Thank you Alison and thank you to everyone for coming. I know it’s a Saturday night, there is just so many other things you could be doing but you took the time to be here, because you believe this is an important event and because you believe in the cause of Palestine, you felt the need to do something for Palestine, you needed to come and discuss, so I want to thank you all for being here tonight.
Palestine Is In Our Heart
First, before I start, as Alison said I am originally from Tunisia, I was born and raised there. As I can tell a lot of people present here tonight identify as Arab or Muslim, I know the case of Palestine is very dear to our hearts. For me growing up in Tunisia the first protest I went to was a protest for Palestine. I want to share with you tonight how it happened. I was in middle school, it was at a time of increased Israeli attacks on Gaza and there were movements and protests all over the Middle East and all over the world. In our school the administration was trying to discourage students from protesting and taking the streets. The location of our middle school made it harder for them to succeed in that, as our middle school was right next to a high school and a university.
It had started with the university students, that day they held a student strike and they started a big protest for Palestine. It was kind of funny because the university shared a wall full of holes with the high school, the university students took advantage of that and jumped through into the high school and literally went inside each class and told the teacher “We’re sorry there is no class today, we are all going on a march for Palestine”. After taking out the high school students they jumped into our middle school and did the same thing they came to everyone’s class and got us out on the streets, everyone came out even some of the teachers joined in. This was the first time that I really took the street for any cause, it was for Palestine and we ended up marching to a lot of other schools in that neighbourhood and got more students to join us in the street for Palestine.
When I moved to Canada five years ago, one time I was walking by Joyce-Collingwood station and I saw a poster for an antiwar rally that was happening about Palestine and it was organized by Mobilization Against War & Occupation (MAWO) so I said to myself “that’s interesting there is people in Vancouver that are organising about Palestine, I want to go and see” and I did. I joined in and became an organizer with MAWO. We all have different stories about why we support Palestine, either it’s a personal story or just the fact that we believe in justice, we believe in fairness, we believe in humanity. You don’t have to be Muslim or Jewish or have a connection to Palestine you just have to know the facts and it is enough to make anyone angry or make anyone upset about what’s happening because it’s such an unfair injustice going on for so many years, so many decades.
Main Stream Media and Palestine
The same goes for the mainstream media, sometimes they will pick up the issue of Palestine, people will warm up then the news stops talking about Palestine, and the issue will cool down again. This is the same as what we are seeing now. The news media has picked up the story of all the stabbings that have happened, they’re spinning the story that Palestinians are killing Israeli civilians and that this entire crisis is caused by the Israeli government decision to tighten the access of Muslims to Masjed Al Aqsa. This may be part of the story, the Palestinians taking to the streets is not just a response to this specific incident the way that the media is portraying it. The Palestinian people have been living under constant attacks and humiliation by the Israeli government. If you are a kid in Palestine, from birth you’re under occupation, you’re under harassment every day of your life.
We’ve seen in some of the videos earlier examples of what the daily life for Palestinians look like. Can you imagine going to buy milk at a convenient store here in Canada while there are clashes and police firing at people right outside of the store? A Palestinian kid will tell you “yes that happens every day, that’s my life, that’s how it has been since I was born, that’s how my mom has seen it. What else is out there except for this life?” That is not a life that any kid or any human being should live, a life under continual attacks. If you woke up every day and someone punches you what are you gonna do? Punch back. What else would you expect from any kid, from any person, if their whole life they’ve been harassed and harassed, then to resist and to defend themselves?
Ongoing of Violation of Human Rights and Palestinian Under Daily Violence
One of the videos we watched earlier was about an arson attack on two homes in the village of Duma carried out by extremist Israeli settlers on July 31, 2015. An 18-month year old baby was burned to death inside the house and his dad also passed away a couple of days later. On September 7, 2015 the mother also died of her injuries. A whole family was destroyed and until now there is no real investigation or any real consequences for those responsible of these atrocities. This is insane! This is crazy! Only one son survived the attack and he is still in the hospital fighting for his life, his whole family was killed. Then they come and ask us why Palestinian youth in the streets are throwing stones at us? Well, you’ve bombed their houses, you’ve killed their parents and now they resist and throw a stone back and you throw them in prison! Only in the month of October about 1,200 Palestinians were arrested according to the Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer.
On November 2nd, 2015, the Israeli government passed a law that enforces a minimum three year prison sentence for any Palestinian who throws stones at the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) or the Israeli police. Against big machine guns and tanks, defending yourself with a stone is a crime! As if it’s not enough that your dad was killed, that your family was destroyed now you have to be tortured in Israeli prison for a minimum of three years. Your whole youth is stripped away from you, you have no future. Well you already had no future, you are fighting for one!
