by Candice Bodnaruk
On Wednesday, October 18 a friend and I hosted a Rally and Vigil for Gaza at the Manitoba Legislature- it was beautiful evening and over 100 people joined us to call for an end to Israel’s attacks on Gaza and to demand urgent aid be available to the 2 million people who live and exist in what experts on the issue have called “the world’s largest open air prison”- which is Gaza.
Prior to our event I had sent out press releases for local media to attend to cover the story- and they did. The rally was set to begin at 5:30pm and I had just completed two positive interviews where I was able to share the main points I wanted the public to be aware of when watching the war on Gaza unfold. First, that Israel attacked- and continues to this day to attack- an unarmed, civilian population in Gaza- in fact, around 40% of Gaza’s population is under the age of 14- these are children.
Second, I wanted to point out to reporters that unlike Israel- Palestinians in Gaza have no bomb shelters they can retreat to when an Israeli missile attack comes- and they also don’t have an Iron Dome Defence System- gifted to Israel by the U.S.- in order to deflect Hamas rocket attacks.
Third, I of course stated that our purpose on Wednesday was to oppose all violence- including the violence perpetrated by Hamas on the Israeli people on October 7.
Finally, I pointed out that everyone attending the rally that evening was very disappointed in Prime Minister Trudeau and his refusal to condemn Israel’s relentless bombing of Gaza- and his insistence on standing with the Israel in their attacks on over 2 million civilians. I also encouraged people to write/email or call Trudeau as well as Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly to express their outrage and Canada’s unwavering support for Israel.
The first two reporters I spoke to were gracious, professional and very eager in telling this story. They were interested in why we were there, what we hoped to accomplish, and what impact we thought our rally might have. We also tried to provide context in our answer- with the goal to make the public aware that Gaza has been under a 16 year Israeli occupation- and that meant for the Palestinians living in Gaza- no reliable electricity or water, being sealed in and not able to travel or leave the area and that Israel opens and closes Gaza’s borders are open at Israel’s whim.
I also pointed out that Israel’s ongoing stranglehold on Gaza meant any essential goods- like agricultural products for example- could be held at the border if Israel chose. This has often meant that much needed food waiting to get into Gaza rots at the border- and vice versa, Gaza’s farmers looking to export are often prevented from doing so. I also wanted people to be aware that although Palestinians elected Hamas in 2007- it was Israel that still polices Gaza- including controlling their waterways (greatly impacting Gaza’s fishers), their air space and of course the land borders- it is in these ways that Israel has been able to control the livelihoods of Palestinians in Gaza as well as their access to a reliable food supply.
There was one reporter though who was not empathetic to our presence. He repeatedly challenged me on Israel’s purpose- to target Hamas leaders in Gaza and wipe them out. I repeated that of course we oppose Hamas- that was not in question- but Israel’s constant bombing of Gaza- now having left over 1,000 children dead- was not the answer. I repeated that we believed Israel’s behaviour was a war crime and genocide. I added that the IDF attacks had also killed journalists and aid workers. Yet the reporter was clearly leading me down a rabbit hole and wanted to prevent me from talking about what Israel was doing to Palestinians
He wouldn’t let it go- and I was getting impatient trying to get my point across. My question is- why- when we stand with and for Palestinians- do we always have to defend our position and actions? Why is it wrong to support Palestinians- when they are the people under attack and Israel is the aggressor? These were just some of the questions that went through my mind as I tried to compose myself. I did insist to the reporter that Israel’s behaviour was wrong- and of course illegal and collective punishment against the people in Gaza- but he wanted me to acknowledge that Israel had a legitimate purpose- which was to target Hamas- and that they were not willingly targeting civilians.
I know going forward how I will address this- I will tell the reporter that we are here for Palestine and that’s what we want to discuss. Of course we condemn Hamas- and all violence- but Israel’s response to the Hamas attack on Israelis and the hostage taking- does not warrant all out destruction, ethnic cleansing and a genocide now being perpetrated on the Palestinian people by the State of Israel.
It doesn’t now and it never will.