The walls of Izzeldin Abuelaish’s office at the University of Toronto are covered in photographs, but one, in particular, stands out.
Three of his daughters, Bessan, Mayar and Aya, sit on a beach in the Gaza Strip. The tide is out, and the girls – aged 13, 15 and 20 – have written their names in big letters on the sand. Mayar is barefoot, Aya looks directly at the camera, and Bessan smiles widely as she gazes over her name.
For Abuelaish, the image is a reminder of the promise he made them.
“I am determined to bring my daughters justice,” the 62-year-old Palestinian doctor told Al Jazeera, his voice both confident and hopeful. After years of fighting, his case will finally be heard before an Israeli court next month.
Only a few weeks after this photo was taken, Israel’s brutal 2008-09 war on the Gaza Strip was nearing its end. On January 16, 2009, Israeli army tanks shelled the Abuelaish family home in the Jabaliya refugee camp, killing Bessan, Mayar, Aya and their 17-year-old cousin, Noor.
“When they were killed, I swore to God, I swore to my daughters, I will never give up. I will never rest,” Abuelaish told Al Jazeera.
|Abuelaish’s daughters, Bessan, Mayar and Aya, were killed by Israeli shelling in 2009 [Photo courtesy of Izzeldin Abuelaish]|
“From the early days, I said [that] if I could know that my daughters were the last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis, then I would accept it. They were not the last, and that makes me sad, even angry: What can I do more?”
Abuelaish’s wife had recently passed away from leukaemia when Israel began the deadly, three-week assault on Gaza. By the end of the war, as many as 1,400 Palestinians were killed, the majority of whom were civilians.
Human rights groups documented the Israeli army’s use of white phosphorous munitions on crowded, populated areas of Gaza during the war, along with targeting of civilian infrastructure. The United Nations accused Israel of committing widespread human rights abuses, including potential war crimes, and of using “disproportionate force” to harm Palestinian civilians.
In the case of Abuelaish’s home, the Israeli army said at the time that soldiers were returning fire into areas from where they had been fired upon. The army later said that it thought it saw Hamas “spotters” near Abuelaish’s house.
Abuelaish was not satisfied with this explanation, but his attempt to get the Israeli government to take responsibility and apologise for the deaths of his daughters and his niece was fruitless. Instead, Israeli authorities initially described his loved ones as “collateral damage”, he said.
“It’s unethical to speak about a human being as collateral damage … We must delete this word from being connected with a human being,” he said. “This was more painful to me because the wound was open and still bleeding, as if we were adding salt to the wound.”
|‘I appeal to every human being to join us in this mission to give hope and life from death,’ says Abuelaish, pictured above with his family [Photo courtesy of Izzeldin Abuelaish]|
Almost two years after his daughters were killed, at the end of December 2010, Abuelaish took his fight for accountability to the Israeli courts, where he filed a civil lawsuit demanding an official apology. A year later, Abuelaish said he was forced to pay a 20,000-shekel bond ($5,300) for each of his daughters and his niece, in order for the case to be heard.
The hearings will finally take place this year in a court in Beer Sheva, in southern Israel, on March 15 and 19.
Abuelaish said that any compensation he is awarded would be used to establish schools in Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Afghanistan and Canada through the charity he has created in the memory of his children: the Daughters for Life Foundation.
Abuelaish and his surviving children moved to Canada in 2009, shortly after the tragedy. He now works as an associate professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of Toronto. In late 2015, all of his family members were granted Canadian citizenship.
“I appeal to every human being to join us in this mission to give hope and life from death,” Abuelaish said. “This foundation is dedicated to give hope to the world and to prove also this tragedy [could lead to something] good.”
He has called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to support his lawsuit and to send a letter to the Israeli government supporting his demand for an apology. A spokesperson for the ministry of foreign affairs told Al Jazeera that the government does not comment on civil lawsuits between private individuals and a foreign state.
But Abuelaish has not lost hope, nor given up on the prospect of finally getting justice for his loved ones.
“This will never take from my determination to move forward,” he said. “This anger, [I want it] to be used as a fuel to do more – not to be defeated, not to be broken, not to give up or forget my beloved daughters, because I am accountable and will remain until the last breath in my life, accountable to them.”
Source: Al Jazeera
US President Donald Trump has broken with more than two decades of American support for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. He would be happy with one.
Where does that leave international support for the two-state option?
And where does it leave any efforts to resolve the conflict?
Presenter: Hazem Sika
Natan Sachs – fellow in the Centre for Middle East Policy at Brookings Institution
Oded Eran – senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies
Amer Zahr – a law professor at the University of Detroit
Source: Al Jazeera News
Petition: UK government should ‘apologise’ to Palestinians for Balfour Declaration
February 18, 2017 at 1:42 pm
The Balfour Apology Campaign (BAC) has launched a petition which calls on the British government to apologise for the Balfour Declaration that lead to the colonisation of Palestine that continues to this day. BAC also called on the British government to lead peace efforts in Palestine.
The campaign, which was initiated by the UK-based Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), an organisation that supports the return of the Palestinian diaspora to their national homeland, urged Westminster to acknowledge responsibility for its colonial crimes in Palestine following the infamous declaration.
The Balfour Declaration, issued by the British Government in 1917 by Lord Arthur Balfour, resulted in the mass displacement of the Palestinian people and a century of suffering.
According to experts, the Balfour Declaration had no legal authority. It was described by jurist Henry Cattan as “legally void, morally wicked and politically mischievous”.
The BAC invited the British public to sign their petition to force the government to take action and acknowledge its historic responsibility towards the Palestinian people, after playing such a pivotal role in their displacement.
In a statement released on Thursday, the BAC said: “We call on Her Majesty’s Government to openly apologise to the Palestinian people for issuing the Balfour Declaration. The colonial policy of Britain between 1917-1948 led to mass displacement of the Palestinian nation.”
The BAC continued by saying that “HMG should recognise its role during the [League of Nations] Mandate and now must lead attempts to reach a solution that ensures justice for the Palestinian people.”
According to the statement, the campaign aims to impact all sections of society through working with politicians, MPs, media, NGOs, Charities, students and members of the public to raise awareness of Britain’s colonial past and its role in creating the longest standing conflict in modern times.
“No document in Middle Eastern history has had as much influence as the Balfour Declaration on the current plight of the Palestinian people,” the BAC said. “The Balfour Declaration, a 67-word statement is contained in the short letter by the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild, a leading English Jew, on November 2, 1917.”
The Balfour Declaration “[viewed] with favour” the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, without the consent of the inhabitants of the country, the Palestinian Arabs, who were the majority. In 1917, at the time of the declaration, Palestinians constituted over 90 per cent of the total population.
Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration | The 20th century | World history | Khan Academy