Former Israeli Airforce Helicopter Pilot to Speak at Capitol Theatre
Former Israeli Defence Force (IDF) helicopter pilot Yonatan Shapira’s outlook on the violent struggle in the Gaza Strip and West Bank changed dramatically 12 years ago and for more than a decade he has been traveling the world in an effort to bring change through non-violent means.
Shapira will bring his insight on the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories to the Nelson’s Capitol Theatre on November 2 as part of the Selkirk College Mir Centre for Peace Lecture Series.
Yonatan Shapira is a former Israeli pilot who has gained global attention for his denouncement of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip. He will be the speaker at a Mir Centre for Peace Lecture Series event at Nelson’s Capitol Theatre on November 2.
“I wish to contribute to the non-violent struggle for an end to the apartheid and occupation,” says Shapira. “I wish to do so by showing the less heard voice in Israel, one of co-resistance and solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
In the summer of 2002, Salah Shehadeh—head of the armed branch of Hamas in Gaza—was bombed by the IDF in the middle of the night with an F-16 fighter jet dropping a one-tonne bomb on the house where he was sleeping with his wife and children. The bomb killed 15 people and 150 were injured.
Seeing the devastation of the bomb moved any doubts he had aside. Shapira and 26 colleagues published “The Pilots Letter” condemning Israel’s attacks on civilians. Stating that they would no longer take part in the attacks on Palestinians, the letter was the starting point for Shapira’s years as an activist. He has since participated in debates and speaking tours around the world. He was part of several of the attempts to break the siege on Gaza and is part of a movement within Israel supporting the Palestinian call for a boycott.
“We are going around the world trying to convince people to join this international non-violent movement that is going to change the power balance and dynamic in the Middle East,” he says. “That is what we are pushing for and that is a big part of what I will be talking about when I come to Nelson.”
Opening the Floor to Respectful Dialogue
In the Mir Lecture, Shapira will provide an introduction to why he has become a peace activist and provide a “multi-dimensional picture of the current reality” in Israel. He will then open the floor to questions from those in attendance. Realizing the complexity of the situation, Shapira acknowledges that not everyone holds similar views and he welcomes even the most challenging questions.
“We are aware that not everyone will support what I have to say, for some people it will sound too extreme,” says Shapira. “That is why I am happy to answer any questions from anyone who wants to discuss the issue.”
Despite the recent change of government in Ottawa, Shapira has little hope that the Canadian government’s policies regarding Israel will change significantly.
“I’m happy to see some change, but it will be up the society in Canada to put pressure on the new government,” he says. “I hope people are not expecting the change to happen by itself, they will have to put much pressure on their government to change the current policies of Canada as it relates to Israel.”
Tickets for the Yonatan Shapira Mir Lecture Series are $16 and $13 students/seniors. Tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre box office and at the door. The lecture begins at 7 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre in Nelson.