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Transcript and written statements, media conference, Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Prominent Canadians Speak Out Against the War on Gaza"


JUDITH DEUTSCH, President of Science for Peace, Member of the Steering Committee, Independent Jewish Voices

URSULA FRANKLIN, CC, FRSC, University Professor Emerita, Senior Fellow Massey College

ANTON KUERTI, Concert pianist, Officer of the Order of Canada

MICHAEL MANDEL, author and Professor of International Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, University of Toronto

JUDITH WEISMAN, Psychotherapist, member of Independent Jewish Voices, founding member of Not In Our Name, Jews for a Just Peace and The Jewish Women's Committee to End the Occupation

DAVID ORCHARD, farmer, author, twice leadership candidate for the former Progressive Conservative Party and Liberal candidate in the 2008 federal election

DAVID ORCHARD: I'd like to welcome everyone here today. Thank you all for coming out to this packed, full house we have here today.

We're here today to raise our voices against the horrendous assault being waged against the people of Gaza, to condemn the Canadian government's refusal to speak against this war against civilians, and to call for an immediate ceasefire.

Each of our presenters will speak for a few minutes and then we will open up for questions from the press. I will be chairing the session. We will proceed in alphabetical order and I will speak last. Then we will go to the question and answer period and media will also have time afterwards for interviews with each of the participants.

It gives me great pleasure to be among this wonderful group of people who have joined us today.

Judith Deutsch is the President of Science for Peace. She is a member of the Steering Committee of Independent Jewish Voices and was a participant in the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme/World Health Organization international conference, "Siege and Mental Health...Walls vs. Bridges," at the end of October, 2008 in Gaza City and Ramallah. Judith was active yesterday too in the sit-in, I believe, at the Israeli consulate.

So, Judith, we're going to start with you and it's a pleasure to welcome you.

JUDITH DEUTSCH (written statement): I am a Canadian Jewish health professional appalled by the ever worsening treatment of the people of Gaza. The words "never again," so fraught with memories of the Holocaust, means "never again" for all peoples. Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, international law expert at Princeton University, and himself a Jew, said that it is not inappropriate to suggest "that this pattern of conduct [in Gaza] is a holocaust-in-the-making." He continues that his is a "desperate appeal to the governments of the world and to international public opinion to act urgently to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective tragedy."

Here in Canada, similar to in the United States and Europe, there is a news blackout about the Jewish opposition to Israel's egregious persecution of the Palestinian people and to the voices of Palestinians themselves. Silencing our voices means silencing the facts about past and present. Silence means that the Palestinians are not empathized with as individual people. Silence means complicity in mass murder and in the mass deception that Israel is victim even though Israel has the fourth largest military in the world and has the third largest nuclear arsenal — and is now using cluster bombs and phosphorus shells in Gaza — and possibly depleted uranium. Gideon Levy, the eloquent Ha'aretz columnist, calls Israel "the bully of the Middle East."

Silence means ignorance about the devastating blockade that began in earnest in 2006. When Hamas was elected in early 2006, James Wolfensohn, Jewish, former head of the World Bank and U.S. Special Envoy to Gaza, warned that the new unity government needed to be supported. He stated that "the collapse of health services and the education system, which addresses the needs of one million children, would be a total failure for the new government, and would have tragic consequences for the Palestinian people. This should not be permitted under any circumstances." Canada was the first country to withdraw support. It is so tempting to forget about Canadian complicity in this crime of crippling an entire society.

Even before this invasion, 85% of Gaza's 1.5 million people depended on humanitarian aid for securing their basic needs. 80% of the population lived below the poverty line. 70% of infants aged nine months suffering from anemia. 13% to 15% of Gaza's children are stunted in growth due to malnutrition. Amnesty International reported that Israel even barred infants from leaving Gaza for life-saving cardiovascular surgery this last October and November.

One of Israel's first acts on December 27 was to destroy the medical supply depot for the Shifa Hospital. Physicians for Human Rights/Israel describes a nightmare situation of hospitals without power, without basic equipment, without anesthetics. A doctor for Medical Aid for Palestine reports that "they're drawing blood and there's no alcohol, there's no gauze so they are using cotton which sticks to the wounds." (Dr. Fikr Shaltoot for The Guardian, 29 December, 2008). Half of the ambulance fleet is non-functioning due to lack of fuel. Helicopters target ambulances and kill medics, and Israel prevents evacuation of the wounded. Foreign medical teams are unable to reach health facilities.

