In Palestine, the people are rising. What choice do they have? How much do we expect them to take?
Israeli snipers have been targeting children. Little ones, unarmed, defenseless against some of the most professional soldiers in all of history. There are videos of these shootings online. One shows a boy shot through by multiple bullets. There is nothing exceptional about this video. There are many others like it. But this boy, in this video, is shot through by the bullets of a sniper. He is alone and bleeding out on a sidewalk. Nobody stops to care for him. Not the civilian or the officers who are present. The settler filming it all on his phone yells, “Die! Die, you motherfucker, die! Die, you faggot, die! Die, you son of a bitch!” and he makes sure to yell in both Hebrew and Arabic so that the boy understands him.
The boy, Ahmed Manasra, calls for help but no one helps him. As he cries out, you can hear his lungs filling with blood.
That boy survived. Other children — Muhammad al-Kasbeh, Laith al-Khalidi, Muhammad al-Masri, two others who are unnamed, not to mention 18 month old Ali Saad Dawabsheh, who was burned to death in his home by Israeli settlers — did not survive. They are never coming back again. They are dead. And the parents who lost them, the siblings who survived them, the aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and neighbours and partners, and all the people who wept and threw stones at tanks and concrete barriers — what choice do they have? How much do we expect them to take?
Yesterday, Charlie asked me if there are any special calendar days or holidays in November. I told him that Remembrance Day is happening on November 11th. He asked me what Remembrance Day is. I told him that it is a day when we are supposed to remember that war is a terrible, terrible thing. We remember this, I explained, with the hope that the memory will be strong enough that it will stop us from going to war and bring us peace. Charlie asked me if there are still wars happening. I told him that there are. He asked me what happens in war. I said that people kill and hurt other people with guns and bombs and usually a lot of people suffer and die so that a few people can get really rich. “Do they use swords, too?” he asked me. “They do,” I said.
He paused for awhile and then he asked me if babies get killed in wars. I said that even babies die in wars. He paused again and asked me if kids die in wars, too. “Yes, kids die, too,” I replied.
He paused again and then he said, “I wish there was no more war. And no more dying.
Meanwhile, in this colonized territory where my people have settled, we recently elected an new Prime Minister. He is the most recent great white hope for those who still feel the need to hope in politicians. “Anything but Harper,” was the rallying cry for voters across this nation during the campaign, and the Conservatives were voted out, the Liberals were voted in, and we got a Trudeau.
Trudeau the First, it should be remembered, was responsible for bringing forward the White Paper in 1969, a genocidal piece of policy that aimed to eradicate these occupied territories of their original inhabitants, along with the help of a young Jean Chrétien (who also later became a Liberal Prime Minister of Canada). Here’s another fun fact about Trudeau the First and Chrétien – they both physically assaulted people who were protesting the violence of their reigns.
Is it any wonder, then, that Trudeau the Second has an unblemished record of unconditional support for Israel? Pundits have remarked that, although T2’s tone may shift, his actions will be the same.
(Meanwhile, that supposed bastion of the “true Left” in Canada, the New Democratic Party, prevented all of its candidates from speaking in favour of the Palestinians or against Israel, and enforced a firmly pro-Israel stance upon its members as well. This after they already decided they weren’t democratic socialists anymore and purged the Party literature of any reference to socialism.)
Settler Colonials of the world unite! We have nothing to lose… because everything is already ours all the time. The trees to cut down, the earth to tear up, the water to poison, the lives of others to use and use up as we see fit. Or, as T2 said a few months ago, “we also take the opportunity to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to working with regional partners and allies to ensure a safe and secure state for the Jewish people.” Or, slightly paraphrased, he said, “Die! Die, you motherfucker, die! Die, you faggot, die! Die, you son of a bitch!”
Because, while Israeli snipers hunt Palestinian children for sport, to the great amusement of Israeli settlers, we’ve done the same with many others in the occupied territories we call Canada. I’d tell you to go and ask the Beothuk about that, but we hunted them to extinction. There are no more Beothuk. But I’m sure there was a lot of general hilarity provided for the settlers here who watched them die.
I wasn’t sure what to say when Charlie asked me about war, and about wars killing babies and children. I didn’t anticipate that conversation. I didn’t even want to have it. Why do children have to learn about the horrible things people do to other people?
But even as I was thinking about this, and about my wish that I didn’t have to teach my children these things, and about my wish that my children could be kept young and innocent and pure of heart forever and ever (Charlie wished this, too, after wishing for no more war and no more dying, he wished we would all have no more birthdays and stay the same age we are now forever – because, for some reason, he has concluded that people and things die when they turn 100 and so if we stay the same age we won’t die), I realized how privileged my family is. I can choose to talk about war or not talk about war with my kids. We stumbled onto the topic by accident.
Things are different for the children of those who have been violently colonized or born into any one of the multitude of hells we have created in this beautiful home we call earth. This is as true for children who survived St. Anne’s Residential school, in what we call Fort Albany, Ontario, as it is for children who survived the Israeli shelling of a United Nations run school in Gaza.
