Stop the violence

Published Thursday, October 19, 2023

As part of our response to the Israeli-Palestinian violence, we feel compelled to share some educational resources in relation to this complex issue. If you want to see a list of actions you can take, please scroll down to the bottom of the post.

We’ve all been impacted by the unimaginable violence and suffering in Israel and Palestine since October 7.

At Leadnow, we condemn all violence and war crimes against civilians and grieve for the thousands of lives lost in Israel and Palestine and millions displaced in Palestine. We unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and racism. Our vision of a world where human rights are protected, and human life is sacrosanct is fundamental to our organization. Every day, we are driven by our core values of justice, equality, freedom and democracy in all of our work.

Leadnow is opposed to the Israeli apartheid and illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. As I write this email, Israel continues to violate international law by leveraging collective punishment against Palestine. Our leaders must call for an immediate ceasefire and an end to crimes against humanity, and address the root causes of this violence, by lifting the blockade and ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Our team of staff, board of directors, thousands of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of supporters represent many nationalities, faiths and cultures. Many of our staff and board, like so many of you, are directly impacted by this conflict, and we are all emotionally harrowed by the images of violence against civilians.

This post and any future work that Leadnow does related to Palestine and Israel will also be guided by the principle that multiple truths can exist at the same time and within the same geographic location.

A humanitarian crisis a century in the making
The media is full of conflicting messaging right now. Many Western governments and news outlets are telling the story as if the clock started on October 7, with the worst attack on Jewish families since the holocaust, by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas, must be held accountable for their deliberate and horrific attacks on civilians and safe passage for the Israeli hostages must be ensured. While we call for the safe release and return of Israeli and other foreign national civilian captives held by Hamas in Gaza, Palestinian civilians who have been illegally detained in Israel must also be released. 

Such violence against civilians can never be justified, nor can it be called unprovoked. This current conflict has been hundreds of years in the making, and follows decades of Israeli occupation of Palestine.1 In retribution for the Hamas attack, the Israeli military government is carrying out a “full siege” of the 2.3 million Palestinian people living in Gaza (half of whom are children), who are now living with no electricity and limited food, water and fuel.

We recognize that the history of Israel in Palestine is long and complex, and understanding it is fundamental to framing the context of the violence we now bear witness to. It can be hard to understand what's happening amidst the many different stories circulating in the media, so we'd like to share some context for how this came about – and why Palestinian people need our solidarity now.

These are some resources you may want to use to build up your knowledge of the region:
Western powers carved up the Middle East in much the same way that they abused their power to create arbitrary borders across other parts of their former empires. Tensions increased with the creation of a “national home” for Jews. Following the bitterly contested 1947 UN resolution partitioning Palestine, Jewish leaders’ declaration of the State of Israel ignited the Arab-Israeli war on May 15, 1948, as Palestinians fought against Israel’s policy of settler colonialism that intended to permanently replace the Palestinian people.

In the area which became Israel, over 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed, and 750,000 Palestinian people fled or were forcibly expelled from their homes. May 15 this year marked 75 years since the Nakba, the “Catastrophe”. This is why groups like Jewish Voice for Peace are now calling on media outlets such as the New York Times to ensure that their coverage of the violence in Gaza and Israel “must include the context of a brutal, 75-year occupation”.2

Neither the Palestinian people displaced by the Nakba nor their descendants have been allowed by Israel to return to their homelands, despite a United Nations resolution setting out their right to return.3 Before this most recent wave of violence and displacement, the United Nations recognized around five million Palestinian refugees. Returning to their homes is a key Palestinian demand, which Israel refuses.

Since 2007, Israel has imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, controlling Gazan airspace, its shoreline, and strictly policing the movement of people, goods, produce and fuel through its border crossings for 16 years. Israel has effectively created an open air prison system in Gaza. This blockade and international sanctions against Hamas mean that the vast majority (80%) of the Gazan population depends on international aid, and one million people rely on daily food aid. Right now, no aid can reach Gaza, because of the Israeli blockade and bombing of the single border crossing not controlled by Israel.4 Israel has now agreed that Egypt may deliver a limited amount of humanitarian aid to southern Gaza, far less than what is needed.5

The occupation and blockade have led many in the international community to refer to Israel’s regime as an apartheid against Palestinian people.6

Peaceful protest, freedom of religion are fundamental human rights
As vehement believers that peaceful protest is a human right, we were dismayed over the past week to see Canadian leaders conflating peaceful pro-Palestinian protests with hate speech or support for Hamas.7 Solidarity with Palestinian people is not anti-Semitism, nor is criticizing the State of Israel. Canadian leaders must reject the dangerous narrative that standing in solidarity with Palestinian civilians under siege is synonymous with hate speech.8

Speaking with a Muslim executive director of another advocacy organization, they shared that they have felt silenced by this climate of fear. As an organization that promotes civic engagement, we must all rail against the darkness that comes when chilling and unwarranted threats of hate speech shuts down open dialogue and free speech.

Both the targeting of civilians and the strategy of collective punishment is illegal under international law. Yet as we write, already a million Gazans have been displaced since the outbreak of violence on October 7.9 Following Israel’s order for over a million civilians to leave their homes in Gaza, we have already seen Israeli attacks on civilian convoys.10,11,12. Already, hundreds of Palestinian people were killed during a bomb strike on a hospital in Gaza. These are war crimes.

Our collective hearts break with every passing day of this unfolding war and as more civilians are targeted, massacred, maimed and displaced.

It is clear that our leaders must call for an immediate ceasefire and an end to crimes against humanity. In doing so, they must address the root causes of this violence. This means ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and lifting the blockade which is punishing Gazan civilians.

What you can do
Violence and war crimes against civilians carried out by any party are deplorable and must be stopped. Here are a few things you can do:

Share this blogpost with someone you know with a note about why you think it is important.

Take action
There are actions you can take to help civilians impacted:
Make a donation for humanitarian aid to help those directly impacted by the ongoing violence:
  • The Red Cross is working on the ground to provide emergency medical services, first aid, triage, transport of patients and psychosocial support
  • Médecins Sans Frontières is working on the ground to provide medical care for civilians caught in the conflict
  • The Palestinian Red Crescent Society is working directly on the ground to help the victims of this humanitarian crisis
  • Save the Children is working with the thousands of children impacted by the attacks, particularly with mental health impacts from witnessing such violence
  • United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) has a Gaza Emergency Appeal to support their work on the ground, providing shelter and emergency health care

In the days ahead, Leadnow will share our own calls to action for our supporters to participate in. We hope you will join us in standing up for human rights, holding Israel accountable to international law and its legal obligations, and calling for the protection of the most vulnerable civilians, including women and children in Gaza.

With hope,
Shanaaz, on behalf of Leadnow