PHR has collected personal testimonies: in one family six members sustained injury (from age 3 to 80). Because of the damages to their home, the family is now outside in an open area without food, water, light or heat. The family members cannot move more than several meters from where they are because every movement, even to look for water, is met by artillery fire. The family cannot be evacuated because the army has not allowed evacuation of wounded and trapped victims.

Last October, I attended the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP)/World Health Organization (WHO) conference on the siege. The building has just suffered extensive damage. Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, Director of the GCMHP, speaks about the constant humiliation of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli soldiers. Almost every Palestinian family has been touched by war, torture and imprisonment. "For many of these children the most excruciating ordeal was to see their fathers being beaten by Israeli soldiers — and not offering any resistance. This is truly a terrifying experience... This will have a lasting impact on any observer, but particularly on children. No wonder the Palestinian child will see his model not in his father, but in that soldier; and no wonder his language will be the language of force and his toys and games the toys and games of death."

Listen to the words of Nurit Peled-Elhanan, whose 13 year-old daughter was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber. Dr. Elhanan is the recipient of the Sakharov peace prize. "I have never experienced the suffering Palestinian women undergo every day, every hour. I don't know the kind of violence that turns a woman's life into constant hell. This daily physical and mental torture of women who are deprived of their basic human rights and needs of privacy and dignity, women whose homes are broken into at any moment of day and night, who are ordered at a gun-point to strip naked in front of strangers and their own children..."

And what of the opposition that is conveniently ignored? Yesterday I was one of a group of Toronto Jewish women at the Israeli consulate, saying "Not in Our Name" to the massacre and siege. Jews in all parts of Canada abhor Israel's wars and occupation.

Why is it that we do not hear anything of the Israeli opposition? In Israel, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions on December 27 stated that, "The responsibility for the suffering both in Israel and Gaza rests squarely with successive Israeli governments, Labor, Likud and Kadima alike..." Many have pointed out that both the PLO and Hamas implicitly recognize Israel's right to exist in affirming a two-state solution. Israel does not reciprocate.

500 Israelis have just called for the international community to demand an immediate ceasefire: "As if the occupation was not enough, the brutal ongoing repression of the Palestinian population, the construction of settlements and the siege of Gaza — now comes the bombardment of the civilian population: men, women, old folks and children... Israel has returned to openly committing war crimes..."

There are the 500 Sderot residents, who just signed a petition calling for an end to the IDF operation in Gaza and renewal of dialogue between Israel and Hamas. Why do we never hear about them?

I will close by quoting the words of Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, who wasn't even accorded the courtesy of meeting anyone in the Canadian government during his last visit here.

On December 29, he wrote of Gaza's Guernica pointing out that Israel carried out provocative attacks throughout the period of the ceasefire and did not live up to any of its obligations of ending the siege and allowing vital humanitarian aid to resume in Gaza. He states: "There is another reason — beyond the internal politics of Israel — why this attack has been allowed to occur: the complicity and silence of the international community... Israel may be pulling the trigger ending hundreds, perhaps even thousands of lives this week, but it is the apathy of the world and the inhumane tolerance of Palestinian suffering which allows this to occur."

"The evil only exists because the good remain silent."

DAVID ORCHARD: Our next presenter is a woman who needs no introduction. It's Dr. Ursula Franklin who is a Pearson Medal of Peace recipient and a Companion of the Order of Canada, a research physicist and an author renowned for her work on technology and human rights.

URSULA FRANKLIN: Thank you, David. I'm glad to be with you. I am not glad for the need to be here. I have been on too many of these panels, deploring too many things. Anton Kuerti, distinguished members of Science for Peace, Michael Mandel or other friends among "the usual suspects" — all of us have been on too many of these panels having far too little impact.

Having heard the wonderful, precise and up-to-date presentation of Judith Deutsch, I would like to take advantage of my age — being probably the oldest among you — and remind you of what I think goes beyond all the horrors of day by day in Gaza and in the rest of the world: and that is an incredible betrayal of the very people who were in fact — and are in fact — constantly cited as a justification for what is going on now, i.e. the victims of war and oppression, and their memory.

When the war ended in 1945 — and I do remember the bombing of Berlin with unpleasant acuteness, especially when I think of people now in Gaza, and their helplessness — there was a global moment of clarity. When the horrors of what happened in the concentration camps, that took all my maternal family, began to be revealed, there were two quite universal reactions. One was: "had we only known" and the second: "never again."

