Christian, Druze and Muslim. 

Everyone should be advocating for peace and coexistence. 

Some may argue that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has nothing to do with religion. But someone should tell that to Hamas, the Gaza Islamic terrorist group that sees destroying Israel as a righteous act, and the Palestinian Authority, which has been all too happy to inflame religious tensions for its political ends. 

And in Canada, Jews — already the country’s most targeted group for hate crimes — have borne the brunt of the recent violence in the Middle East. The Jewish people’s strive for self determination in their homeland, otherwise known as Zionism, is an inseparable part of their peoplehood. 

Denying them that fundamental right is to deny collective rights to the Jewish people as a whole. 

It is true that some people claim to only be “anti-Zionist, not antisemitic,” but what do these terms really mean, and are they really that different? 

Antisemitism is hatred and prejudice specifically targeting Jewish people as individuals and as a nation. The Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group, indigenous to the land of Israel, with an unbroken presence there for over 3,000 years. This is supported by an abundance of historic, archaeological and genetic evidence. The names of the scattered Jewish groups formed after exile from Judea include the Ashkenazi, Mizrahi, Sephardi and Beta Israel Jews. 

The core idea of Zionism is that the Jewish people as a nation have the right to self-determination and security in their homeland, Israel. The misconception that Israel was created solely due to the Holocaust is inaccurate. Most of all, it is important to note that Zionism in no way, shape or form is contradictory to the idea that Palestinians can have a state of their own. 

In fact, Israel has officially recognized the Palestinian right to self-determination and has made several peace offers for a two-state solution, including giving the Palestinian Authority eastern Jerusalem as the capital of its new state. While Israel has repeatedly offered peace plans to the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian leadership has rejected every single offer without any counter offers. 

Israel has always prioritized peace, and has made painful concessions for peace, including the 2005 Gaza Disengagement, when thousands of Israeli Jews were ripped from their homes by Israel, which sought to give the land to the Palestinian Authority — but barely a year later, was taken over by Hamas. 

Obviously, no government is without fault, and criticism of Israel is absolutely legitimate and welcome. But anti-Israel activists often hide behind this argument to call for Israel’s destruction. 

Make no mistake, calling for the end of the world’s only Jewish State is indeed a form of antisemitism and not at all comparable to “criticizing” Israeli government policies. 

Instead of empowering their people and providing for them, Hamas — whose charter calls to obliterate Israel, murder all Jews and replace Israel with an oppressive theocracy — uses its international aid to wage terror. This May, Israel destroyed 60 miles of underground concrete terror tunnels. The building costs for 1 mile of a tunnel is estimated at $800,000. This is money that could have been used to fund infrastructure, food, water, shelter and electricity for civilians. 

If you support Israelis and Palestinians, your first priority should be the end of Hamas and other terrorist organizations. 

Israel is a tiny fraction of a percent of the size of the entire Middle East, and for such a small place it has an incredibly diverse population. Israeli minorities, regardless of race, religion, or gender are all seen as equal under the law, have all the same rights as the majority Jewish population, are able to (and do) hold seats in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) and serve in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). 

In the recent Israeli elections, the head of a religious Arab Muslim party, a centrist party and a right-wing party signed a coalition agreement to form the next Israeli government. This demonstrates just some examples of the inclusion and diversity in Israel. 

The Jewish people are an indigenous group to the Levant with a continuous presence for thousands of years. However, following the mass expulsion by the Romans, the Jewish people have been killed, persecuted and expelled around the world. These persecutions occurred because Jews no longer had a state of their own, and were viewed as foreigners and second class-citizens at best. Following persecutions and expulsions throughout history, the Jewish people who were exiled began returning to Israel in larger numbers in the 1800’s where they began purchasing land back in the region legally. 

Labeling the Jewish people as white colonists not only delegitimizes Jewish indigenous roots in Israel but erases the diversity and history of the Jewish people, ignoring the 850,000 Jews expelled from the surrounding Middle Eastern and North African Arab countries. 

Israelis and Palestinians work together everyday to promote peace and coexistence. The following are some of these organizations: Peres Centre for Peace, The Arava Institute, EcoPeace, Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow (MEET), The Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization and Yalla Young Leaders. 

Being a true human rights activist means promoting these goals of peace and coexistence.

—Michelle Alayev, Dorit Gerov, Noa Friedman, LeeAnn Grisaru and Yael Berkovich

Letters to the Editor published in the Gauntlet‘s opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board. The Gauntlet retains the right to edit submissions for brevity and clarity.

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