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OPINION: Potential disaster is looming at the Paris Olympics

Gerry Chidiac


Lessons in Learning

In the 1982 film Gandhi, Ben Kingsley, who played the iconic leader, confronted British administrators in India and stated that the colonizer would leave “because 100,000 Englishmen cannot control 350,000,000 Indians if those Indians refuse to co-operate.”

While Mohandas Gandhi did not actually utter this statement, it captures the essence of non-violent resistance and is an undeniable truth. A small group of powerful individuals cannot impose their will on a larger population if that population is morally driven and well-organized.

Growing numbers of people around the world oppose what they and the International Court of Justice see as a probable act of genocide by Israel against Palestinians. Even among the populations of Israel’s closest allies, the numbers are concerning.

A January survey by Leger found that only 31 per cent of Canadians believed that Israel was not committing genocide, although a further 26 per cent either did not know or refused to answer. However, half of Canadians between 18 and 34 believed they were. Numbers are similar in the United States, and among American Jews in the same age group, 42 per cent consider Israel’s actions unacceptable, according to Pew Research.

Elsewhere in the world, opposition to Israeli actions and Western complicity is far greater. American coffee giant Starbucks, which expressed support for Israel, has lost over $11 billion worldwide. McDonald’s, which offered free meals to Israeli soldiers, has also seen global sales plummet.

The resistance is only growing stronger as Israel’s assault on Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, and several other countries, continues. However, these operations often take place in densely populated areas such as the Gaza Strip, leading to a significant impact on the Palestinian civilian population as well.

The 2024 Eurovision Song Contest saw massive protests after it refused to ban Israel from the competition. University students around the world continue to protest on their campuses, calling for their institutions to divest from Israel. The global scale of this outcry is unprecedented.

With the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris fast approaching, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has refused calls to ban Israel from the event. Its decision could lead to disaster as the event will draw worldwide attention, potentially reigniting protests and tensions.

Despite nearly nine per cent of its population being Muslim, France has failed to create a collaborative, multi-ethnic democracy. Just last summer, the police murder of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk sparked outrage. Much of the tension harkens back to France’s brutal colonial history, which results in a strong sense of empathy for the Palestinian cause.

Just as in other Western countries, the mainstream media in France has tried to downplay the aggression of the Israeli military. This, however, has no impact on a young population that relies more on alternative information sources.

Growing numbers of people around the world are calling for an end to the violence in Gaza. If the conflict continues, the repercussions are uncertain. However, it’s clear that criticism of the Israeli military and the governments, institutions, corporations, and sporting organizations that support it will likely increase. It is also unlikely that these entities will ever regain the confidence of much of the global population.

No police or military presence can control a massive group of people advocating for a moral cause, especially when they engage in non-violent resistance (something that, unfortunately, is not guaranteed in France).

Do the elite members of the IOC have the wisdom to understand what is happening in the world and enough courage to take the necessary action to avert a potential disaster? Only time will tell.

Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students. Check out his website here. Find him on Facebook. Or on Twitter @GerryChidiac

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