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Rally for Palestinians planned for Kelowna this weekend

Members of CJPME - Okanagan stand outside MP Tracy Gray's office May 16, 2021, on the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba (catastrophe).
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/CJPME - Okanagan
May 20, 2021 - 7:30 AM

Amid Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an organization advocating for peace in the region is holding a Kelowna rally to show the conflict has an impact close to home.

Kelowna resident Debbie Hubbard, with Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East-Okanagan, is hosting the Kelowna Rally in Support of Palestine, this Sunday, May 23 in Stuart Park. The event begins at 2 p.m.

The Okanagan chapter stretches from Kamloops to Penticton and has roughly 125 members in their mailing list, Hubbard said.

“What we’re really trying to do is first of all help people in Kelowna… learn a little bit about the context and hear some voices of people who have either been there or who are Palestinian or from the Middle East. The second is to really speak to our Canadian government and say to them that we want them to take a stronger stance. It’s pretty tepid, their responses, in light of the violations of international law and human rights,” she said.

Protests have been happening across the country for Israel as well as Palestine. Canada is calling for a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to stop the violence that has been escalating in the region, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday, May 18.

READ MORE: Tensions flare at Israel-Palestinian demonstrations in Montreal, Toronto

Hubbard said she observed the conflict in 2014 as part of the World Council of Churches in east Jerusalem and spent three months there with her husband, who was stationed in Bethlehem.

“I saw home demolitions, I saw people denied access to Al-Aqsa Mosque… I saw students have smoke grenades thrown in the midst of crowds because they were protesting,” she said.

She saw Palestinians waiting for an hour and a half to come into Jerusalem for work, school and medical appointments.

The conflict resides on holy land for the three major Aramaic world religions, but more importantly, this issue is global, she said.

"What happens in other parts of the world impacts us here and we’re much more connected than we used to be,” she said.

At the rally, masks will be worn, and social distancing measures will be in place, she said.

Hundreds have died in recent days after Hamas and other militant groups in the Gaza Strip, a self-governing Palestinian territory on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, launched rockets and Israel unleashed airstrikes.

Gaza's Health Ministry says the Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 213 Palestinians, including 61 children, and wounded about 1,500 more, as of Tuesday, May 18.

READ MORE: Ceasefire needed in Israeli-Palestinian conflict to avoid loss of more civilians: PM 

Israel says 12 people have died in rocket attacks, including two children, and at least 300 have been wounded.

The United States signaled it would not pressure the two sides for a ceasefire even as President Joe Biden said he supported one.

The history of the conflict dates back more than 100 years to the end of the First World War and the fall of the Ottoman empire.

In 1947, the UN voted for Palestine, then ruled by Britain, to be split into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem becoming an international city, according to History.com.

That plan was accepted by Jewish leaders but rejected by the Arab side and never implemented.

A Kelowna resident, who declined to be named as he doesn’t have permanent residency and is concerned about how his stance will affect future job prospects, said three of his grandparents were just a few of the thousands of Palestinians who were forced from their homes in what they call Al Nakba, or the "Catastrophe," in 1948. He will be speaking at the rally on Sunday.

“They basically had to walk from Jerusalem to a neighbouring country on foot which took them days to get there and basically had nothing but was on their back and basically had to start from scratch basically in a different country as refugees,” he said.

He doesn’t condone violence, but wants to highlight the disparity of power in Gaza facing Israeli forces. “It’s not like they have a bomb shelter to hide in or an iron dome to stop missiles, they have nowhere to go,” he said.

- With files from The Canadian Press

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