I CRY FOR ISRAEL
I am looking at a picture of my two grand daughters: Hana, 12 years old, brilliant, hard working, competitive, and serious like her Dad, and Miki, eight, a clown, a fun-loving joker, and affectionate and warm hearted somewhat like her uncle Kenny. I love them so very dearly; I can give my life for them. They both have names that are good both in Hebrew and Japanese languages. Yes, they are Canadians of both Japanese and Jewish ancestry. They are the reason why I feel passionately protective of the State of Israel. Hana and Miki have a safe home to go back to, just in one in million chances when such a necessity presents itself . I know it could never happen. But that was how Japanese Canadians felt: “we are not enemies, we are Canadians.” But all of them were given ID cards as “Enemy Aliens” and were rounded up and were kept in cattle stalls at the Pacific National Exhibition, Vancouver, in 1942.
Anyone who saw the Academy Award winning Italian movie “Life is Beautiful” understands why I feel like this. Even a seven year old child could have been gassed in a Nazi death camp because he had a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, like Hana and Miki. I shiver in horror by a thought of it. Of course it will never happen. But what about the massacre in Paris just this year in 2015?
This is why I am totally committed to the survival of the State of Israel as a home for all the Jews in the world. We, of the Japanese origine in Canada, will never have to experience again what happened in 1942 – 49 in Canada. You think? I still have a copy of the letter the First Secretary of the Canadian Embassy in Cape Town wrote to me in 1975. “As a Canadian of non-European origine” (exact words) one must honour the laws of the host country where he is a guest.” He was explaining to me why I was expelled from South Africa.
The record of the Canadian diplomatic representatives overseas in protection of “Canadian of non-European origine” is not so spectacular. Do I feel at home in Canada? Yes 100%, but…. How come people still ask me where I come from. “Quebec,” I answer. It was where I last lived and worked for ten years. No that’s not what they were asking. Before that? Toronto, Geneva in Switzerland, Lesotho in Africa, or Vancouver? Not that’s not the answer they expect from me. Now that Harper government is thinking a creation of two tier category of Canadian citizenship, so that the government will have a power to stripe citizenship.
With such a backdrop, do you blame me in the very back of my mind to find a life-line of notion, “I have a home to go to just in case.” Jews now have a home, Israel, just in case in million chance. Do you blame them after millennia of persecution? I understand.
The Holocaust happened seventy years ago. But Christians had persecuted and murdered Jews for two millennia everywhere in Europe. Such a memory lingers for a long time. No matter how the State of Israel was established (can any country claim totally morally squeaky clean beginning?), I firmly believe that it has to remain the home for all the Jews in the world. All the civilized countries have duty to defend its existence. Israel has the right to exist absolutely.
That is the very reason why I firmly believe the Occupation of Palestine by Israel must end. The occupation and the way the Palestinians are treated by the state of Israel in their own home must cease. It is the first step to ensure the existence of the State of Israel. If it has to continue to exists, it is absolutely necessary to be friends with the Arab neighbours. And the peaceful co-existence of two states, Israel and Palestine, is the utmost importance. Otherwise, th region will be, if it may not already be, in a perpetual state of hostility like the Balkans. The U.S. may not afford to pay for the protection of Israel for ever. America is the only country paying for the defence of Israel. Would I feel secure with such a singlehanded guarantee? No.
They have to begin rapprochement now. Unfortunately, the current relation between two peoples is worsening. Hatred between peoples are palpable. Just listen to people talk about the other people on the streets in Tel Aviv and Ramallah: racist on both sides. Perpetual state of oppression is not the way to nurture friendship. Neither can rockets and cluster bombs force people to love each other. What does it take for a six years old boy to carry stones in his pocket just in case he spots a lone Jesh (Israel soldier) looking the other way: decades of hostility. He is bred in bones to hate the neighbour.
When I came back to Canada from African and Switzerland, where my preoccupation was to fight Apartheid, I was employed by the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC). The first Ecumenical gathering I was assigned to attend was a meeting on Palestinian refugees held in Beirut, Lebanon organized by the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC). That was in 1979. I thought I was hearing stories from Apartheid South Africa. The Committee on Development and Service of the CCC appointed me to be the permanent representative for five churches, Anglican, Disciples, Presbyterian, Quakers, and United, for this MECC programme. It was easy to understand what was happening. Similarity between Palestine and South Africa was uncanny. No wonder Desmond Tutu understood that too. I don’t think many people know that Tutu is a persona-none-grata in Israel for many years. Thus my annual journey to Palestine began to continue until 1985 when I was seconded to the WCC and relocated to Geneva.
For 15 years, I had been exposed to daily frustration and humiliation of my Palestinian colleagues in the West Bank and Gaza. My friends were elite. People’s experience is much worse. Daily humiliation was accelerating their hatred, and obvious economic disparity between two peoples were driving people to desperation. If the State of Israel is to continue, the relationship has to begin to move towards opposite direction: towards reconciliation, friendship and good will. It may be too late. During the early stage of the second Intifada in the 1990’s, some Israeli left leaning pundits already started to predict “One State” solution in despair. They predicted that such a state will result in the end of Jewish state. Demography always shows that less wealthy group eventually takes over the more wealthy one eventually. It’s an “apartheid” system that never succeeds.
When I began my annual trip to Israel-Palestine during the eighties, Jewish settlements still had a population of less than 100,000. However many people said that when the settlers’ number exceeded 100,000, it would be a de-facto annexation. Now the settler population is about 300,000. Only a determined denier hopes for a bright future for the Jewish State. I cry for Israel.