London, Ont. NDP politicians among speakers at planned Palestinian solidarity rally

Smoke rises after Israeli airstrikes on residential building, in Gaza City, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. AP Photo/Fatima Shbair

Two local NDP politicians are among those set to speak at a rally in Victoria Park on Friday, aimed at showing support for Palestine in the wake of heavy fighting last week between Israel and Gaza militants that left dozens of Palestinians dead, including more than a dozen children.

They will get underway at the northwest corner of Victoria Park around 6 p.m. and it is being organized by the Canadian-Palestine Social Association of London (CPSA), People for Peace London, Independent Jewish Voices London (IJV), and the London chapter of the Democratic Socialists of Canada (DSC).

Among those set to speak include London—Fanshawe NDP MP Lindsay Mathyssen, London North Centre NDP MPP Terence Kernaghan, Dr. Tarek Loubani, Dr. Nehal Al tarhuni of CPSA, Sara Rans of IJV and Saimah Sarwar of Islamic Relief Canada.

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At least 49 Palestinians, including 17 children, were killed in last weekend’s fighting, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, the worst cross-border violence seen in more than a year.

An 11-year-old girl died of her wounds on Thursday, while a 22-year-old militant with the Army of Islam succumbed to his injuries on Friday. Two children are being treated in the intensive care unit of a Palestinian hospital in Jerusalem.

The 11-year-old, according to a relative, was wounded in a drone attack during a surprise opening salvo launched by Israel hours before any rockets were fired.

Israel launched a wave of airstrikes in response to what it claimed was an imminent threat by the Islamic Jihad militant group after one of its leaders was detained by Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank earlier last week.

Islamic Jihad began firing rockets at Israel hours after the initial wave of strikes. The violence ended with an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire on Sunday.

“This is part of a recurring pattern where Israel drops missiles on heavily populated civilian areas, they call for a truce, and then there’s no progress made and this process continues,” said one of the rally’s organizers, Omar El Naggar of DSC.

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Israeli airstrikes killed two top Islamic Jihad commanders in Gaza, and the militant group said it lost a total of 12 militants.

The Israeli military says the group fired some 1,100 rockets, around 200 of which fell short in Gaza. Most of the remainder were intercepted or fell in open areas.

Up to 16 Palestinians may have been killed by rockets fired from their own side that fell short. No Israelis were killed or seriously wounded.

Organizers of Friday’s rally are calling on the Canadian government to do more about the situation, said El Naggar.

“Amnesty International has recognized this as apartheid. United Nations has raised flags about what Israel’s doing. And we defend them so regularly that any time Palestinians are killed, we don’t even recognize that, we just say ‘Israel has a right to defend itself,'” he said.

“If you’re going to push for peace for both sides, okay, you need to recognize that there is a loss of life. This is a human rights violation occurring on a regular basis without proper punishments for the guilty party.”

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The hope, he said, was that those attending would walk away from the rally with a greater understanding of the situation and what Palestinians on the ground have been facing.

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“A better understanding of the situation to show that this is not a conflict, this is not a war, this is not two states who are disagreeing on land borders. This is apartheid.”

Last year, the international group Human Rights Watch called on the Canadian government to take action against alleged “crimes against humanity” by the Israeli government, which it labelled an “apartheid” state.

A report released by the group accused Israeli authorities of methodically discriminating against Palestinians within both Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“We recognize that the word ‘apartheid’ stings. But at the same time, apartheid is the reality for many Palestinians,” the head of the group’s Canadian chapter, Farida Deif, told The Canadian Press.

“It’s high time for the Trudeau government to acknowledge that Israeli authorities are committing crimes against humanity and leverage its close partnership with Israel to end these violations.”

The Israeli government accused Human Rights Watch of harbouring an “anti-Israel agenda” and called the New York-based organization an “unreliable propaganda pamphlet.”

— with files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press

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