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Unconditional support for Israel is unconditional support for injustice

Counter-protest against UJA Walk for Israel, 2018. Photo credit: Raghd Hamzeh

On Monday, May 20, members of the Toronto Jewish community will participate in the United Jewish Appeal's annual Walk with Israel, which is taking place in the Bathurst and Wilson area. Independent Jewish Voices Canada, a national organization which advocates for human rights and peace with justice in Israel-Palestine, will once again be present with allies from other groups to demonstrate that the Jewish community in Canada is not unified in its attitudes towards the state of Israel.

Indeed, like tens of thousands of Jews worldwide, we oppose Israel's ongoing illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and its regime of violence, intimidation and incarceration aimed at the Palestinian population of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. We challenge those who offer unconditional support for Israel to ask themselves if they would support the same violations of human rights and international law anywhere else in the world. We affirm that our criticism of Israel comes from an embrace of both Jewish and universal humanitarian values and has no relation whatsoever to antisemitism.

Unconditional support for Israel means supporting a government that makes common cause with racist and supremacist groups within Israel, and authoritarian and xenophobic governments around the world, including those in Hungary, the Philippines, India and Brazil.

Unconditional support for Israel means supporting Israel's $9-billion arms industry which assists authoritarian governments and repressive police and armies around the world.

Unconditional support for Israel means supporting racist policies in Israel which have incarcerated or expelled asylum seekers, many from African nations.

Unconditional support for Israel means approval for shocking acts of settler violence, many of which go unpunished, against Palestinians and their property.

Unconditional support for Israel means support for the killing of over 200 and maiming of almost 30,000 Palestinians in response to the Great March of Return.

Unconditional support for Israel means supporting the system of legal discrimination inside Israel which includes more than 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel, among them the nation-state law that says that only Jews are entitled to the right to self-determination, ignoring the rights of the 21 per cent of Israeli citizens who are Palestinian Arabs.

Unconditional support for Israel means supporting the arrest, prosecution and incarceration of approximately 500 to 700 Palestinian children every year, with 205 Palestinian minors currently in custody.

Unconditional support for Israel means support for roadblocks that keep Palestinians from accessing hospitals, schools, workplaces and holy sites.

Unconditional support for Israel means supporting policies which keep 1.6 million Palestinians, including 68 per cent of the population of Gaza, from having the financial means to access nutritious food.

Unconditional support for Israel means supporting Jewish communal efforts to shut down freedom of expression on violations of human rights in Israel-Palestine and the granting of lavish funding to groups which celebrate Israel while ignoring, denying or excusing decades of colonial policies and violations of international and human rights law.

We will continue to protest at the Walk for Israel until justice for Palestine is a reality. Unconditional support for Israel is unconditional support for injustice.

We urge you to come out on Monday, May 20 in Toronto to demonstrate your commitment to justice for Palestine and to show that an increasing number of Jews do not support Israeli violence and dispossession. We will meet at 9:45 a.m. at the southeast corner of Bathurst and Wilson. We will stand in solidarity with one another and with the Palestinian people.

Sheryl Nestel is a member of the national steering committee of Independent Jewish Voices Canada.

Photo credit: Raghd Hamzeh

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