Two Winnipeggers praise the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, but say it’s only a temporary solution to a bigger problem – and Canada must help.
“This is the beginning of the end of this particular conflict and with a little hope and luck it may be the beginning of the resumption of peace talks,” the president of the peace talks told CBC on Friday. Winnipeg Jewish Federation, Joel Lazer.
“Without a ceasefire, we don’t have a dialogue. If we don’t have a dialogue, we can never solve the problem.”
An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire came into effect early Friday morning, after 11 days of violent conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants.
Hamas – the militant group that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007 – and other militant groups have fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel throughout the fighting, launching projectiles from civilian areas into Israeli towns.
Israel carried out hundreds of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, targeting what it called Hamas’ military infrastructure. A senior IDF official said Israel hit 1,600 “military targets” in 11 days.
According to an Associated Press report on Friday, Gaza’s health ministry said at least 243 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children, and 1,910 others injured. The ministry does not distinguish between combatants and civilians, the Associated Press reported.
Twelve people were killed in Israel, all but one of the civilians, including a five-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Israel accepted the ceasefire proposal on Thursday evening. Hamas quickly followed suit and said it would honor the deal as well.
“This is definitely the end of people dying on both sides, injured people on both sides, and it doesn’t matter if you are lucky enough not to be injured – just the mental stress of indiscriminately flying rockets in your home. “said the Jew. Lazer of the Federation.
“So ceasefire – great. I have high hopes that this will start and last. It is not always the case. But without a ceasefire we are not going anywhere.”
Idris Elbakri, a Palestinian Canadian from Jerusalem who now lives in Winnipeg, said the truce brought relief.
But he fears that broader issues will still be resolved.
“Unfortunately, the world’s response has somehow ignored that there is a fundamental problem that needs to be resolved, and that is that Israel occupies the Palestinians and when they resist that occupation a disproportionate force is unleashed upon them. “Elbakri said Friday in an interview with CBC.
“Sadly, I expect there will be more violence in the future, but I’m glad people have some relief for now.”
Fighting in the region escalated again on May 10, when Hamas militants in Gaza fired long-range rockets at Jerusalem. The roadblock came after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the grounds of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, part of a holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City revered by Muslims and Jews .
Police tactics deemed severe – including the firing of tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets at Palestinians in the compound, who threw stones and chairs – and the threat of eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers inflamed tensions.
Elbakri says Palestinians living in Jerusalem suffer from high taxes, as well as inadequate education and housing. Some face forced eviction to make way for Israeli settlers to live in their homes, he said.
“People are tense and worried all the time, and there just isn’t a break for them. It will continue,” he said.
Lazer said he would remain hopeful that the ceasefire will last, at least for a while, “because the alternative is terrible.”
“I am an optimist by nature. I believe that if people put their positions aside and take care of their interests and are informed about each other’s interests, cultures and desires, we can make it happen,” he said. .
Lazer also urged people to be kind and distinguish between those fighting in the Middle East and civilians caught in the middle.
“I don’t think there are a lot of people I know who have difficulty with the Palestinians, but there are a lot of people I know who have problems with Hamas, and they are not the same, ”he said.
“The ordinary person? This is not Hamas.… I think if we could separate our positions from our interests and take care of our interests and welcome other people, we could come to a resolution,” he said. -he says.
“I’m Jewish. That doesn’t mean I’m responsible for what Israel does. If you think all Jews are Israel, that’s a little anti-Semitic.”
Several clashes between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel groups erupted in Canada, including in Winnipeg, during the 11 days of unrest in the Middle East.
Canada must step up
Lazer and Elbakri agree that Canada must actively contribute to the peace efforts in the Middle East.
“The response from the Canadian government has been woefully, woefully inadequate on this issue,” Elbakri said.
“Canada is quick to assert Israel’s right to self-defense, but it does not extend that same right to the Palestinians. I think there is a lot of frustration at the grassroots and I think a lot of momentum is building. development in Canada to advance the position of the Canadian government must be more consistent with human rights principles. “
Canada once had a respected international reputation as a peacekeeper, resisting oppressors, said Lazer, who suggested that prestige has faded due to inaction in the Middle East.
“I think there is a lot of room for us to do more,” he said.