Home News Above politics and above race, says SPHR

Above politics and above race, says SPHR

by Archives January 29, 2008

Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) took to the streets last week in a show of support for residents of the Gaza Strip enduring an Israeli blockade of their territory. Demonstrators called on Ottawa and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to offer humanitarian aid to victims of the crisis, take positive steps towards improving the situation, or maintain neutrality between the conflict’s opposing sides.
“People are dying,” said Shahd al-Bahti, current SPHR Secretary-General. “We want Prime Minister Harper and the Canadian government to take positive action, or at the very least, be neutral . . . This is above politics or race, these are human beings suffering.” She went on to state that Canada was the only country out of 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council to vote against a resolution demanding that Israel lift the blockade.
The demonstration on Friday afternoon began at De Maisonneuve and Mackay in front of the Hall Building and continued along Ste-Catherine Street stopping at Dominion Square in front of The Bay. The reason of the march was to highlight humanitarian concerns rather than politics. Crowd estimates varied from 200-700, with former Secretary-General of SPHR Fady Abdallah stating it was the bigger of the two numbers.
Maria Mourani, MP for Ahuntsic and member of the Bloc Québécois made a brief speech expressing solidarity with the pro-Palestine movement. She characterized Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s attitude towards the region’s problems as “one-way [in support of Israel] . . . you saw that last year in his attitude with Lebanon.”
Overall, spirits were dampened during the march. Turnout was less than expected compared with prior events in recent years.
Organizers pointed to factors such as the cold weather, last-minute organization, and the fact that the demonstration was on a weekday. Mourani said in regards to the turnout that “it was the quality of supporters, not the quantity.”
SPHR and Palestinian supporters were joined by members of the Confederations Syndicats Nationaux (CSN),
La Ligue des Droits et Libertés – Québec, Alternatives, La Fondation Canado-Palestinienne du Québec, the Centre for Phillipine Concerns, the Canadian Muslim Forum and Lebanese social activism group Tadamon! A small vigil was also held on Wednesday in Dominion Square remembering those caught in the blockade.
The Israeli Consulate could not be reached for comment.
Israel was forced to take action after incessant rocket attacks by Gazan militants threatened nearby Israeli cities and wounded a number of civilians. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that 475 missiles and 631 mortar shells have been fired from Gaza into Israel since June 2007. The Ministry also maintains that claims of any humanitarian crisis are “greatly exaggerated” and that Gazans in need of medical care can continue to receive it at Israeli hospitals.
Palestinian supporters see the blockade as collective punishment on a populace for the actions of a militant minority.
By press time, the Israeli blockade of Gaza had lasted nine days. Gaza’s one and a half million residents have had their electricity disrupted and their food supply dwindling. The situation has degraded to the extent that thousands of Palestinians broke through a barrier on Wednesday and crossed over into neighbouring Egypt in search of food, gas and other supplies.
Two and a half years ago, Israel conducted a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip after 38 years of occupation. In the years since, the tiny territory has seen almost constant conflict between militants and Israeli forces as well as internal clashes amongst Palestinian factions.
The situation had been relatively calm until United States President George W. Bush’s visit to the region necessitated a new round of stringent security measures. The second intifada or “uprising” of Palestinians against Israel has lasted for seven years and counting.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment