Independent Jewish Voices member echoes calls for ceasefire in Gaza

Bernie Koenig (pictured) speaks on behalf of Independent Jewish Voice, a group that supports peace in the Middle East.

Protests in support of Palestine, demanding an end to the bombings in Gaza, are ongoing across Canada. One of the many groups in support of a ceasefire is the Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), who have publicly stated their support for systemic change in Israel-Palestine and who, on Nov. 7, released a statement calling for an end to the repression of Palestinian solidarity on post-secondary campuses, after student groups at several Canadian universities were condemned by their institutions for voicing their support for the people of Palestine.

IJV is a diverse group that supports peace in Israel-Palestine based on equality and human rights principles. One of its most notable members is Bernie Koenig, a retired Fanshawe professor. Koenig also belongs to another group called We Are Not Numbers, which documents the experiences of Gaza’s people and publishes them on its website.

Koenig explained that he personally never questioned Israel until the 1967 war, when he realized that Israel was a part-instigator in that.

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“I’m reading a fascinating book by a Palestinian, Rashid Khalidi called The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine, and the author goes back to the early settlements and how the early Zionists learned Arabic for foot, properly prepared to live with the Arabs in Palestine as long as it was like a Jewish homeland, but the First World War changed everything.”

Koenig talked about the Balfour Declaration in 1917, wherein Jews from Eastern Europe who tried to escape from the antisemitism in Russia went to Palestine because England did not want to take them in.

“But after the Second World War, in 1947, all people cared about was establishing the state of Israel. And everybody was sympathetic to the Jews at that time. And there was no question about what was going on,” Koenig added. “Nobody considered the fact that people were living on that territory, and they were forced off the land to create Israel and pushed into the West Bank and Gaza.”

One of the things that worries Koenig, and many other Jews is that the idea of criticizing Israel is considered anti-Semitic.

“Most of us are opposed to that because one thing is politics, and the other is religion. I can be Jewish and be very critical of the government of Israel.”

That’s why Koenig and the IJV are also against Hamas because, “they have a view that that whole land should be Palestinian, and the Zionists believe that whole land should be the Jewish homeland, so they are mirror images of the same thing.”

Hamas was elected back in 2006, but after that, they stopped the elections. The group took over Palestine and became an anti-democratic group.

“We know what Hamas did against civilians, and we disapprove of it,” Koenig said of Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7. “But Israel’s response to that is horrific, just indiscriminately bombing civilians.”

To follow closely what is happening in Gaza, check out these links to digital media and reporters on the ground: