Newfoundlanders with ties to Middle East look to Israel-Palestine conflict in horror

Members of the Jewish and Palestinian communities in Newfoundland are reeling from ongoing news from the Middle East, as conflict and bloodshed continues in the region.

Jewish, Palestinian communities in N.L. in shock after weekend bloodshed

People gather around grey concrete rubble in Gaza.
Palestinians gather around the rubble of a building destroyed in Israeli strikes in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/REUTERS)

Newfoundlanders with ties to the Middle East are reeling from the ongoing news out of Israel and Palestine, as conflict and bloodshed continues in the region.

Israel announced a "complete siege" of the Gaza Strip early Monday, vowing to cut off all food and power to the two million Palestinians living there.

The move comes two days after Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israeli residents — killing more than 700 people — and as rocket attacks on Israel continue.

Steven Wolinetz, a retired Memorial University political science professor, has watched the news in horror.

But the violent images he's seeing are nothing new, he told CBC News.

"Israel has been in the unfortunate position of having to live as a garrisoned state," he said Monday. "Jewish settlement has not been without conflict, and that's obviously a massive understatement."

Wolinetz said some families within the small Jewish communities in Newfoundland are originally from Israel and are in touch with family and friends injured in the attack.

"Nobody is unaffected," he said. "To say someone was asleep at the switch understates it. The Israelis were not prepared."

Wolinetz, as a political scientist, has an inkling the latest violence will become a catalyst for change between the two nationalities.

"Things are not going back to where they were. The political argument will intensify," he said.

"There has to be a settlement.… I'm not sure — I'm 80 years old — that I will live to see it, but yet, conflicts do get settled."

A man in a tie in an auditorium
Steven Wolinetz, a political scientist at Memorial University, says the news out of Israel has left the Newfoundland Jewish community in shock. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC)

Majed Khraishi, a medical professor at Memorial University, has extended family in the West Bank.

"It is heart-wrenching, no doubt about it," Khraishi said Monday. "This is a horrible situation, horrible situation for the victims on both sides."

Khraishi sees the latest conflict as a culmination of decades of tension — and its coverage in the Western world as evidence of bias against Palestine.

"At the end of the day, the Palestinian people have been totally sidelined," he said. "It's suddenly as if, you know, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian victims … they never existed. Because these victims are Israeli … the media [has a] very different attitude toward it."

For Khraishi, Hamas's attack, although unacceptable, is the result of years of oppression.

"At the end of the day, people when they are desperate, they do things that should not be done," he said, "but they do it because they are desperate."

He worries about "thousands and thousands of casualties" in the coming days — and can't see an easy solution on the horizon.

"Of course the Israeli people will look for revenge, and we're seeing it now.… It's just straightforward biblical vengeance," he said.

"[But] the night cannot last forever, and that's something we should stress at this point."

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  • A previous version of this story said the West Bank is not much bigger in area than the city of St. John's. In fact, the West Bank is much larger in size than St. John's. The area of the Gaza Strip is slightly smaller than the city.
    Oct 10, 2023 3:01 PM NT

With files from Terry Roberts

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