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In 2015, Palestinian Canadian Habib Khoury founded the Ottawa Run for Palestine (ORFP).

The run is back again after last year’s success. This year, the run will be taking place on Sunday, September 25th at the Aviation Museum, followed by a BBQ featuring Palestinian cuisine.

The run raises funds for UNRWA’s Community Mental Health Program in Gaza and is part of an international movement aimed at supporting the people of Gaza.

Muslim Link interviewed Habib about this year’s run.

 

The Muslim Link

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Published in Top Stories

by Beatrice Paez in Toronto

Journalists can pay a high price with their reputations for reporting on the polarizing, decades-old Israel-Gaza conflict.

That was the message journalist and author Max Blumenthal delivered at Embattled Truths: Reporting on Gaza, a presentation at the Toronto Reference Library on Feb. 25 as part of Freedom to Read Week.

As the platforms for gathering news become more sophisticated in delivering customized information to readers, there’s a risk of readers insulating themselves from divergent views, said Olivia Ward, the Toronto Star’s foreign affairs reporter, who moderated the talk hosted by Poets, Essayists and Novelists (PEN) Canada.

Blumenthal’s critics have accused him of disseminating propaganda through his reporting on Gaza.

PEN stood its ground against calls to cancel the event, citing its efforts to defend free speech.

“There are hard questions that require a great deal of debate, and it isn’t always polite,” says Randy Boyagoda, president of PEN Canada. “We fight for the right to make it possible.”

Blumenthal’s critics have accused him of disseminating propaganda through his reporting on Gaza.

Embattled Truths was a discussion of Blumenthal’s critique of mainstream media, the challenges of covering the Gaza Strip and his own privileges as an American Jew from an upper-middle class family with ties to the Clintons.

Controversial discussion

Anticipating heated confrontations between Blumenthal and his critics, a modest police presence was on standby to rein in on any disruptions from the crowd. Interruptions —from both the pro-Israel lobby, including members of the Jewish Defense League, and Blumenthal's own defenders — staggered his exchange with Ward and the question-and-answer session with the audience.

For Blumenthal, there’s no avoiding bias — even as journalists — in the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There were repeated calls to boot individuals from opposing sides as Blumenthal’s detractors challenged his view of Israel as an aggressor and his assertion that what was happening between Israel and Palestine was “a conquest, not a conflict.” His critics — who came with placards showing the photo of a jihadi with the words, “This is not a victim” — questioned why he was not reporting about terror attacks against Israelis as well.

Activist journalism

For Blumenthal, there’s no avoiding bias — even as journalists — in the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The way I see my journalism on this issue is, I’m involved in a campaign,” he said. “Information on this issue is very difficult to obtain. There isn’t much of a counter-narrative, and the Palestinian narrative, which I have found to be closer to reality, is frozen out.”

A self-described advocacy journalist, he defends his embattled credibility on the basis that his reporting is grounded in facts.

“I rise and fall on whether I’m presenting facts,” he said. “[People] spend so much time trying to characterize my views as slander or slurs, instead of actually addressing the facts of my book.”

Blumenthal’s recently released book, the 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza, is a first-hand examination of the military conflict in Gaza in 2014, or as the Israeli Defense Force calls it, “Operation Protective Edge.”

Efforts to undermine his work by framing him an anti-Semite, he said, cheapen its meaning, making it difficult to condemn real acts of anti-Semitism when it surfaces.

Choosing sides

When asked about the challenges of reporting on Gaza, Blumenthal said it goes beyond the financial obstacles newsrooms face and personal risks journalists are willing to take.

Asked by Ward about whether the fact that journalists have had to chase “moving targets” as news breaks elsewhere and parachute into other conflict zones was a factor, Blumenthal said he’s not beholden to the 24-hour news cycle, which allows him to probe the issue further.

“Palestinians who seek to do what I’m doing can easily be painted as terrorists, Islamists or ignored."

His focus on gaining unfettered access to Gaza and covering the conflict in 2014 from inside, he said, provides a counterweight to what he characterizes as a cultural problem that newsrooms face when reporters are more immersed in Israel and are prone to “absorb the anxieties of the people they’re around, which is often the Jewish-Anglo community.”

Ward noted that his stature plays a considerable role in amplifying his voice, whereas Palestinians may have more difficulty getting heard.

Blumenthal agreed that his background has made his writing difficult to ignore, with the pro-Israel lobby trying to make “an example of him” to young Jews who might decide to follow his lead.

