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Saturday, 8 July 2017

Palestine: After 50 Years of Occupation, It Is Time to Say, "Enough!"

After 50 years of occupation, it is time to say, “ENOUGH!”  Some of what you find below comes from Canadians, Arabs and Jews for a Just Peace.  Some comes from our United Church of Canada Moderator’s Letter; Moderator Cantwell went to Palestine recently and shared her experience.  There are other links in Moderator Cantwell’s blog: 1) to the call from the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine in an open letter; 2) other links that lead to more information and ecumenical action.

Why is this year important?

2017 marks 10 years of Israel's blockade of Gaza; 50 years of Israel's military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza; 70 years since the Nakba and displacement of Palestinian people; and 100 years since the Balfour Declaration.

The graphic below shows the loss of land that Palestinians have experienced.  It is a shocking graphic.

100 YEARS since the Balfour Declaration
2017 is the 100 year “anniversary” of the Balfour Declaration, which set the stage for the Zionist movement to colonize Palestine and later to establish a Jewish state. As author Arthur Koestler described it, "one nation promising another nation the land of a third nation." This document shows the international community’s deep complicity in creating and maintaining the situation of injustice and oppression of the Palestinian people.

70 YEARS of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe)
The Palestinian Nakba remembers the period between 1947-1949 when over 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed and 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced. Today, 6.6 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants are denied their Right of Return to their homeland, the “Right of Return” being a fundamental principle of international human rights. 

50 YEARS of Israel's military occupation of the Palestinians 
In June 1967, at the end of the Six-Day-War, Israel seized control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. One million Palestinians were placed under Israel's direct military control. Israel began to build illegal Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land. Now 600,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements (colonies) in the West Bank /Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Tens of thousands of Palestinian homes have been demolished. In 2017 alone, 566 Palestinian houses have been demolished by Israel. The Israeli water authority allocates only 3% of the water to Palestinians even though they make up more than 50% of the overall population. Palestinians in the West Bank live under Israeli commanders who impose inhumane laws and prevent people from enjoying the most basic human rights. 7,000 political prisoners now sit in Israeli jails in violation of international law.

10 YEARS of Israel's blockade of Gaza
When Hamas won the political election and control of Gaza in 2007, Israel declared them terrorists and closed Gaza's air, land and sea borders. Israel maintains control of residents' electricity, fuel, water, and all food and supplies allowed into Gaza as well as the movement of residents into and out of Gaza. Today, approximately two million people in Gaza have no access to clean water, proper nutrition or medicine. There have been massive assaults by Israel on Gaza in 2008-09; 2012; and 2014, causing thousands of deaths, mostly non-combatants, including children.

 After 50 years of occupation, Say "Enough!"
Send our federal Minister of Foreign Affairs (The Honourable Chrystia Freeland at a letter asking Canada:
    -to live out its stated policy on Israel and Palestine; and
-to call on the Israeli government to adhere to international law without exception; to grant Palestinians basic human rights including the Right of Return; and to be part of a solution that recognizes Palestine’s rights.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Homo Sapiens… Humans with wisdom to live beyond consumption!

I don’t remember who first coined the phrase “Homo consumerensis” as a description of the human species, but it has been around for a while.  It is a take-off on the scientific designation of our species, “Homo sapiens.”  In today’s world, government policy and the corporate world would have us be known in terms of our economic viability and ability to consume.

As you may know, Homo sapiens means “humans with wisdom.”  We evolved from Homo erectus and other ancestors in the human evolution family tree; when it came time to name us, it was decided that wisdom was an appropriate term to apply to modern human beings… hence Homo sapiens.  It seems an ironic designation to me as I despair that we are not so very wise!

Since the Industrial Revolution—and even before—the worth of humans in the Western world became attached to our ability to consume goods and services.  We came to be seen as unique economic units.  The economy became the focus of governments and those that wanted to succeed in government began to appeal to the baser parts of our human nature, the want for more and the desire to get ahead.  I began this blog with reference to the cheeky human designation “Homo consumerensis,” but now I think we should be known as “Homo economensis.”

My own sense of self in relation to others, which stems from my spiritual beliefs, is that I am part of an intricate web of life.  I am not a separate unit, least of all a separate unit of economic viability.  I am a human being, gifted with life, part of the web of life.  Life for all is what is important, not our ability to consume.

In BC politics, we are facing an unprecedented time of cooperation… at least, I hope we are!  The Green and NDP Parties have formed a coalition and are forming a government.  I was outspoken during the recent election that the economy is not the most important thing in politics; community is more important, as is justice, hope, life and the web of life.  The Liberal party kept hammering away at the fact that the Greens and the New Democrats would destroy the economy; the Liberals kept repeating, “It’s all about the economy, stupid.”

Well, it isn’t all about the economy.  It is about enhancing life for all.  I hope that the NDP and Green coalition will help us shift from seeing the economy as the most important thing to seeing justice, hope and the enhancement of life as the most important things.  God knows, and we must learn, that endless consumption and growth is destroying our planet.

I’ve been reading a bit about a guaranteed basic income; some economists suggest that poverty in over 65 countries could be alleviated with a basic income.  John McArthur, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, has suggested that a guaranteed basic income would help hundreds of millions of people; McArthur is also an advisor to the UN Foundation and a board governor for the International Development Research Centre.

There have been pilot projects in Namibia, Brazil, Finland, Manitoba, and now in Ontario.  Denmark, Norway and many other countries around the world have experimented with various forms of a guaranteed income.  I was speaking recently with a Scottish cousin of mine whose son lives in Denmark; he talked about research in Denmark showing that work satisfaction is high, anxiety is low, and costs related to unemployment very low; he further said that people don’t abuse the system.

We need a humane model for dealing with the economy, one that is based on the inherent value and worth of each individual… and not because they consume goods and services, but because they are part of the web of life.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

United Church of Canada Justice Work

In June, unfortunately with little fanfare, the Senate passed Bill C-16, which adds protection of gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Code and the Criminal Code.  Trans and gender non-binary people--long overdue--are now protected from hate-speech and hate-crimes.  The United Church celebrates this new law and invites us all to imagine a non-binary and non-heterosexual dominant world.  Language is important with respect to this new bill and we need to be vigilant.  Think of how we often use male/female or sister/brother language; many of our hymns follow this pattern.  Thanks to the private member for bringing this bill forward.  Yaay!

There is another bill before the Canadian parliament, currently expected to have second reading this fall; this is Bill C-262, implementing the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Kairos—of which the United Church is a member—has made this one of its campaigns.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada made the UN declaration in its Calls to Action.  Canada still has a long way to go in living out the apology made by then PM Harper and in implementing the TRC recommendations.  Adopting Bill C-262 would be an important step.  For more information go to the Kairos website.

The United Church has expressed its support for the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability report.  UN experts are encouraging the Canadian government to increase efforts to prevent human rights abuses by corporations.  The UN has created Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; you can see those by clicking on UN.  Canada has a deplorable track record with respect to the mining industry; many Canadian projects in Eritrea and other parts of Africa and Central and South America in particular were highlighted.  Contact your MP to urge that our Canadian government increase its vigilance with respect to human rights abuses by Canadian Corporations and their subsidiaries overseas.