But "never again" did not mean solely that no Jews should ever again be in a concentration camp. "Never again" meant no human beings should ever again be in a position where naked power could determine their lives, nor that there would ever again be people among us who do not matter. And I remind you that Jews were not the only ones in the concentration camps.

But what united all in this moment of history, be it those who were supposedly the innocent bystanders and didn't know, be it those who had suffered and lost their health and families, or those who like me were spared — the young — ALL felt there was a moral mortgage on their lives, and that it would be there for the rest of their lives. They felt compelled to act on this "never again," to act on the " had we only known." Discharging some of this mortgage meant for them to try and translate the "never again" into political reality and to draw conclusions from the knowledge of the past and of the present.

There was a moral mortgage on those like George Ignatieff, who said, "My gifts have to be used to develop international instruments that make it impossible for evil doers to be undetected and unrestrained "

What is going on right now, I see with absolute, profound sadness and depression as a betrayal of a generation that attempted to learn and draw conclusions from the holocaust It is a betrayal of all those around the world who not only said, yes, there has to be safety for those of Jewish faith, there had to be reparations for those who were hurt, to the extent to which reparations are possible, but that there must also be knowledge, consciousness, legal and political instruments and the will to make "never again" both global and compelling.

What we see now, beyond the horrors of the day, is contempt, disregard and the complete betrayal of a generation that worked for peace. Some of those are here; some of them are my friends. There are women across the world united in their wish to see, not only their own children, but everybody's children safe. They are the people who know intellectually, legally, and in terms of the evidence of the past fifty years, that making somebody insecure does not make even the most powerful secure.

It doesn't matter whether you believe in God, Allah or in a great cheese in the sky, the plain evidence is that more war, more violence, more weapons produce further suffering, further wars and more extensive destructions. It is a betrayal on those who not only pointed this out, but lived lives that showed that other ways of social and political ordering are possible. And we should not forget that other ways are possible and are working.

We have seen incredible progress over a wide variety of social change. None of them were obtained by violence.

What I bring to you, to this press conference, is this: do ask for a ceasefire in Gaza, do say that the Canadian government has international obligations to prevent war and violence, but do not forget the obligations to the past.

Please make it clear that when people suffer from brutal powers outside their control, no "bystander" ought to forget or deny the moral mortgage on those who were spared war and violence. The obligations enshrined in the "never again" are systemic, and global, They do compel all of us not ask on which side of the fence, the war, the barrier, the house of worship a child was born before extending our care and respect.

And in your deliberations, in your reports, please do not go easy on those who govern in the shadow of the mortgage of the past, which is a moral and binding obligation. It is not like the documents in the recent mortgage crisis, when institutions could offer loans to people who knew they could not pay them back.

On the contrary, within a generation blessed with health, with advances in technology, with great efforts to bring education, schooling and opportunity to those who did not have it before, many have tried hard to pay back some of the moral mortgage, by working for a peaceful world.

The world community has developed and ratified international and nation legal and practical instruments designed to constrain violence and brutality. Their blatant disregard cannot remain unreported and unchallenged.

It is an immoral and despicable default of the elected and the non-elected decision makers in Canada and the world not to acknowledge that their conduct and behaviour has to be constrained by these new instruments. As journalists, don't allow the powerful to forget the moral mortgage that is upon them; they live and work because of what those before them had understood.

Thus I would ask you not to forget the context of your "news" .

Thank you.

DAVID ORCHARD: Thank you Dr. Franklin. Our next speaker is Dr. Anton Kuerti.

Dr. Kuerti is a nationally and internationally acclaimed Canadian concert pianist and recording artist. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a human rights activist. It's a great pleasure, Anton, to have you with us today.

ANTON KUERTI: It's a pleasure David. It's also an important obligation.

I am not an expert on the Middle East and I am not an expert on what is a war crime. But I think I can recognize one when I see one. The utter contempt with which Israel is attacking schools, universities, medical clinics, aid missions, and their pattern of targeted assassinations year after year, after year leaves no doubt in my mind that this is an unspeakable atrocity.