While accounts of personal narratives from the Palestinian side are chronicled, what’s rare is an overarching analysis from them, said Blumenthal. “The narration usually falls more to people like me.

“Palestinians who seek to do what I’m doing can easily be painted as terrorists, Islamists or ignored because they’re [seen as] simply being loyal to their people,” he said.

Then there’s the struggle faced by young Palestinian writers who have never seen the world beyond Gaza.

“[They’re asking] how can we write for the people in the West to explain our experiences because we have never left Gaza?” said Blumenthal. “You’re wondering what the outside world is like.”


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Books

by Susan Korah in Ottawa

Swiss-born Muslim academic and author Tariq Ramadan told an Ottawa audience that governments and the public should recognize the equal dignity of all human beings, regardless of whether they are citizens of Paris, Beirut, or any other place.

At a public lecture on November 22, Ramadan said the principle behind “Je suis Paris” should be applied with equal consistency to all victims of terror attacks. The recent attacks in Beirut, Mali and other places outside the Western world got nowhere near the same level of attention and expressions of sympathy that the November 13 shootings and bombings in Paris generated, he added.

Ramadan was the featured speaker at an event organized by the Montreal-based Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), a non-governmental organization that advocates for justice and human rights in the storm centre of many of the world’s conflicts.

Not religion, but perception

Invited to speak about refugees, wars and the fears and fanaticism of our age, Ramadan spent much of his hour-long address deconstructing the roots of the problem, which he firmly denied was a “clash of civilizations” or religions.

“It is a matter of the geo-strategic and economic interests of the governments and transnational corporations involved in this,” he said, adding that it was a “clash of perceptions” rather than of religions.

“Where there is no justice, there is no peace.

He commented that religion is used by Middle Eastern leaders as an instrument to manipulate Muslims, while their Western counterparts use “values” such as “democracy,” “human rights” and the “liberation of women” for the same purpose to secure the support of a secular public.

Ramadan said this has resulted in the current destabilization of the Middle East, with  lethal consequences for the entire world – such as terror attacks, the curtailment of civil liberties in the name of security and the deaths of thousands of refugees as they try to flee across borders.  

Ramadan emphasized that the blame for the “mess,” as he described it, must be shared equally by Western governments for their aggressive, militaristic foreign policies, and by their allies, the corrupt regimes of many Middle Eastern countries whose economic interests are aligned with those of the West.

“Where there is no justice, there is no peace,” he said, pointing out that the American government’s unconditional support of Israel has ignored the rights of Palestinians, and this has incensed Muslims everywhere, causing some of them to become radicalized.

“We (Muslims) too have a responsibility in this clash of perceptions and need to be self-critical.” 

Violating the dignity of Palestinans is not often covered in the media, he said, adding that the protection of Israel has resulted in so much conflict that it has had consequences for ordinary American and French citizens.

For example, the Patriot Act in the U.S. has diminished the civil liberties of Americans, and the French government is doing the same thing in the name of security.

“Thanks, Canada, for not choosing the worst of these measures,” he said, and complimented Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees. “About 2,800 migrants died in the Mediterranean within three years, but we didn’t react until we saw a photo of Aylan Kurdi,” he said, referring to the image of the three-year-old Kurdish refugee boy, who drowned last September.

Cautioning people against “indulging in emotional politics,” he advised Muslims living in the Western world to speak up against violations of human dignity everywhere. “Don’t indulge in victimhood,” he warned.

“We (Muslims) too have a responsibility in this clash of perceptions and need to be self-critical,” he stated, adding there is no unity within the Muslim diaspora, and no space for intellectual discussion.

He noted that Muslims from various countries tend to isolate themselves from one another, even if they live in the Western world.

“We need unity, not uniformity, so don’t import your divisions from your home countries,” he said.

"Because of recent events in Paris, I feel that people are not so welcoming of refugees as in the past.”

Canadians’ fears and concerns

Asked for her reaction to Ramadan’s speech and if she had any of her own fears and concerns about the fallout from the Middle Eastern conflict, Patricia Jean, office manager of CJPME and a relatively recent convert to Islam, said: “As a veiled Canadian, I am concerned about the reactions of other Canadians to Muslims. Because of recent events in Paris, I feel that people are not so welcoming of refugees as in the past.”

