In the Hamilton Spectator today, Steven Scheffer of the Never Again Group writes that "A peaceful Gaza would be beautiful; Based on Internet photos, Gaza the’refugee camp’ appears almost prosperous."
View the op-ed in full by clicking below.
Last Nov. 19, I received my first piece of hate mail. I can assure you it was the first but I can never be sure that it will be the last.
Likely, it was in response to a letter that I wrote to The Hamilton Spectator earlier that month in which I expressed my opinions that Israel’s wars against Hezbollah and Hamas were defensive wars; that the Gaza blockade was established to prevent Hamas from importing weapons; that the Palestinians declared war on Israel, not the other way around.
Some of the words in the letter I received cannot be printed in this newspaper, but aside from the rants about "Zionist pigs" and "the myth of the Holocaust", the letter asked how one can "defend killing Palestinians and treating them like there (sic) dogs".
Since my pen pal forgot to include a return address, I will respond here.
The charters of Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank both call for the elimination of Israel and the Jews therein. I was present at McMaster University in 2008 when Muslim students unfurled a banner echoing those charters, declaring "a free Palestine from the river to the sea."
One does not need an atlas to understand that this means no more Israel and no more Jews. Therefore, as long as there is a declared state of war and calls for the annihilation of a democratic state and its people, there will be deaths in defence of that state. I do not rejoice in those deaths, Palestinian or otherwise.
I do not dance in the streets nor do I hand out candies when someone dies; I feel great sorrow for all who perish.
My pen pal also referred to the mistreatment of the Palestinians, the reason most often cited by Palestinian supporters, the United Nations and the liberal media for their opposition to Israeli defensive actions such as checkpoints, security walls and blockades. Newspaper articles and television documentaries proclaim that the Palestinians have little food, that medical supplies are scarce and that many of the basic necessities of life are nowhere to be found.
At any and every given opportunity, picket signs flow through our streets like the sails of an armada, declaring that Gaza is an open-air prison.
Various groups, some suspect and some well meaning, organize flotillas to break the blockade of Gaza. The mental images invoked when we hear the term "refugee camp" convince us that life in Gaza cannot get any worse.
In July 2010, the Hamilton Presbytery of the United Church of Canada hosted a photo exhibit in Hamilton entitled Human Drama In Gaza, with supporters from the Hamilton Palestinian Association, Independent Jewish Voices and Centenary United Church. The pictures showed the cruelty and sadness of war but the bias of the photos and their captions skewed an otherwise laudable anti-war effort by supporting the usual narrative that the Palestinians were the only victims and in desperate need.
But are they?
In 2008, Lauren Booth, Tony Blair’s sister-in-law and a long standing advocate for the Palestinians, declared that the Palestinians were starving even as pictures of her standing in a well-stocked Gazan grocery store while talking on a cellphone flashed over the Internet.
But more importantly, over the last year I have noted that many pictures from Gaza have been appearing on the Internet and they are not what one would expect. They do not show people starving or destitute nor do they show Gaza destroyed or in disrepair. There are some images of war-torn areas but mostly there are pictures of beaches, buildings, shopping malls, parks and well-stocked stores and markets, all modern, clean and capable of rivalling anything that can be found in the West.
Let me state clearly that this does not imply that there are no Palestinians living in poverty or with difficulty, but what I am saying is that Hamas and the liberal media are not telling us the truth about Gaza and therefore they are not telling us the truth about Israel.
Make up your own mind. If this kind of prosperity is possible in a state of war and under blockade, imagine what life for the Palestinians could be like in a state of peace with no blockade.
Demand the whole truth from governments and the United Nations but most of all hold the media to the highest standard of truth.
And to my pen pal, next time please send your considered thoughts to Hamas.
Steven Scheffer lives in Burlington. He is a retired beverage packaging specialist and a member of the Never Again Group (NAG): email@example.com