Letter to the Editor – Ron Sakolsky

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RE/MAXING GENOCIDE

As we enter the new year, I have been feeling very helpless lately given the unrelenting onslaught of the Israeli government’s genocidal war on Gaza that has unfolded, escalated, and now is threatening to become a wider war in the region. As the atrocities mount, many local folx here on the rock seem to find comfort in the illusionary world of Denman exceptionalism. The exceptionalist story which we like to tell ourselves is based on the idea that the outside world is a terrible place with its wars and injustices, but our hands are clean by dint of the fact that we live in the best of all possible worlds here on Denman Island far away from the fray. While some locals might question why the federal government’s foreign policy automatically supports the Israeli government with few qualifications, the larger issue of the ongoing land grab that originally established and continues to expand the boundaries of the Israeli colonial state is lost in the self-congratulatory rhetoric of Denman exceptionalism.

 However, Denman Island is deeply enmeshed in the Israeli system of oppression that is the context for the current war because of the island’s harboring of a local chapter of RE/MAX, the parent corporation of which is entangled in a sordid web of complicity with Israeli apartheid. The US-based RE/MAX corporation is the largest real estate brokerage network in Israel, and is currently involved in the ongoing sale of settler-occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Locally, the corporate franchise’s Denman-based owner/realtor, Bente Pilgaard, is a major player in the real estate industry’s   increasingly ramped-up gentrification of the island that we call home, with the result being the skyrocketing prices that make for a shortage of affordable housing here on the rock. This is a problematic role for which she has never been held publicly accountable because it is built into the colonial system of land ownership that is beyond the reach of Islands Trust officials who can only legally deal with land use issues. Moreover, the RE/MAX corporation which she represents is up to its neck in monetizing the original theft of Indigenous land both in BC and internationally in Israel and beyond. 

As a person of Jewish heritage who has long been a critic of the Zionist colonial project known as Israel, I realize that nothing that we might do on Denman Island alone will stop the Israeli war machine from engaging in its dirty work. But instead of falsely claiming exceptional status, we can join hands and hearts in solidarity with other like-minded people worldwide and be part of something larger than ourselves in exposing/opposing the local mechanisms on island that are part and parcel of the genocidal devastation being rained on the open-air prison camp of Gaza and its world. 

Not in My Name!

Ron Sakolsky