Our incredible accident of birth

As many of you know, I work with refugees. On a daily basis I come face to face with my incredible privilege of being born in Canada. Every day, I am grateful for the fact that I have always felt relatively safe in Canada. While I have dealt with discrimination being a fat lesbian, I have never known actual fear for my life based on my opinions, political beliefs, or lack of religious belief. I have always felt free to express my views and beliefs and, as my blog will attest, I have been doing this since 2007 with almost 1100 posts.

On Wednesday, The Current on CBC Radio One, broadcasted some interviews from 2 individuals one either side of the Israel/Gaza conflict. I am not going to get into the particulars or my opinions on this conflict as it is a quagmire and not really relevant to this post. What struck me was the absolute terror both people felt at the bombing going on in their countries, places where they should have the right to feel safe.

First up they spoke with a man who lived in the Gaza Strip. He had children and Israeli bombs had fallen within 60 metres of his home. They had been with electricity for days, which was impacting their ability to get fresh water into their homes. Every day he has to go out and try to find food and water for his family; every day he feared he would come home and his house and family would be gone. He just wanted a safe place to raise his family where he could provide food and water for his children.

Next they interviewed a woman who lived in a city close to the border with Gaza. The woman worked at a university in a city about close to the border. She expressed gratitude that she lived 40 km from her work as the missiles were unlikely to hit her home. She then relayed the process everyone goes through when the air raid sirens sound while they are driving. They have to pull over, get out of their cars and seek cover. She said this had happened on her way to work that day. The only thing I could think of was how I would not even consider going to work if this was happening where I live. She also mentioned a co-worker who sent an email saying she couldn’t leave her house until this was over as she was too afraid.

Engaging with people’s stories from war torn regions is worthwhile process. It puts things in perspective for us as we imagine, for just a moment, what that might be like. I wonder quite often how refugees cope with having to uproot and leave everything they have ever known and come to our strange, cold country. Where do they find the strength? The only thing I can think of is that out of great fear and persecution, a strength is born. Sometimes I wonder if I would have that strength; could I endure what other people have to in their lives?

Israel/Gaza Conflict

I have been asked by a couple of people lately what I think about the latest conflict going on in the Middle East. A lot of the time I try not to engage with this kind of conflict as the noise to substance ratio is very high. We hear a great deal of rhetoric and propaganda coming from both sides. Quite often it is very difficult to determine who has the moral authority in these kinds of conflicts.

This conflict seems different though. Hamas (the legally elected government party in Gaza) is a terrorist organization. One of their major tenets is to see the destruction of Israel. Many countries, including Canada, have deemed Hamas a terrorist organization. Since their election in 2005 much of the international community has largely isolated Hamas and much international aid has not been flowing to Gaza. As a poor nation Gaza and the West Bank rely heavily on this aid.

In November of 2008, Hamas was once again firing rockets into Israel. Hamas claims that Israel has not lifted blockades into the country for Palestinians. Israel maintains that Hamas has been firing rockets into civilian areas in the south.

I believe that Israel is completely within her rights to defend the country from Hamas rocket attacks – whatever that takes. Israel cannot tolerate random attacks on civilian population. What Hamas seems to not understand is that, for all intents and purposes, Israel has unlimited resources when it comes to fighting a war. The United States, a staunch supporter of Israel, will ensure Israel’s survival in the Middle East. In fact, there is a policy followed which states that Israel must be able to withstand any combination of countries in the Middle East attacking Israel. Israel can and will protect herself.

The unfortunate reality is that it is the civilian population in both countries who are harmed the most in these conflicts. Gaza, which is already impoverished, is further weakened. Daily three hour cease fires will at least allow civilians to get much needed supplies.

France and Egypt have put together a proposal for a cease fire. However, Israel is concerned that another cease fire will just allow Hamas the opportunity to re-arm so that they can then resume firing rockets into Israel. Israel maintains that they need to sufficiently weaken Hamas so that it is unable to re-arm. For Israel, any cease fire agreement must include provisions that no weapons be allowed into Gaza. Israel also maintains that they are not seeking a regime change in Gaza.

Hamas would be foolish to underestimate Israel’s commitment to ensuring Hamas is unable to wage further terror. Hamas only needs to study the history of other Israeli wars.

My hope is for a peaceful end to this conflict for the sake of all the civilians.