And this is what I think sometimes. Sometimes I think that Lefties in these occupied territories like to focus on Israel and how horrible Israel is (and it is horrible, it truly is), so that they can tell themselves a certain story about themselves. Specifically, they focus on Israel in order to feel like they are not like Israelis. How could they be like that? And so they join in protests and write letters to their Member of Parliament, and post links on facebook… all while living as settlers in a land that continues to be colonized through a commitment to genocide by whatever means possible (and a shift in means should not cause us to think the genocide is somehow less violent or more acceptable).
The Beothuk, by the way, used to put red ochre on their skin and clothing and other objects. They were some of the first people encountered by European settlers. It is likely because of this, and not because of the actual colour of their skin, that Europeans began to call Indigenous peoples “redskins” which then also became a term associated with the bounties that were paid to those who hunted and killed Indigenous people. Hence, you were paid for various animal skins — foxes, otters, wolves, etc. — but you were also paid for the number of red skins you brought in (which also helps to explain why the term is so offensive, since settlers tend to not take others at their word when they are told that something they say is offensive). Hence, the Phips Declaration of 1755 reads as follows:
Whereas the Tribe of Penobscot Indians have repeatedly in a perfidious manner acted contrary to their Solemn Submission unto his Majesty long since mad and frequently renewed. I have therefore at the desire of the House of Representatives with the Advice of his Majesty’s Council thought fit to issue the Proclamation and to declare the Penobscot tribe of Indians to be Enemies, Rebells, and Traitors to his Majesty King George the Second.
And I do hereby require his Majesty’s Subjects of this Province to Embrace all opportunities of pursuing, captivating, killing and Destroying all and every of the aforesaid Indians.
And whereas the General Court of the Province have Voted that a bounty or Incouragement be granted and allowed to be paid out of the public Treasury to the Marching Forces that shall have been employed for the Defence of the Eastern and Western Frontiers from the first of the twenty-fifth of this Instant November — I have thought fit to publish the same and I do hereby Promis that there shall be paid out of the Province Treasury to all and any of the said Forces over and above their Bounty upon inlistment, their Wages and Subsistance the Premiums or Bounty following viz.
For every Male Penobscot Indian above the Age of twelve years that shall be taken within the Time aforesaid and brought to Boston Fifty Pounds.
For every Female Penobscot Indian taken and brought in as aforesaid and for Every Male Indian Prisoner under the age of twelve Years taken and brought in as aforesaid Twenty five Pounds.
For every Scalp of such Female Indian or Male Indian under the Age of twelve years that Shall be killed and brought in as Evidence of their being killed as aforesaid, Twenty pounds.
Given at the Council Chamber in Boston this third day of November 1755 and in the twenty ninth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the second by the Grace of God of Great Britain France and Ireland King Defender of the Faith.
Fifty pounds for the scalp of males older than 12. For females and males under the age of 12 brought in as prisoners, 25 pounds. For the scalps of females, or males under the age of 12, 20 pounds. Here in the territories called Canada, it took until after the year 2000 for it to be clarified that government bounties for Indigenous scalps were no longer enforced.
I don’t know how I handled the conversation with Charlie. I mentioned Remembrance Day and why it was founded — lest we forget and plunge the world into war again — but I didn’t tell him that the current way in which Remembrance Day is celebrated is a betrayal of this kind of memory. Now we do not remember in order to avoid war. Now, Remembrance Day has become a ritual of honouring those who fought and died and made the ultimate sacrifice in a world where war is inevitable and perpetual. In fact, if there is one day of the year when you are not permitted to be anti-war, it is Remembrance Day. Speak out again war, and you will be seen as blaspheming the sacrifices of those who gave their lives for what they thought was something like freedom for us all (but what, in actuality, was likely profit for a very few).
“Support our troops!” is often yelled at those who speak critically of war. But I do support our troops. Not just with my tax dollars but sentimentally as well. I support them by thinking it is best if they all lay down their arms and go back to their families or friends or jobs or lovers or hobbies or mundane lives. Better that than dying. Better that than killing.
(Remember Shidane Arone? And remember that it was a Liberal government that tried to cover up that matter and then also tried to divert attention away from it and prevent the inquest from bringing any real reform?)
But I didn’t say any of this to Charlie. He learned that there are wars and that they are terrible. He learned that even babies and children die and suffer in wars. That’s a lot to learn. I don’t think he’s ready yet to learn that people don’t actually want a world without war. To be honest, I don’t know that I’m ready to learn that either. But I did. And he will, too, eventually.
Charlie has a stuffed animal his mother gave to him. It is a multicoloured unicorn named Wishful. He snuggles with her at night. Apparently the tag on her neck says that she grants wishes. Beware of giving such things to children who can read. The night after our conversation, he cuddled up around her and wished for no more war and no more dying. The next morning, when he woke up, there was still war and dying.
He looked sad and perplexed. Why didn’t Wishful grant his wishes? Something was wrong and he wasn’t sure how to make it right.
I know the feeling.