I ask you to make a little thought experiment. What if it were the other way around? What if F16s and helicopters and 1,000 lb bombs had killed almost 1,000 Israelis? Would the world sit there and just say it's all Israel's fault because they keep assassinating a few people? No. Certainly, there would be immense opposition and outrage all over the world. And nobody would hang the Security Council up and say, "No, no. We've got to make this absolutely evenhanded." They would say, "This has got to stop."

I'd like to read to you, a paragraph. Since I'm in the arts, I thought it might be nice to turn this a little bit also in an artistic direction. I'd like to read to you a paragraph from the book Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières, who also wrote Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

"Where does it all begin? History has no beginnings. For everything that happens becomes the cause or pretext for what occurs afterwards. And this chain of cause or pretext stretches back to the Paleolithic age when the first Cain of one tribe murdered the first Abel of another. All war is fratricide and there is therefore, an infinite chain of blame that winds its circuitous route back and forth across the path and under the feet of every people and every nation, so that a people who are the victims of one time become the victimizers a generation later. And newly liberated nations resort immediately to the means of their former oppressors. The triple contagions of nationalism, utopianism and religious absolutism effervesce together into an acid that corrodes the moral metal of a race. And it shamelessly, and even proudly, performs deeds that it would deem vile if they were done by any other."

I'm afraid that really applies to the present situation. We have what I think is basically a red herring saying, "Well, Israel had to defend itself."

Of course, every nation has a right to defend itself, but at what price, at what cost? I mean just as two years ago the entire nation of Lebanon and whole decades of attempting to make progress and build a decent country, were simply eradicated in a few days of murderous assaults. I mean, there has to be some proportionality between what has been done to you and what you are doing to others. Otherwise, it just escalates.

If fear that if indeed the tables were turned and Israel was experiencing this incredible assault, I fear very much that the atomic bombs would fly. The fact that they have made these bombs is already a condemnation of their society. Making them is morally the same as using them. None of the major powers have attempted, as they did with Iraq, to say, "No. This country must not have nuclear weapons." I don't know why that hasn't happened.

I think the missiles being sent by Hamas, just as much as the Israeli assault, are signs of desperation. But I think the desperation of the Gazans is much greater than the desperation of the Israelis, because the Gazans really have suffered the most horrendous deprivation over many years, not just the last 12 days. Even during the ceasefire Israel assassinated 22 people in Gaza. They continued to murder people in the West Bank, although no rockets were emanating from there. I think as despicable as the rockets being sent into the civilian population of Israel were and are, they are a desperate cry for help that the world chose to ignore.

Israel's behaviour makes me ashamed of being a Jew and Canada's servile support of the United States position that it's all Hamas' fault makes me ashamed of being a Canadian.

DAVID ORCHARD: Thank you, Dr. Kuerti.

The next speaker is going to be Michael Mandel. Now, Michael Mandel is an author and professor of international law at Osgoode Hall Law School. He has taught at several of Italy's major universities and has been a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Law of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

MICHAEL MANDEL (written statement): I'm absolutely sure the vast majority of Canadians, like the vast majority of the people of the world and even a substantial minority of Israeli Jews, are simply appalled at what has been going on for the past two weeks in Gaza.

I can't add anything useful on this so I want to use my time to say something about the Israeli government's justification: namely self-defence against the rockets and mortars fired into Israel from Gaza.

I think we all understand the importance here of proportionality and necessity as moral and legal requirements of self-defence. These rockets and mortars, over a period of six months of truce did not kill or injure one Israeli. And nobody was hurt from rocket fire from Gaza between the end of the truce on the 19th of December and the Israeli attack on the 27th.

In the entire period of October, 2001 (when the mortar and rocket attacks from Gaza began), to the start of hostilities by Israel on December 27, 2008, rocket fire killed a total of 14 Israelis. But if that's tragic, and it is, what about the fact that during the same period Israel killed 1700 Palestinians in Gaza?

So everybody understands it's disproportionate to kill 700 Palestinians, including 219 children, and to wound more than 3,000 to protect against the really minimal threat these rockets represent.

Even more important is the question of necessity. It's clear to everyone that there were diplomatic alternatives open to Israel — mainly an end to the siege and the blockade — to avoid an end to the truce. It seems, however, these would not have served the purely political goals of crippling Hamas as a political adversary, showing "toughness" on the part of Kadima and Labour in the current election campaign, and other such unacceptable grounds for war, in other words for killing so many people.

So this war fails the test of self-defence because it was neither necessary nor proportionate.

