ON SILENCE

Bessa Whitmore (Ottawa, Ontario)

I grew up wondering how the holocaust could have happened. As a child, I could not understand why no one stopped it. (Children can think quite clearly at times.)

Sadly, I learned later that most Germans and most of the rest of the world were silent. They did not know or didn't want to know what was happening, despite the evidence all around them. 

I learned then that silence is complicit and that I must be active and speak out in the face of injustice. 

Thus, this trip to Israel and Palestine - to learn what in fact is happening from the people directly experiencing it. This will allow me to speak out with more knowledge and on the basis of personal experience.

To me, the silence of many (most?) Israelis and most of the rest of the world about the systematic and institutionalized oppression of the Palestinian people repeats that earlier history. Yet it is not only the silence of so many, it is the overt complicity and profit making by multinational corporations and others (such as pension funds) that actively support what is happening. A look at the BDS list provides ample testimony to this fact.

What I have witnessed and heard so far from both Israelis (those who are not silent) and Palestinians is appalling. I cannot help but be deeply moved by what is happening on the ground, every day. Day in and day out, Palestinians are humiliated, threatened and all too frequently murdered with impunity. One day while we were in the area, a Palestinian man was shot in the head and killed by an Israeli settler, who was not even arrested or investigated, much less charged with anything. This was not an isolated incident; it happens on a regular basis.

The stories we heard bring this home in a way that statistics and intellectual discussions cannot. Yes, the situation is complex. And that can and does become just an excuse for inaction.

Silence, now that I know what is happening, is not an option. I cannot consent - which is what silence is - to be complicit in this