Israeli peace activist heads to Duncan on speaking tour

Yonatan himself spent 12 years as an Israeli air force pilot.

On Friday, Nov. 6, at 10:30 a.m., Yonatan Shapira, a Jewish Israeli activist for peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians, will speak in Theatre 140, the ground floor lecture theatre in the Duncan campus of Vancouver Island University.

Yonatan’s talk will be part of a speaking tour of parts of the mainland and Vancouver Island, and will include stops in Victoria (7 p.m., Nov. 5), Nanaimo (2 p.m., Nov. 6), Courtenay, and Denman Island. There is no charge for admission, but a collection will be taken to help cover costs of the tour and to raise monies to contribute to initiatives Yonatan supports. Those include assisting the 18-year-old Jewish Israelis who openly refuse military service and are punished with rotating sentences in military prisons.

Yonatan started life on an Israeli military base. His father was a fighter pilot and squadron commander. Yonatan himself spent 12 years as an Israeli air force pilot. In his lifetime he’s undergone a continuing shift in his outlook.

In 2003 he played a key role in moving 27 Israeli air force pilots to publicly refuse to fly missions over the Gaza Strip. In 2005 he was a founding member of Combatants for Peace, uniting Palestinian and Israeli former fighters in working to end Israel’s military occupation. Since 2009 he’s been a member of the Israeli group Boycott from Within, supporting the Palestinian call for boycott of, divestment from investments in, and sanctions against Israel.

He’s taken part in three maritime attempts to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, in 2010, 2011, and 2012. In the 2012 attempt one of his shipmates was Jim Manly of Nanaimo, former NDP MP and United Church minister. Yonatan considers himself a pacifist.

Yonatan’s talk in Duncan is co-sponsored by the Vancouver Island University Department of Anthropology, the VIU Cowichan Campus, and Mid-Islanders for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.