Kamiliya Akkouche, a student of International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa, said: “I agree that people should not react in an emotional way, and should address their fears by holding to account all the governments in the West and in the Middle East that are responsible.”

Kenya-born Sarah Onyango, a resident of Gatineau and host of the radio program Afrika Revisited, commented: “Kenya has received the world’s refugees, and my concern is not that refugees are coming to Canada but that we don’t have the resources to support their integration, and their communities will become breeding grounds of frustration and alienation. This will result in some of them becoming radicalized.”

Vicky Smallman, a community activist, stated that she would not want to see political parties and campaigns exploit the racism that lies under the surface. “I don’t want to see any group targeted,” she said. 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Politics

 Jerusalem (IANS): Denouncing any form of violence, President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday voiced concerns over the growing escalation in conflict in Israel and Palestine and said disputes must be resolved peacefully. Raising the issue on more than one occasion during his three-nation, six-day visit, the president said India was distressed at the recent violence. “India […]

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Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in Arab World

 The United Church of Canada’s general council has voted down a controversial proposal to end the church’s support of a two-state solution...

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The Canadian Jewish News

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Published in National

by Shazia Javed (@ShaziaJaved) in Toronto

Speed Sisters, which is making its international premiere at the Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival this week, is a documentary that tells the story of an all women car-race team in Palestine.

As the film follows the five women, who are members of this team, it provides a glimpse into the present day life in Palestine, which is beyond the monotonous narrow portrayal often shown in the mainstream news.

Its foray into the subject of women in sports is of universal relevance.

And yet, its foray into the subject of women in sports is of universal relevance. 

Amber Fares, who directed this film, lived in Palestine for seven years. Fares was born and raised in the Grande Prairie, Alberta and moved to Vancouver after finishing university.

She initially went to Palestine because she was offered a position with a company based in Ramallah, a city at the West Bank.

At that time, Fares thought that she would take that as abreak for six months and just have that experience,but she says she loved the community around her and ended up staying much longer, making films for NGOs.

It was during this time that she heard about the all women car race team, which she features in Speed Sisters.

Here, New Canadian Media catches up with Fares, while she’s in Toronto for the Hot Docs film festival, and asks her about the challenges she faced while shooting in Palestine and how her Lebanese-Canadian roots have helped her filmmaking career.

           

Speed Sisters screens at 6:15 p.m. on April 29 inside the TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 (350 King St. W.), at 7:15 p.m. on April 30 inside the Hart House Theatre (7 Hart House Circle) and at 4 p.m. inside the Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles St. W.) in Toronto. 


Shazia Javed is a writer, photographer and filmmaker. All week long, New Canadian Media will feature her ongoing coverage of diverse films and filmmakers at this year’s Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Arts & Culture
Monday, 19 January 2015 18:01

Baird remains committed to two states

After a hostile greeting by protesters in the Palestinian Authority capital of Ramallah, who pelted his convoy with shoes and eggs, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird returned to Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and President Reuven Rivlin.

According to reports, Ramallah activists carried signs reading “Baird you are not welcome in Palestine.” Baird has opposed the PA’s bid for war crimes charges against Israel and other aggressive moves by the PA at the United Nations. Ottawa has also been vocally supportive of Israel under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tenure.

Baird’s visit came on the anniversary of Harper’s landmark tour of the region in 2014. Baird hoped to reaffirm Canada’s commitment to the strategic partnership and agreements forged on that visit. “Canada deeply values its close ties with Israel,” Baird said prior to his trip.

The Canadian Jewish News

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Published in Israel

Waving placards and appealing to all levels of government to condemn those in Canada who support terrorist activities, demonstrators at a memorial vigil and protest...

Jewish Tribune

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Published in National

by Michelle Zilio (@MichelleZilio) in Ottawa

Days after British lawmakers passed a symbolic motion recognizing Palestine as a state alongside Israel, it doesn’t look like Canada’s Parliament will consider doing the same anytime soon.

The U.K. vote Monday followed a motion put forward by the opposition Labour Party. The motion, amended to say a Palestinian state would only be recognized once peace negotiations have successfully concluded, passed 274 to 12.

Although fewer than half of MPs took part in the vote — Prime Minister David Cameron and his cabinet abstained — and the vote will not alter the government’s stance on the issue, experts say it is still significant as a reflection of shifting public opinion following the war in Gaza.

It certainly provides a stark contrast to the political debate on the issue in Canada.

