The Mir Centre for Peace’s mandate is founded on research and teaching in peace and conflict studies, and it has academic freedom to make statements related to peace and conflict. These statements may not reflect the views of Selkirk College.
The horrifying violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) over the past five weeks has brought deep distress to all who have witnessed or followed the news. For many Jews worldwide, these terrible events have re-triggered the pain and fear of massive collective trauma. For Palestinians, especially those in Gaza, the relentless bombardments and near-complete siege present an unending nightmare of agony, grief, loss and fear. We express our deep care and concern for everyone affected, near and far.
We condemn all atrocities, no matter who commits them. Civilians on both sides must be protected. And where either states or non-state actors violate norms of justice or exceed the bounds of international law, including the laws of war, the international community must act to constrain them. If we do not, we are enabling further atrocities, which means more individual and collective trauma, which in turn fosters extremism and the election of future leaders who will perpetuate war.
On October 26, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution A/ES-10/L.25 calling for an “immediate, sustained humanitarian truce leading to cessation of hostilities between Israel, Hamas.” The assembly further called on both parties to “act to prevent the commission of, and incitement to, any crimes under international law, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.” We echo this strong call—brief “humanitarian pauses” are not enough.
We call for the immediate safe release of civilians being held hostage by Hamas and the release of Palestinians who are in detention in Israel without trial or charge. We call for dramatically increased and sustained provision of desperately needed medicines, food, water and fuel to civilians in Gaza. We call on all parties to protect hospitals, medical personnel, journalists and humanitarian aid workers. We stand in awe of the courage and selflessness of those who go voluntarily to war zones to help those who cannot leave.
Ending this most recent conflagration is only a first step on the long road toward lasting peace in the region. It will need to be followed by serious efforts to address the long-standing injustices and insecurities that are fuelling it. These can no longer be ignored.
Here at home, we must stand resolutely against both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. We must guard against the deepening of divisions, the spread of hate and disinformation, and the restriction of freedoms that so often accompany war. By encouraging peaceful dialogue, dignity and respect across difference, we can help ensure that our campuses and our communities continue to be safe places of learning for all.
We call forth the wisdom of our collective conscience, which cries out desperately for humanity to prevail.
The loss of life and escalation of this long-standing conflict impacts the entire college community in some way. We encourage anyone who is feeling distressed by what is unfolding to reach out to available supports at the college. Assistance is available through Counselling Services and other mental health resources, including Here2Talk, which offers all students currently registered in a post-secondary institution in British Columbia access to free, confidential counselling and community referral services.
The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Homewood Health, gives professional, confidential counselling services to employees and their dependent families. The service is voluntary, and the goal of the program is a short-term solution focused on helping employees resolve personal and/or work life issues. Homewood Health can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-663-1142.
Statement on the Israel-Gaza War
We are horrified and deeply distressed at the escalating violence in Israel and Gaza, which may very soon engulf several other countries in the Middle East. Our hearts are heavy with fear and deep concern for those caught in the conflict, and for those in our communities who have friends and family in the region.
We deplore the terrifying abductions and lethal attacks by Hamas on civilians in Israel, including rocket and grenade attacks, the brutal killings of dozens of elderly, whole families, and children at the Kfar Aza and Be’eri kibbutzim, and the massacre of hundreds of young people at an outdoor music festival. Deliberately targeting civilians, in any conflict, is unjustifiable, morally egregious and a war crime under international law. This is especially painful against the backdrop of centuries of anti-Semitism that has included horrific, unspeakable violence against Jews, including but not limited to the Holocaust, and that, regrettably, persists in other forms today.
We also deplore the actions of the Israeli state—the bombing of civilians and the total siege being imposed in retaliation right now, which is also a war crime and possibly an act of genocide. All this exists in the context of the original dispossession of the Palestinian people, beginning in 1948, decades of oppression, the 16-year illegal blockade of Gaza, harsh collective punishment, denial of Palestinians’ basic human rights, detention of thousands of political prisoners, torture and years of impunity for crimes against Palestinians, including deadly violence by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and pogroms by settlers in the West Bank, which have increased dramatically in the past 18 months.
