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Home arrow Canada and the Middle East arrow It's Time For Our Prime Minister To Commemorate Nakba Day
It's Time For Our Prime Minister To Commemorate Nakba Day PDF Print E-mail
May 15, 2017 at 12:00 AM


Tyler Levitan
Campaigns Coordinator for Independent Jewish Voices - Canada

Canada prides itself on being a country that espouses the values of fairness and equality. We must recognize, however, that Canada's history is one of settler colonialism, a violent process by which settlers from foreign lands dispossessed the indigenous inhabitants of this land, and established a society against the interests and consent of the people who were already living here.

While Canada is beginning to come to terms with this reprehensible past through acknowledging these truths, and is beginning the long and difficult journey of reconciliation, the same cannot be said for Canada's close friend and ally, Israel, with whom Canada asserts it has "shared values."

Israel, too, prides itself on being a country that it claims is a beacon of fairness and equality. However, Israel was established as a state - similarly to Canada - through the violent dispossession of the people who were already there, and who already had a society rooted deeply in that land for generations. This violent process of dispossession is referred to by the people who were already living there - the Palestinians - as "the catastrophe," or in Arabic, the Nakba.

Annually, on May 15, Palestinians in countries all over the world commemorate the Nakba, including in Canada. This national day of commemoration is known as "Nakba Day." Israel, sadly, refuses to come to terms with its violent history of dispossession of those who were already living there. Rather than embrace difficult yet morally essential conversations about what took place, Israel chooses to vilify those who even speak about the Nakba, and alongside its unconditional supporters abroad, seeks to silence any commemoration of it.

The Nakba often refers to events occurring between 1947-1949, in which the Palestinians were violently displaced from their homes, and hundreds of their villages were destroyed. Many are beginning to see the Nakba as an ongoing process of dispossession, though, which continues to this day.

Palestinians attribute this process of dispossession to the ideology of political Zionism, which asserts that Jewish communities of diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds form a single nation that belongs in historic Palestine, and which has rights to the land of historic Palestine that must take priority over the rights of the Palestinians who were already living there.

Political Zionism is responsible for the violent dispossession of the Palestinian people, millions of whom have been barred from returning to their ancestral homeland for nearly seventy years. This ideology justifies the Palestinians' continued oppression under a far-right Israeli regime, and has been opposed by a growing number of Jews since its inception.

Israel's state-building project has meant the demolition of over five hundred Palestinian towns and villages, literally wiping them off the map. The once-thriving country of Palestine is now concealed by greenwashing parks and forests, or replaced by newcomers to the land. This process is continuing in the Occupied Palestinian Territory through Israel's ongoing project of dispossession.

Nakba Day, therefore, is a sorrowful yet crucial day for the Palestinian people in order to keep alive the memory of what happened between 1947-1949, and to repeat their demands for basic human dignity and a modicum of justice.

This day happens to fall around the same time each year as Israel's birthday, known as Yom Ha'atzmaut, the day in which Israel unilaterally declared its independence as a state.

For the fifth consecutive year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement in celebration of Yom Ha'aztmaut, affirming: "On this Independence Day, I am proud to renew Canada's commitment to a safe and secure homeland for the Jewish people, and to a lasting peace between all peoples in the Middle East."

Trudeau included in this statement Canada's intention to "fight" anti-Zionism. This would appear to be a pronouncement against Palestinians - including many thousands of Palestinian Canadians - who have suffered immensely as a result of the Zionist project.

The release of this statement also happens to be the sixth consecutive year in which a Canadian Prime Minister has issued an official statement in commemoration of Israel's unilateral declaration of independence. Not once has a Canadian Prime Minister commemorated, let alone acknowledged, Nakba Day.

Efforts were made last year by Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) to have our Prime Minster commemorate Nakba Day alongside Yom Ha'aztmaut. Such efforts did not succeed, despite over six hundred people sending a letter to the Prime Minister echoing this fair-minded appeal. IJV never received a response from Trudeau to our letter.

The Palestinian Canadian Congress (PCC) is now calling on Canadians to take up this issue. The PCC sent a letter to Trudeau referencing Canada's alleged commitment to playing the role of "honest broker" in the region. In the letter they state: "Celebrating Israel's narrative while ignoring that of the Palestinians' is not the impartial position one would expect from an honest broker, and is insulting and insensitive to thousands of Palestinians who now call Canada home."

As the results of a recent EKOS survey suggest, the majority of Canadians are sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. I believe most Canadians would also support such a reasonable request to our Prime Minister.

It's time for our Prime Minister to take the principled stand of commemorating Nakba Day.
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Facts and Figures about the Current Darkness in the Gaza Strip

January 23rd 2008

Report from the Palestinian Hydrology Group
  1. Gaza Strip today is facing a very harsh siege which is expected to have severely negative humanitarian impact.
  2. The distribution of drinking water and the collection and treatment of wastewater completely rely on electricity and fuel in Gaza Strip.
  3. For several months now Israel has imposed a cruel siege on the Strip preventing people and goods from free movement. This has immobilized the importing of spare parts, pumps, pipes and other necessary accessories for the water and sanitation providing facilities.
  4. According to different sources the water and sanitation services are expected to be completely paralyzed within a matter of hours due to the lack of fuel reserves.
  5. About 133 water wells are being used for domestic purposes in addition to 33 sewage pump stations and three treatment plants; 10 of these groundwater wells function using fuel while the rest rely on electricity. Diesel powered generators are normally used as backup for the whole system but only for a limited time.
    The Coastal Municipalities Water Utility needs at least 100,000 liters of diesel per month to operate the water system. An additional 100,000 liters of diesel per month are needed for the sewage system to prevent wastewater from flooding the streets and residential areas.
  6. Reducing electricity and fuel supplies are potential causes to trigger an environmental crisis especially in the wastewater pump stations and treatment plants. If wastewater is not treated it will have to be pumped directly to the sea. This will for sure have a direct and negative impact on the groundwater aquifer and marine life.
    During winter time sewage pumps need to operate about 24 hours per day due to rainfall. Therefore, interruptions in fuel and electricity supply would be particularly significant.
  7. The sewage treatment plant in Beit Lahiya is also vulnerable to interruptions in electricity supplies. The treatment lagoons must be pumped regularly, or else the 10,000 people living in the area are in danger.  Six months ago, one of the lagoons over flooded and caused the death of five persons. Proper maintenance could have prevented the disaster.
  8. The water supply in Gaza City, with a total of 600,000 residents, in addition to a major part of the central portion of the Strip is expected to be completely cut-off as a result of ceasing the pumping from the municipal groundwater wells. The City also faces the threat of overflowing wastewater since the pumps (especially Al Samer and Aqoola stations) are expected to stop operating within the next 24 hours.
  9. If the current situation should persist the solid wastes generated in the Strip will accumulate in piles on the streets endangering the health of the locals.

The WaSH Monitoring Program calls on the International Community to push Israel to immediately cease all military operations, reopen the borders to allow the movement of people and goods and provide fuel supply and humanitarian aid to the residents of Gaza.

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