But there is an even more fundamental principle of moral and legal self-defence and that is the self-evident one that an aggressor has no right to self-defence, in the sense that an aggressor cannot rely on self-defence to excuse violence perpetrated in defence of his aggression.

Of course, Nuremberg also established the principle that aggressive war is "the supreme international crime" and the Charter of the United Nations enshrined this principle by banning wars of aggression.

Though the governments of Israel and America and their allies (including Canada) have tried to portray Hamas as the aggressor, and the mass media, unfortunately, have faithfully parroted this line, this is really the exact opposite of the situation.

The central, inescapable fact here is the illegal military occupation of the Palestinian territories, an aggression against the Palestinian people now of over 41 years duration — talk about "enough is enough" — as the Israelis say about the rockets in Gaza.

The occupation is illegal because it is not in self-defence (which is the only justification for an occupation), but for the purpose of colonization. Israel is there for the Palestinians' land and everybody knows it. Colonization is not only contrary to the Geneva Conventions, it is a war crime in Canada; you can look it up in our Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act. That's why the International Court of Justice, in its 2004 decision, condemned as illegal not only Israel's "separation wall" which cuts deeply through Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem, but every settlement one inch over the Green line, otherwise known as the pre-1967 borders.

The withdrawal from Gaza by the Sharon government in 2005 (after killing off the Hamas leadership) doesn't change this one bit, morally or legally. This is not only because Israel solemnly declared in the Oslo Accords that the West Bank and Gaza were "a single territorial unit, the integrity and status of which will be preserved during the interim period" (that is, until a final settlement is reached) and not only because the withdrawal from Gaza went hand in hand with a strengthening of the occupation of the West Bank, with a more than compensating increase in the number of settlers.

West Bank Hamas legislators are still in Israeli jails, along with about 8,000 other Palestinians (compared to one soldier in Gaza captivity).

But the deeper reason the withdrawal from Gaza did not affect the situation is because the people of Gaza and the West Bank are in fact one people. Any attempt to separate them is entirely artificial.

Imagine if you can that a foreign army has conquered your country and is then forced by resistance to withdraw from a part of it, but you continue to fight from the liberated part to free your — literally — brothers and sisters in the still occupied part. Is it really possible that you have been transformed into an aggressor and the aggressors into victims?

But, of course Israel didn't just withdraw from Gaza, it blockaded and besieged it. A blockade is not only a humanitarian atrocity, it is also an act of aggression — that's what Israel called it when Egypt threatened to block the Straits of Tiran before the 1967 war, and Israel didn't have to try and smuggle in the bare essentials through tunnels to survive.

And on what was the blockade based? And on what, ultimately is this attack based? It is based explicitly on the fact that Israel cannot abide Hamas in government in Gaza. Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tzipi Livni, made this clear when she said there could be no truce because that would "legitimize" Hamas.

This, even though Hamas was elected as the government of the whole of the Palestinian Authority (including the West Bank) fairly and legally, according to all the official international observers.

So how does one defend killing all these people in an attempt to overthrow a legitimate government? Israel gives two reasons, familiar to us all by now.

First, because Hamas is a "terrorist" organization. But, according to all the legal definitions of "terrorist" that I am aware of, terrorists are those who deliberately kill civilians for illegal political ends — in this case the Israelis, not to mention the Americans, have deliberately killed ten times as many civilians as Hamas has.

Second, because Hamas doesn't "recognize Israel's right to exist." Of course, it is willing to make peace with Israel in the sense of a long-term truce — stop the rockets if you will — which it offered immediately upon being elected in 2006 and has offered continuously ever since.

But Israel says this is not good enough — Israel insists that Hamas recognize Israel's "right to exist," in other words its moral legitimacy — as a Jewish state that has displaced millions of Palestinians. In other words, Israel won't make peace with Hamas until Hamas converts to Zionism! With nothing in return. It's not only that this is impossible. It's that it's preposterous. It shows Israel can't be sincere, that it doesn't really want peace, but the land, at any cost in other people's blood, and even some of its own. Israel demonized Arafat and toyed with Abbas and now they are seeking to marginalize and destroy Hamas. All to avoid the Palestinians realizing their right to self-determination.

I want to close by asking us to imagine how different the world would be if the Palestinians were recognized as equal human beings — just equal, not superior — with a merely equal right to self-determination, and self-defence. How different the mass media's reporting would be. As an ashamed Israeli journalist once wrote, Israel, with all its might, is asking for pity, but the Palestinians are only asking for justice and their rights under international law.