It is important that when people talk about Palestine we ask them to look at both sides of the story in a very fair way, we can’t just talk about how many Israelis have been killed this time or stabbed that time and constantly condemns the Palestinian side. The current situation of violence in Palestine is the creation of the context of what youth and all Palestinians are living under every day. According to Amnesty International and lot of other human rights organisations, the Israeli government and the IDF were actually responsible for the killing a lot of teenagers just in the month of October, without any proof of any wrong doings. Those are teenagers that are crossing through check points, they’re being asked to show their ID… if you are an Israeli soldier you don’t even have to see that person taking a knife or present any real threat toward your life, if you fear something may happen you have the right to shoot and then investigate later. Those lives don’t matter, your life is worth more! You don’t even have to try to talk to them or see if there is any base to your suspicion or any of those things, you just have the right to shoot to kill, that’s your right to defend yourself.
I want to read from Amnesty International, actually there is a good report that Amnesty International released on October 27th, 2015 that puts together many cases of IDF abuse. They had people on the ground in Jerusalem and they documented examples of Palestinian youth that were killed in the month of October with no reason just for the fact that they were walking in the street, basically that they were Palestinian. I have the full report if you want to see it later, right now I am just going to read a small paragraph from it:
“In an especially egregious case, Israeli forces shot dead 19-year-old Sa’ad Muhammad Youssef al-Atrash in the Old City of Hebron as he attempted to retrieve an ID card at an Israeli soldier’s request on 26 October. The Israeli police labelled the incident an “attempted stabbing” but an eyewitness watching the events unfold from her balcony said he had posed no threat when he was shot. One of the soldiers had asked him for ID, and as he reached into his pocket to grab his card another soldier standing behind him shot him on his right side, she told Amnesty International. The eyewitness said he was shot six or seven times and bled profusely as he lay on the ground for about 40 minutes afterwards, while soldiers failed to provide medical treatment. She also reported seeing soldiers bring a knife and place it in the dying man’s hand.”
So this is Amnesty International which is not an organisation that is always very progressive, a lot of time they say things that I don’t agree with personally but in this specific case it is important to see that even a big organisation like this, that gets a lot of funding from different U.S. government institutions, they can’t even close their eyes, they still had to report what`s happening and what`s happening is outrageous!
Canada is Silent on Israeli Atrocities
In our media here, if you turn on the news in Canada or the U.S. all we see is about the stabbing of Israelis, the death of 9 Israelis against the death of 73 Palestinians which are not reported. Those lives don’t matter, those are just all terrorists, all those kids, all those mothers, all those babies are all terrorists. They’re born terrorists, that`s basically what the mainstream media tells us. We have to exterminate these people; they are all after us to kill us. And all this discourse of hate takes over the news, while the Palestinian voice is never heard.
When I was looking at some of the videos for tonight, something that came up is that when you actually watch interviews with Palestinians and hear what they have to say, they say we don’t want this life of violence and conflicts. In one of those videos a Palestinian man said “If I had a choice I wouldn’t be in the streets doing this, I want to get an education, I want to go to school, I want to get married, I want to have life, I want to be equal, I want to leave peacefully with my brothers Jewish, Christian or Muslim, it doesn’t matter.” A lot of Palestinian youth feel this way, they want to have a “normal life” but they cannot. Since they are born they are put into a situation of survival and resistance to defend themselves and their land. This is not about religion; it is about colonialism. It is important to realise that all this talk about Palestinians and Arabs hating Jews and all that rhetoric is just to create more and more violence and division among us. The old divide and conquer tactics!
Palestinian Struggle Continues, So Do Solidarity Movement
I want to end on a couple of points, first is that I think it is important that we don’t just talk about Palestine when things escalate, that we keep talking about Palestine, that we keep educating people especially here in Canada. We live in a country that’s very much friends with Israel, it doesn’t matter if it was Stephen Harper and it is the Liberals now, Canada closes its eyes and ears to the atrocities committed by Israel, they don’t care about what happens to the Palestinian people, they don’t care about human rights in Palestine. We need to make them accountable and that’s why we need to talk to people around us to explain what the real situation is, that what we see in the news is half of the story, it is not even half of the story, it is a tiny tiny bit of the reality of life under occupation in Palestine. We need to educate people and win them to our side, we need to convince them to join us in action, to take the streets for Palestine and not only when specific incidents happen but more frequently.
And it’s hard sometimes to try to explain all of the situation to someone that has never heard about the history of Palestine before, but I think what we can all agree on is that we all care about each other and about a just and fair country and a just and fair world where Palestinian, Jewish, Christians and Muslims all leave together under a peaceful country that’s Palestine. Where it doesn’t matter what your religion is, it doesn’t matter what your ethnicity is, we are all equal!
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