Nine Years of Vigilling

The weekly vigils in front of the Israeli consulate building in Toronto offer opportunities to connect with the public on priority issues. Ongoing Israeli attacks on non-violent anti-Wall protesters, including the arrests of Mohammad Othman, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, and Jamal Juma’;, the continuing siege of Gaza, and the destruction of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem have been a focus of handouts at recent vigils.

When Palestinian and Jewish queer activists protested a queer tourism conference in Tel Aviv back in mid-October, we handed out the joint statement condemning the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (put together by Queers Against Israeli Apartheid in Toronto (QuAIA), Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!), IJAN. and Queer BDS activists from Israel). Since late July 2009, the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA), IJAN-Toronto, and others have been demanding an end to the exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Royal Ontario Museum. The ROM is directly across the street from the Israeli consulate building, the location of the IJAN vigils. While we haven’t been able to get the ROM to stop the show, it has been useful as a way to engage the public on the issues. We also stand as a visual counterpoint to the ROM’s obvious collusion with the Israeli Antiquities Authority. When the ROM held a brief showing of Ten Commandments, we responded with a few commandments of our own.

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The ROM has denied any link with the Brand Israel campaign of Israeli Consul General Amir Gissin. However, they recently offered ROM members a chance to enter a contest for a free trip to Israel. Hmmm.

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To commemorate our ninth year, and to celebrate the first anniversary of IJAN, we are currently distributing the following statement to the public at our Friday evening vigils.

Nine Years
We have been standing in front of this building for nine years because it houses the Israeli Consulate on the seventh floor. These vigils began just after the outbreak of the Second, or al-Aqsa Intifada. Intifada means a "shaking off"; and is an act of resistance by Palestinians to the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and the Israeli regime’s systematic oppression through a system of Apartheid rules and regulations including checkpoints, roadblocks, Jewish-only roads, home demolitions, destruction of health, education and economic infrastructures, blatantly discriminatory social systems, expansionism, and the perpetuation of violence.

On 28 September 2000, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, then the opposition party leader, visited the Haram al-Sharif, the "Noble Sanctuary"; This site is holy to both Muslims and Jews. The compound is home to the al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock, as well as al-Buraq, the wall that forms the base of Haram al-Sharif. This wall is also known as the Western or Wailing Wall to Jews. It is a point of contention between Israelis and Palestinians, particularly since extreme rightwing Israelis have expressed a desire to tear down the mosque. [1] Yet, despite all the evidence pointing to Israeli war crimes and violation of international law – not to mention the countless UN resolutions that Israel resolutely ignores – we are led to believe by the mainstream media and supporters of Israel that the blame rests on Palestinians. In the brutal 23-day assault on Gaza in January of this year – codenamed "Operation Cast Lead" – at least 1415 Palestinians were killed [2], including over 300 children. Thirteen Israelis were killed, some by friendly fire. A glaring discrepancy resides in those statistics. Is an Israeli life really worth over 100 Palestinian lives? And despite the fact that Operation Cast Lead is over, the siege of Gaza is not. Unemployment has risen to close to 50%. The poverty rate is 80%. [3] There are food shortages and malnutrition is widespread. Is Israel not responsible for any of this?

With these vigils we want to add to the growing international movement to put an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and to demand Israel’s compliance with International Humanitarian Law. For this reason, we support Palestinian Civil Society’s call for international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli institutions.

We call on you to be mindful of ongoing campaigns to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Some of us who stand here are Jews. Israel does not speak in our name. We say that criticism of Israel is a necessary thing, and is not an act of anti-Semitism. We do not equate Judaism and Zionism (Israel).

We stand here in solidarity and in recognition of Palestinian rights to self-determination, and to their land and history.

[1] For more information see ‘Hardline Threat to al-Aqsa Mosque’ @ http://english.aljazeera.net/archive/2004/07/200841012917823557.html

[2] See Palestinian Center for Human Rights for statistics: www.pchrgaza.org/files/PressR/English/2008/19-03-2009.html

[3] Eva Bartlett, ‘Gaza-Bound Goods Stuck at the Border,’ Electronic Intifada, 31 August 2009: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10745.shtml

Brought to you by The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Toronto (IJAN-TO)

For more information: Canada@IJSN.net Also see: www.ijsn.net and www.nion.ca The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) was founded one year ago to strengthen and broaden participation in the Palestine Solidarity Movement, and to build public awareness of the colonial nature of the state of Israel and the brutality of its occupation of Palestine. We want to bring to public attention the complicity of the Canadian government in its unconditional and ongoing support of the Israeli state.

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