“The thing that struck me in the past couple of days is that I don’t see a similar debate in the Parliament of Canada,” said Canada’s former ambassador to Israel, Norman Spector, in an interview with iPolitics.

And don’t expect a debate or vote to happen in Canada in the near future, says Spector.

“I don’t expect either of the two main opposition parties to move this kind of resolution or force this kind of debate in the House of Commons.”

“I think it (the U.K. Parliament vote) sends a signal about evolving opinion on the issue of Palestinian statehood but I don’t see it having an impact on Canadian policy,”

When asked whether they would consider a similar motion to recognize a Palestinian state in the House of Commons, neither the NDP or the Liberals jumped at the idea.

The NDP, which supported a Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN in 2012, did not indicate whether it would consider tabling a motion. Rather, the party’s foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, said the government should remain focused on bringing both sides back to the table for a negotiated two-state solution. He also used the opportunity to criticize the Conservative government’s silence following the vote in the U.K. Monday.

“It’s a sad sign of how disconnected Conservatives are from the goal of a negotiated two-state solution when we see the minister of foreign affairs refuse to even reiterate Canada’s longstanding position in support of the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution,” said Dewar in an email.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird did not release any official reaction to the Monday’s vote. In response to an email request from iPolitics, his spokesperson, Adam Hodge, said, “Palestinian statehood can only be achieved through negotiations between the two parties.”

“We are committed to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East whereby two states live side-by-side in peace and security,” said Hodge. “Canada again urges the parties to resume direct peace talks, without delay or preconditions.”

In an email statement, Liberal foreign affairs critic Marc Garneau said “symbolic moves by either principal — or by third-party actors — are not useful in advancing the agenda for direct negotiations.” He said the Liberal Party’s longstanding position has been that the only way forward is through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

“Liberals would however support a conversation on how best to — and how Canada can best — move the actors back to the table in the interests of an enduring peace.”

Spector noted the difference between the Israel-Palestinian Territories stance in Canada and the U.K. For instance, while Canada voted in favour of a “two states for two peoples” solution at the UN in 1947, the U.K. did not. In that sense, he says, the British government is trying to “catch up.” He also noted the differences between the two countries’ media coverage of the issue, with British media tending to be more “pro-Palestinian” and Canadian media “much more towards the centre.”

However, recent events may be even more telling of the NDP and Liberals’ lack of interest in a vote recognizing a Palestinian state, says Spector. On the war in Gaza in July and August, the Conservatives, predictably, stood by Israel, Spector said, and the Liberals and NDP were noticeably “cautious” in their reaction to the fighting. Both parties expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself and were accused of falling in line with the Harper government’s stance on the issue. Based on the opposition reaction to the recent conflict, Spector says it’s highly unlikely either party will table a motion to recognize Palestine as a state.

When asked whether they would consider a similar motion to recognize a Palestinian state in the House of Commons, neither the NDP or the Liberals jumped at the idea.

Tim Martin, a former Canadian representative to the Palestinian Authority, agrees with Spector. In an interview with iPolitics, he said he doesn’t see any indication that the NDP or Liberals would table a motion for a similar vote. While he thinks the vote in the U.K. is “significant,” he doubts it will have any impact on Canada.

“I think it (the U.K. Parliament vote) sends a signal about evolving opinion on the issue of Palestinian statehood but I don’t see it having an impact on Canadian policy,” said Martin.

But given the stalled peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Martin said he understands why the Labour party felt the need to table the motion.

“Without fruitful looking negotiations on the horizon, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think about recognition of a Palestinian state and working to help the Palestinians and the Israelis secure the practical attributes that would lead to a functioning two-state approach.”

Whether Canada’s Parliament actually votes to recognize a Palestinian state, Martin said it’s important for the government to make every effort to advance peace negotiations now.

“It’s important to recognize that the successful peace negotiations are feasible between Israel and the Palestinians,” said Martin. “It’s important for us to keep this in mind and keep encouraging peace in the Middle East and not give up on it.”

Re-published with permission.

Published in Politics
Saturday, 20 September 2014 20:00

Thoughts on an inconclusive Gaza war

If the most recent Gaza War had been a boxing match, Israel would have been the unanimous winner on points.

In Israel’s favour, in a manner of speaking, Hamas and the other terrorist groups based in Gaza fired more than 4,000 missiles – and mortars as well – into Israel with very little to show for them in terms of Israeli casualties and destruction of property.

The Jewish Post and News

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Published in Commentary
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