Yara Shoufani [Yara El Choufani] is a PhD Student in political science and government at York University, an organizer with the Palestinian Youth Movement Toronto chapter, and a former Executive Director of Canadian Friends of Sabeel and president of the Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights group (SPHR) at McMaster University.
On October 10, 2023, Rachel Hu and Chris Garaffa interviewed Yara Shoufani for CovertAction Bulletin on “Eyewitness Gaza: Why the Resistance is Justified.”
Here is the background information published by Rachel Hu and Chris Garaffa about the interview:
On October 7th, the Palestinian resistance launched its Al-Aqsa Flood uprising against the decades-long occupation by Israel. Despite $3.8 billion every year in military aid from the U.S. and a vast military and surveillance state, the Israeli government seemingly had no warning to this carefully-planned advance.
In response, Israel has declared a “total war” on Gaza. It’s shut down access to electricity and the Internet and more. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, “There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting animals and we act accordingly.” Israel has bombed the Rafah crossing into Egypt, leaving Gazans with no way to exit.
Within 4 days, the Israeli bombardment has left nearly 200,000 more people displaced in the Gaza strip, according to the UN, which also warns of a deepening of the already disastrous water crisis in Gaza. Western politicians in the U.S. and EU have been quick to condemn the Palestinian resistance and pledge their support to Israel. But across the United States and the world, protests have broken out in support of Palestine and the right of people to resist occupation and apartheid.
We’re joined by Yara Shoufani, a member of the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), which is a transnational organization with chapters across the U.S., Canada, and Europe, that is struggling for the liberation of Palestine. Find PYM on social media and at their website palestinianyouthmovement.com
For an on-the-ground report from Gaza, we are also joined by Wafa Aludaini, a Gaza-based journalist and activist and the 15th October Media Group’s manager. Wafa also works as an international correspondent with several international publications.
Excerpts from the interview:
Chris Garaffa: We used to have a term for these people, and also Rachel [Hu] was kind of talking about them, progressive except Palestine PEP like that used to just be what we called them. The first antiwar meeting I ever went to in like 2005, the group split during that meeting over the question of Palestine. The way we frame this, as you were saying earlier, and the way we provide context to the situation is so critical because we’re seeing so much misinformation out there, right? Immediately, like, oh, Hamas is kidnapping women and, like, raping people and mas- I- one today I saw was they’re massacring babies, but it turns out not to be true at all […] So setting the context and setting the framework at which we are talking about and looking at this situation and not apologizing for resistance is so, so important and that’s part of what y’all are doing with the Palestinian Youth Movement. So, you know, as we get your final thoughts, I’m hoping you can just tell us more about PYM and what y’all are up to, how to follow you, and how to support that work.
Yara Shoufani: Yeah, of course. So yeah, I know we mentioned earlier sort of the Palestinian Youth Movement is a transnational organization, the Palestinian and Arab Youth. We have chapters all across the US, Canada, and we’re actually… built, we launched a chapter in Britain and are currently working on building in Italy. So we’re really kind of trying to build as broadly as possible. And I would say also like central to our approach and our work just really quickly is like, that for us, we see ourselves as continuing to struggle for national liberation. And I think a lot of people, even those who are a little bit knowledgeable on the question of Palestine have kind of like become sort of trapped in the two-state framework, right? And that was the real sort of outcome of the Oslo Accords peace process, which was signed in 1993, where the United States sort of facilitated the signing of this sort of sham peace process between the Palestinians and the Zionists. And sort of from there on, the Palestinians, at least the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank sort of got trapped in this kind of like a two-state state-building project. And I think what the Palestinian Authority is attempting to do is we’re trying to say, or sorry, what the Palestinian Youth Movement is attempting to do is what we’re trying to say is we believe that we have a role in rebuilding institutions in the diaspora, in reconvening our people, our people who have been in the diaspora, in the far diaspora for some were born here, some have, you know, have been here for decades, and saying we’re not going to allow for them to be severed from the national liberation struggle. We’re not going to abandon our right to resist, or sorry, our right to return to our homeland. And we are not going to choose the path of normalization and the path of capitulation that says that we must plead with our occupiers and plead with imperialists in order to give us our land back, but rather that we support the path that our people have chosen, which is the revolutionary path of resistance and national liberation. And in order to do that, we need to build a popular base in the diaspora of people who support our right to return to our homeland, our right to liberate our homeland, and our right to reject the sort of sham process of negotiations, which seeks to really just, you know, tie us or sort of quiet us down while the Zionist entity takes more of our land. So if you are interested in plugging into the PYM, Um, you can learn a lot more about us on our Instagram page and our website, um, which maybe I’ll, I’ll send over, um, the spelling of, uh, afterwards. Um, but yeah. Um, and I’ll leave it there.
