Good Sunday Morning!
This has been a week of horrors and grief. There are no words. The attacks on innocent civilians by Hamas, regardless of detail, are war crimes, but in the detail comes a deeper and sickening horror and deeper trauma. The killings were – as reported – sadistic and brutal. The slaughter is beyond comprehension even though we have seen this before.
The details of Canadians killed brings us closer to the families we know… even at a distance. I was so very shaken by photos of a beautiful young Canadian mother killed in her home by Hamas. Adi Vital-Kaploun is seen in photos with her infant children, their faces blurred to protect the privacy of these newly motherless babes, but it was in the detail that I felt deeper loss. Her grandfather Irving Rivers was an Ottawa merchant, his famous store was in the Ottawa Bytown market. His slogan was “We corner the market.” Her death felt more like a loss in the family even by the tiny connection of knowing her grandfather’s store. We are all connected.
So too are we connected to the trapped people of Gaza, themselves essentially hostages of Hamas since that terrorist group took control of the Gaza strip in 2007. Two million oppressed people have been trapped in Gaza, described as an outdoor prison. There will be a time to speak of Netanyahu and his role in war crimes, but it is not now.
Now is time for pressing for a ceasefire, for the immediate release of all hostages. For humanitarian relief for the people of Gaza. It is time to say that a siege of Gaza – cutting off water and electricity, food and supplies – violates international law. We have to speak for the innocent people whose lives hang by a thread as Israel appears determined to launch a military assault on innocent people with no connection with Hamas.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Saturday “Even wars have rules.”
Yes, even wars have rules. Hamas violated every legal and humanitarian norm in breaking those rules. Israel’s right to self-defense does not extend to breaking those same rules. As Guterres said, “International humanitarian law and human rights law must be respected and upheld; civilians must be protected and also never used as shields. All hostages in Gaza must be released immediately.”
On Thursday, with fellow Green and dear friend Susan Watt, I attended the prayer and candle light vigil in Centennial Square organized by Congregation Emanu-El. Rabbi Harry Brechner led us in prayers for the dead and bereaved Israelis and for the people of Gaza. All innocents need the cloak of protection. All need and deserve peace.
Right now the chances for greater peace appear slim. The reality is that things are likely to get much worse in terms of loss of life and unbearable loss.
Not that things were good on Friday before the Hamas militants did the unthinkable, breaching the sophisticated and heavily armed barriers surrounding Gaza. In what seems so long ago we watched as US Republicans toppled their own Speaker, threatening Biden’s promises of increased help for Ukraine. More than a week later and still no Speaker of the U.S. House – a deficit the rest of the world would be free to ignore, or enjoy with a dash of schadenfreude, but this week, right now, it matters.
Hamas’s assault was a gift to Putin. Putin and Netanyahu are closely allied but there is no conspiracy. The world does feel beset. Crisis upon crisis and opportunistic blood-letting appear to cascade, like the positive feedback loops of climate crisis. As John Vaillant writes in Fireweather, the new species of fire creates its own weather. Is war creating war? Is this the season for war-weather? We can almost hear the champagne corks popping and celebrations for those with investments in the industry marketing war and death.
We need to wage peace. Canada has a role to play in the world and it must be as a force for peace.
It puts me in mind of this strong poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, Conscientious Objector (written in 1934), but you really need to hear it sung by Mary Travers of Peter Paul and Mary. Here is the poem, then crank up your volume and listen to Mary Travers at this Youtube link, and weep. And then, buck up; Time to pray and fight, and fight for peace and take on the gathering forces of war.
“I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall; I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.He is in haste; he has business in Cuba, business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning. But I will not hold the bridle while he clinches the girth. And he may mount by himself: I will not give him a leg up.
Though he flick my shoulders with his whip, I will not tell him which way the fox ran.With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where the black boy hides in the swamp. I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his pay-roll.
I will not tell him the whereabout of my friends nor of my enemies either.Though he promise me much, I will not map him the route to any man’s door.Am I a spy in the land of the living, that I should deliver men to Death? Brother, the password and the plans of our city are safe with me; never through me Shall you be overcome.”
And Mary Travers put it to music. I think it is one of the most powerful peace anthems ever composed. And I needed to play it over and over again this week.
In closing, one note that is not about war and grief. The Supreme Court’s decision in the reference case on the federal impact assessment law came down on Friday. I am actually pleased, as now we may have a hope of repairing the dreadful law passed as C-69. Jason Kenny called it the “anti-pipeline act” It could have as easily been the “pro-pipeline act” – just a mass of unfettered ministerial discretion that allows many smaller projects with huge impacts go unexamined. You can read our release here.
Hope to see you next Sunday October 22 at the SGI Green Party Annual General Meeting, in person or virtually, at the Central Saanich Seniors Centre in Brentwood Bay. You can register to attend in person here, and if you prefer to join us via Zoom, please register here.
One last reminder to save the date and please plan to join us on November 4 at Charlie White Theatre in Sidney for the federal Green Party’s 40th birthday celebration!
Please RSVP here (click on image below to enlarge for event details)
Pray for peace. Be well and take care of each other.
Until next Sunday,