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Day of Rage: 800 rally in Halifax in defense of Palestine

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KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – 800 people gathered on the Halifax waterfront on this Canada Day afternoon to protest Israel’s illegal plans to annex large swaths of the occupied West Bank.

Today, the first day in July marks the date set by the Israeli government, backed by the USA, to claim 30 to 40 % of the West Bank as its own, further jeopardizing the food supplies of Palestinians in the area and their right to self determination. Protests marking this July 1 Day of Rage occurred all across the world. 

Internal divisions within the Israeli government coalition and widespread opposition by other nations may have delayed the actual annexation, but these rifts are about timing, not about intention.

The protesters were joined by a large group of Mi’kmaq and their allies who had gathered earlier that day at the Peace and Friendship Park across from the Westin to rally against colonialism and systemic anti-Indigenous racism. Many others carried signs calling for the abolishing of police and in support of Black Lives Matter.

It was noted that these three struggles share a common enemy in colonialism and racism.

“The spirit that inspires the Palestinian people who want to free Palestine is the same spirit we find in Indigenous peoples and Black people, because you know what the fight is about, and you have not given up during 400 years of oppression and systemic racism,” said Rana Zaman, MC for the event.

Annexation is not a new threat for Palestine, said Dr. Dr. Ismail Zayid of Canadians, Arabs, and Jews for a Just Peace (CAJJP). 

“The project scheduled for today, annexation and stealing of Palestinian lands, was not invented by Netanyahu. It was planned for since 1897 when Theodor Herzl proposed to expel the Palestinians and take their land. And it was affected in 1948, expelling Palestinians and taking their land, and then again in 1967, and this continues to this day,” Dr. Zayid said. 

“This process of annexation, including the creation of settlements, is in total violation of international law, all these activities are identified as war crimes. We call on our country of Canada to speak up and condemn the annexation and the stealing of Palestinian land, and take action, not vague statements, but real action to stop Israel from committing war crimes against the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people are indiginous to Palestine and must be able to return to their homeland.”

Ayman Awad, a Halifax-based Palestinian who grew up in a refugee camp, and a member of Queer Arabs of Halifax, spoke about the trauma of oppression shared by Indigenous peoples and others.

“The trauma of colonization is very real. It is inherited intergenerationally, and it is often buried within an individual without realizing how it manifests. It is important for me to acknowledge, especially on Canada Day, and in a rally such as this one, that my opportunities for immigration and another life where I have rights and privileges is also a direct result of historic and active settler colonialism, depopulation and land theft of Turtle Island,” aid Awad.

“Linking the Indigenous struggles across the globe is important. It is also important to link the struggles of all oppressed people. Members of the queer and trans community have the power to relate and empathize with other minority groups and other oppressed people. We are In the middle of Pride season. It is a time where the LGBTQ community recognizes the oppression that members of our community continue to face,” said Awad.

“Marsha Johnson was a Black trans woman and a prominent figure of the Stonewall uprising in 1969. That was the catalyst for the queer liberation movement and our current Pride celebrations. She said, no pride for some of us without liberation for all of us. That includes queer and trans folk across the globe. That includes queer and trans folks in the West Bank and Palestine. Israel cannot claim to be the gay safe haven of the Middle East when it plans to illegally annex the West Bank and dispossess queer and trans Palestinian people, denying them the opportunities that would allow them to fully manifest their authentic beings. That is called pink washing and we’re not having it.”

Judy Haiven spoke on behalf of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), a Canadian grassroots organization supportive of real justice in Israel and Palestine.

“The institutional Jewish organizations, the mainstream Jewish organizations, claim to speak for Canadian Jews but they do not. They’re merely mouthpieces for the government of Israel. IJV represents a growing trend among Jewish Canadians to firmly oppose the actions of Israel,” Haiven said.

“In 2018, IJV commissioned an EKOS poll of Canadian Jews, which shows that more than a third of Canadian Jews have a negative opinion of the Israeli government. Almost a third think that the Palestinian call for a boycott against Israel is reasonable. And almost one in three oppose the military blockade of the Gaza Strip. Nearly half of the Jews polled agreed with the statement that accusations of anti semitism are often used to silence legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies,” she said.

Poet and educator El Jones, Andre Anderson, Elder Billy Lewis, and Helmi Alfarra of the Atlantic Canada Palestinian Society also spoke at the event.

After the rally concluded many of the people in attendance marched to the Spring Garden Road courthouse for a teach-in on Mi’kmaw culture.    

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