DAVID ORCHARD: Our next speaker is Judith Weisman. Judith Weisman is a Toronto psychotherapist, a member of Independent Jewish Voices, and a founding member of Not In Our Name, Jews for a Just Peace and the Jewish Women's Committee to End the Occupation of Palestine.


I think everything that's important has already been said, except for one thing, and that is that this didn't just start when Israel began to invade and bomb Gaza. This didn't just start when Israel invaded Lebanon. This didn't just start when Israel invaded the West Bank and Gaza and the Golan Heights. And it didn't just start in 1948, when Israel ethnically cleansed over 700,000 Palestinians from their own homes and homeland and killed many of them in the process.

It started at least in 1897. And what started it was the virus and the horror that I now consider is Zionism. Zionism is the scourge of the Jewish people. It is Zionism that has created all of this. It is the Zionists with their nationalism and with their rejection of all that is good within Judaism who have created a horror in this world.

I came today — actually my arm had to be twisted, because I have not been that well — but I had to speak out once again. I had to say what is in my heart because I, a Jew and a former Zionist, who was a committed Zionist and wanted to live my life in Israel, as a supporter of Israel, wanted to live in a Kibbutz, where I would live on the land of another people, not knowing and not understanding what it was about. It took me many years for the scales literally to fall off my eyes and to see what Israel had wrought among the Palestinians, and the influence that Israel now has around the world, and the power that Israel and the United States together are using to control so much of what is happening in the world.

I'd like to end by reading a poem that came to me and is written by Lawrence Boxall, who is an anti-war activist and a member of Jews for a Just Peace in Vancouver.


Listen, O Israel, for the dull, dim thud
of your hard'ning heart, drained of joy.
Amidst dying embers of compassion
for the orphans and the widows
whose protruding round eyes
stare from starved faces
at your abundant good fortune,
you offer the sulphurous fumes of arrogance
as comfort.

Hear, O Israel, the stunned, dull tones of the father
wresting his dead baby from the cold arms
of his dead wife.

Your soul, O Israel,
hardened-immune to the suffering stranger,
chills my blooded veins, for you forget
"you were once a stranger in the land of Egypt"
was a reminder to take pity on the stranger.
Instead, you have become as Pharaoh and his hosts,
to escape the pain of the stranger that stares accusingly at you.
Your young, full-bellied army tortures the stranger
even as you delight in the stranger's humiliation
and witness your cruelty with banal calm eye, businesslike,
efficient, sophisticated, consummated.

My tears, O Israel,
flow hot and flow cold
as ice and fire dance, prance, tear through my mind
maddened, maddening to watch the soldiers of Pharaoh
emblazoned with Magen Dovid, the Star of David, hardened like steel
against the vulnerable soft flesh of your victims,
all the while
oblivious to the lapping sound of the waters of the Red Sea.
I choke on the fear of what you have wrought
to open the flood of this sea
that will consume both you and me.

Hear, O Israel, All is Vanity and we are all one;
Humanity is all one.

DAVID ORCHARD: I am here today to call for an immediate ceasefire and a halt to the horrific violence being waged largely against the civilian population of Gaza.

Gaza is a small territory about the size of Montreal with roughly the same population, about one and a half million people. Eighty per cent of the population of Gaza are refugees. The average wage is about two dollars a day. This population is under all-out attack by one of the most powerful military machines in the world. For the most part, the population has no means of defending itself and for 13 days and nights has huddled in terror trying to avoid the bombs and the missiles.

Schools have been hit; mosques, homes, markets, playgrounds and the Gaza university. When the world community at the UN tried to stop the violence, the call for a ceasefire was blocked by the US. And Canada, to its shame, has fully supported the US, actually opposing the call for an immediate ceasefire.

These actions by Canada and the US amount to a green light for the killing to continue. They make our governments complicit in the crimes being waged in Gaza.

So we are here to speak up for all Canadians who can't sleep these nights, for all Canadians who weep, for all Canadians who are ashamed of our government's position and to add our voices to those of the Europeans, to the voices of most of the world, in calling for both an immediate ceasefire, an end to the blockade of Gaza and an immediate opening up of the crossings to let in desperately needed food, fuel, medicines and the basic necessities of life.

Thank you very much.

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