KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Some 40 people rallied this afternoon in downtown Halifax in support of Rana Zaman, a tireless activist whose human rights award was abruptly taken away on Friday by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC), a mere 10 days after it was awarded.
Supporters carrying signs gathered on Spring Garden Road, in front of the Park Lane mall where the NSHRC has its offices.
Once again a few tweets comparing Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed Palestinians to Nazis, long since deleted, sincerely regretted and profusely apologized for, came back to haunt Rana.
Earlier, these same tweets caused the NDP to strip Rana of her federal nomination in Cole Harbour during the last election.
Rana, clearly deeply affected by this latest ordeal, spoke to reporters during the rally.
“I’m perplexed, same as everybody else,” said Rana. “I’ve spent a lifetime building solidarity, keeping my door open, and building bridges. The intention behind my tweets is never to malign an entire religion, or race, or the Jewish community. I was calling out Israel’s negative policies and human rights violations of the Palestinians.”
The Atlantic Jewish Council (AJC) was front and center in the campaign to have Rana stripped of her award. A nasty letter in the Chronicle Herald of December 18, written by Rabbi Yakov Kerzner, Beth Israel Synagogue, Halifax, and Rabbi Gary Karlin, Shaar Shalom Congregation, Halifax, led the charge and accused Rana of antisemitism.
The AJC is listed as a formal partner on the NSHRC website. NSHRC spokesperson Jeff Overmars told the Nova Scotia Advocate that nonetheless the AJC had no role in the decision. Meanwhile, no Muslim or African Nova Scotian organizations are among the NSHRC’s listed partners.
Rana continues to reach out to the AJC.
“For me, my priority is to meet with the Atlantic Jewish Council and to address their concerns and heal any any leftover pain that still exists. As I asked the Commission when they phoned me on Monday, can you please, before you rescind this, make an effort to mediate between the Atlantic Jewish Council and myself and allow me to speak with them? And then would you allow me to speak to the Commission before this decision is made?”
Of course the NSHRC had already made the decision at that time, and the call that Monday was just a formality.
“My priority, as always has been to build bridges and ask for forgiveness if I have done something wrong unintentionally. The award itself is only a piece of paper, but at this point, what it symbolizes is a wrongdoing that was committed,” Rana said.
The Nova Scotia Advocate asked the NSHRC why it had apparently not vetted Rana’s nomination, but the Commission’s spokesperson chose to ignore that question.
It is hard to believe that the nomination committee would not have known about the controversies associated with the NDP nomination, especially since Rana today mentioned that it was specifically mentioned in the formal nomination.
The AJC, which on its website lists “supporting and connecting Atlantic Canadians to Israel,” as one of its objectives, has been aggressive in its defense of the Israeli government and its violence towards Palestinians.
Many queer Haligonians remember how in 2016 the AJC swamped a Pride Halifax meeting with members and supporters who had no connection with the LGBTQ+ community whatsoever, in order to vote down a motion that it considered anti-Israel. This is what El Jones reported on the meeting for the Halifax Examiner at the time.
One of the AJC’s favourite tactics is to accuse its opponents of antisemitism, equating opposition to Israel’s apartheid policies with something vile and objectionable.
“I want people to reach out, and what I don’t want is further pain and divisiveness amongst all our communities. But I do want to bring the Palestinian issue to the forefront,” Rana said.
“I have criticized China about its treatment of the Uighurs. I’ve criticized Saudi Arabia, about its treatment of Yemenis. Yet the Saudis and the Chinese community haven’t come forward demanding that my award be rescinded,” said Rana.
“So why was it so important for the Atlantic Jewish Council, and why did the Human Rights Commission give such a weight to it,” she asked.
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