Commentary  Tadamon! clears up opportunism for the misinformed

In an article published in the January 12 issue of The Daily, Tadamon!, a Montreal-based social justice group active on, among other things, the issue of Palestine, is characterized as “opportunistic.” The author of the article, Ricky Kreitner, passes this judgment despite admittedly having done “minimal research” on our group.

The article implies that Tadamon! is exploiting the recent attack on occupied Gaza to criticize Israel for heavily targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza. “One thing that opportunists do,” the author states, “is to take undeniably horrible circumstances and use them to their own advantage.”

Precisely how and why this characterization of opportunism fits the content of Tadamon!’s online bulletin – the main object of the author’s objections – is unclear and remains unexplained in the article. This is undoubtedly because the fit is anything but evident. However, despite the gratuitousness of the judgment on Tadamon!, it may be taken at face value by some readers, and given that it is meant to damage the image of its target, it must be addressed.

Let us speak first about the “undeniably horrible circumstances” in Gaza. During the three weeks of attacks on Gaza, Israel murdered more than 1,300 Palestinians, specifically targeting educational institutions including UN schools, the Islamic University of Gaza, and the University Teacher’s Association in Gaza City.

Israel’s attack on Palestinian civilians in Gaza is well documented and morally repulsive. Days into the recent bombardment on Gaza, five Palestinian sisters were killed while sleeping through an Israeli air strike on the Jabalya refugee camp, buried in their beds as the walls of the family home collapsed after being hit by an Israeli missile.

The Palestinian sisters – Tahrir, 17; Ikram, 15; Samar, 12; Dina, eight; and Jawaher, four – unfortunately stand as only one horrible example of the over 300 Palestinian children killed in Gaza over the past weeks.

Israel’s recent military attack on Gaza takes place in the context of a two-year siege on occupied Gaza, which, among other things, denied Palestinians the freedom to leave Gaza, as well as access to sufficient fuel, adequate food, medical care, and employment.

By this past December, 200 Palestinians had died because they could not leave Gaza to receive medical care, 80 per cent of the population was dependent on food relief from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and the World Food Program, and unemployment was at 45 per cent.

Based on such circumstances, it is clear that Israel is heavily targeting civilians, whether during the recent three-week military assault or during its prolonged and ongoing siege and blockade of Gaza, which amounts to collective punishment.

Yet, even if Kreitner would admit to the targeting of civilians, it seems that this strategy would not be a problem for him. The article contends that Israeli soldiers must murder Palestinians in order to get at their real target: Hamas. Murdering Palestinian civilians is justified, the author contends, because Hamas uses them as human shields or, in his terms, as “horribly literal skirts [behind which Hamas fighters hide].” What is strikingly – and alarmingly – literal, however, is the author’s blinkered backing and parroting of Israel’s official spin and rationalizations for the crimes that the Israeli army and political leaders committed in occupied Gaza.

Most importantly, the misinformed author perhaps does not realize that the majority of the Gaza Strip’s population is Palestinian refugees, expelled from their homes by Israel in 1948 – Palestinians pushed aside to “make way” for the Israeli state. Israel’s foundational injustice as a nation built on land from which over 750,000 indigenous Arab Palestinians were expelled, remains the root of the conflict today.

In the end, if Kreitner truly dislikes opportunism and is keen to expose it, he should examine his own writing, positions, and the bases upon which his “own morality” rests. Because what is opportunistic is to give moral justification to mass confinement, to massacre and the destruction of homes, families, livelihoods, and civilian infrastructure at the expense of thousands of Palestinian children and the entirety of a largely refugee population.

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