Excerpts from a report published by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (updated on November 16, 2023):
On Saturday 7 October 2023, the religious holiday of Simhat Torah, in an act of war, approximately two thousand terrorists from the Gaza Strip infiltrated Israel by land, sea and air at several locations and advanced towards Israeli communities and population centers. This was carried out in conjunction with indiscriminate rocket fire targeting towns and cities in the south, the center of the country, and Jerusalem with the intent of maximizing harm to civilians.
The terrorists penetrated several southern settlements and began a murderous killing spree of families and individuals in their homes, in the streets and at a music festival that was being held in the area. The terrorists rampaged throughout the region for many hours, during which time they committed atrocities on a scale that have not been seen since the events of the ISIS massacre in Sinjar in 2014.
The evidence found on the ground, the documentation caught on camera by the terrorists themselves and by security cameras, survivors and other sources, as well as survivors’ testimonies, document a horrendous story of attackers devoid of any shred of humanity. Families were slaughtered in their beds, women were viciously raped, and innocent civilians were maimed, killed and in some instances beheaded. In addition, civilians were burnt alive, babies were butchered, and hundreds of men and women were viciously gunned down while simply dancing at a music festival. Upon their return to the Gaza Strip, the terrorists abducted everyone they happened upon – with an emphasis on families, women and children.
Over two hundred Israeli citizens have been abducted and are being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, including small children, women and the elderly. Many of the abductees were injured by Hamas terrorists, many of them need medical treatment and medication, and the condition of many of the abductees is unknown. This is a serious humanitarian crisis and a very fundamental violation of international law, and Israel expects the international community to act in every possible way to protect the rights of the abductees, to ensure proper medical treatment and to provide humanitarian aid to the abductees and their families..
Over the past few days, anti-tank missiles and mortar shells were fired from Lebanese territory at IDF positions on the Lebanese border while terrorists, under the auspices of Hezbollah, attempted to infiltrate Israel.
This means that Israel is at war against the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip. Israel security forces are determined to protect the citizens of Israel on all fronts. The IDF will protect the residents of the State of Israel; the Hamas terror organization and all the terrorists involved in harming the citizens of Israel will pay a very heavy price.
The displacement of tens of thousands of Israelis from their homes in the communities around the Gaza Strip in the wake of the terrorist attack that destroyed their homes and the ongoing rocket fire, and from the northern border communities following the ongoing attacks by Hezbollah on border villages, is posing a significant challenge to Israel. This displacement has intensified the challenging situation in which the survivors of the Hamas massacre in the villages and towns surrounding the Gaza Strip find themselves.
Iran bears direct responsibility for the capabilities of its proxies in the region and therefore also for the use they make of these capabilities.
Additionally, Iran promotes attacks on Israel form other fronts – Lebanon and Syria to the north, using Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations, and from the south using the Houthis, Iran’s proxy in Yemen. This is reflected in the firing of missiles, rockets and mortar shells from the north and the launching of missiles and UAVs towards Israel from the south.
Israel has no wish to expand the fighting into other regions but is ready for such developments and will retaliate fiercely and forcefully. The expansion of the arena of fighting against Israel will be met with a particularly harsh response.
In the aftermath of these events, the extent of Israeli casualties was found to be staggering. The casualty toll in Israel currently stands at approximately 1,400 people murdered and 7,262 wounded. About 239 abductees are being held in the Gaza Strip. There are 287 foreign nationals among the murdered people, as well as 15 among the missing and 120 abducted (including holders of dual citizenship). 34 children – 10 of whom are under the age of 5 – as well as 18 elderly people over 75 are among the abducted.
Over 9,500 missiles and rockets have been fired towards Israel so far. Over 1,000 rockets launched from Gaza have fallen inside the Gaza Strip, often resulting in injuries to Gazan residents and infrastructure – including hospitals and schools.
- Hamas is holding approximately 239 abductees captive in complete denial of their rights and in violation of international law.
- Israel demands that the Red Cross be permitted to visit abductees and supply medicine and medical treatment and expects the Red Cross and the international community to take measures to ensure their safety and to work for their release.
- Approximately 250 thousand Israelis have so far been displaced from their homes in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip and the northern border and dispersed in various shelters throughout Israel.
IDF forces are operating currently at Shifa Hospital (Wednesday, 15 November), following an early warning that was given to the hospital’s administration. The forces have provided humanitarian equipment, including medicines, baby food and other supplies to the hospital. The forces are accompanied by Arabic-speaking soldiers and medical staff, to ensure the supplies reach their proper destination.
Labour4Palestine, a pan-Canadian network of labour activists, states a day after the Hamas attack on Israel: “We commend Palestinians for their heroic resistance”