People will not bear conditions of illegal occupation, violent repression, profound inequality and hopelessness indefinitely; violent uprisings are inevitable. Suicide bombings and rocket attacks by militants have killed many Israelis over the years, but they are not likely to be ended by even more state violence. Previous bombing campaigns against Gaza have only strengthened Palestinian resistance and the desire to be free.
If we stand on principle, against violence, injustice and violations of human rights, we cannot use acts of grievous violence or injustice to excuse or encourage other such acts, no matter by whom or against whom they are committed. The end point of such escalation will be more horrific than anything we have yet seen. Nor should we allow such acts to make prejudice and hostility acceptable here at home. We must firmly oppose both anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiment.
As with all wars, the majority of casualties have been civilians. But let us remember, too, those young people who have been conscripted into compulsory military service, and those who are recruited to fight and sacrifice their lives. Soldiers and guerrilla fighters are not expendable simply because they are not civilians. They are daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, loved ones who suffer and whose deaths cause terrible grief and compel even more strife. Every life matters.
Finally, let us remember that there are within both Israel and Palestine many people of good will who have been trying for years to create a democratic state in which all peoples live in freedom, equality and security. We must support such initiatives and groups if and when they are able to re-emerge. One example is Combatants for Peace, made up of former fighters on both sides who have chosen co-existence and a vision of a just peace for all. They are united in their resolve to continue this work.
There is a great deal of responsibility to be shared here, and some of it falls on those of us who have turned a blind eye to the grave injustices of Israeli apartheid. It is not non-violence that we should turn our back on now but complacency. Dr Martin Luther King Jr said it well in 1968 when he observed, following violent race riots in the US, that “our nation's summers of riots are caused by our nation's winters of delay. As long as justice is postponed we always stand on the verge of these darker nights of social disruption.” This is a dark night indeed, one that will not end until there is justice, security, and freedom for all.
Statement on the Ukraine Crisis
The Mir Centre for Peace strongly condemns Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. It is a dangerous and blatant violation of the UN Charter. We stand with the people of Ukraine, who have already suffered great losses and are demonstrating even greater courage as they endure violence and resist occupation.
As peacemakers, we do not believe that violent escalation is the only way forward. There must be a political solution. There is a basis for negotiations in the Minsk Agreements.
Nonviolent civil resistance is also a source of great power and has been successful in displacing authoritarian leaders and resisting occupying forces before. Thousands of nonviolent resistors are engaging in widespread protest and political noncooperation right now, both in Ukraine and in Russia. This is under-reported. Let us support and amplify their brave actions.
In the name of human dignity, let us reject the use of dehumanizing language to refer to the “other” and refuse the demonization of any ethnic group. We remember that many within Russia—and Russians abroad—also oppose this war, as do people around the world. The actions of any nation’s government do not necessarily represent the will of its people.
Let us remember that soldiers are not the cause of the conflict, nor should they be excluded from our sentiments of care. Many have become instruments of violence—not always by choice but sometimes simply by virtue of gender, age or decree—but they are also victims of violence. Too often, wars benefitting the rich exploit the poor to fight.
We acknowledge that there are complex historical and political roots to this crisis, and that coming to consensus about its underlying causes and possible resolution is not easy. As we engage in dialogue, let us resist over-simplified narratives that reduce the conflict to a single cause or frame it in binary terms. There are many forces and failures that have brought us to this terrible place. To point out one is not to deny the others. Let us practice humility and openness in our quest to learn more.
We decry the tremendous loss of life, waste of resources and risks to humanity that the arms trade—and especially nuclear proliferation—represents. All states and all people have valid security interests and needs that must be recognized if any are to be safe. Ultimately, our common security depends not on threats of mutually assured destruction but on our ability to co-exist on one shared and finite planet.
We, therefore, call on all parties to respect international law and uphold their commitments to treaties and conventions that safeguard human rights, democratic institutions and humanitarian principles, including assistance to refugees.
We are at a very dangerous point in time when thousands of nuclear weapons stand ready to be deployed. The intentional, accidental or terrorist use of such weapons jeopardizes the safety, well-being and security of each and every one of us. We urge all countries—including Canada—to sign on to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which has already made nuclear weapons illegal under international law.
War is an abomination. How easily we forget that. Let us unite instead in our common wish for peace.