Watching the Destruction of Gaza from Here
By Farah Qadan
Nov. 17, 2023 (originally spoken at a Justice for All Canada press conference on Oct. 30, 2023, view here)
I'm Canadian-Palestinian. I was born in Gaza, but Canada has been my home for more than half of my life.
I come from a family of resilient dreamers, a family of displaced refugees on one side and native farmers on the other, turned architects, designers, educators, health care providers and storytellers. A family, like all families, that loves life and cherishes their land.
In December of 2006 my family made the ultimate sacrifice to secure a vibrant future for my siblings and I, leaving behind the life we knew by choosing to migrate to Canada and make this country our home, under the premise that everyone is welcome here, everyone.
A few days since landing here, the borders along Gaza were sealed shut indefinitely as a precursor to what has now been a 16-year long blockade. I am one of the lucky ones.
Since then, Gaza has been subjected to an unrelenting siege, riddled with deadly massacres and suffocating, dehumanizing restrictions by Israel, crippling [Gaza’s] economy and restricting all movement by land, air and sea.
Countless violations against international law have been committed by Israel, imposing horror after horror with impunity. Human rights workers, journalists and medical personnel have been categorically targeted and killed. Gaza's water and agricultural lands have been purposely poisoned and contaminated. Israel has seen fit to put Gaza on a diet, controlling the caloric intake of the over 2 million residents of the Gaza Strip, half of which are children, to keep its populace malnourished. Let the scope of what this alone means sensitize you.
Since 2007, the hospital I was born in, where I drew my first breath in this world, has been reduced to rubble. The school I attended, where I learned my ABCs, has been flattened. The neighbourhood I grew up in is now no longer recognizable. I've had to mourn family and friends from afar. My childhood memories have become a eulogy.
Not a moment goes by where I do not have to contend with the grief and guilt of my privileged position while other Palestinians, including my family, don't know if they'll wake up tomorrow. I don't wish to be here. I don't relish this position. I don't wish to repeat and recount statistics and realities that we all know, proof of which is readily accessible and undeniable.
To say the narratives that have emerged in the last few weeks by our government and media groups have been a disappointment, is an understatement.
Incendiary headlines and misleading narratives have given way to rising xenophobia and fear amongst Canadians. The relentless abuses, doxing and alienation fellow Canadians have been forced to experience has shattered our faith in our representing governing body, further perpetuated by our media that has deliberately undermined our rights to free speech and protesting by wrongfully construing our cause.
It is a profound betrayal seeing how the voices of thousands of Canadians from all walks of life that stand in solidarity with Palestinians has been so callously warped, manipulated and dismissed, even as accredited human rights organizations from across the world stage, including Israeli ones, have documented for decades the disparities, injustices and breaches of human rights laws that are embedded in the daily realities of Palestinians, as they are ethnically cleansed from their homeland.
The last few weeks have only shown a concentrated microcosm of the abuses Palestinians have endured for 75 years. We have seen unrelenting devastation and loss of human life, and it is shameful that rather than championing the collective voice of the thousands of Canadians coming from all creeds, ethnic groups and backgrounds calling for an immediate ceasefire and access to humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza, we instead bear witness to Canada's complacency, which in turn has made it complicit in the actions of Israel as it kills, maims, imprisons, silences, harasses and displaces countless civilians in the Gaza Strip and across occupied Palestine.
Mothers are not being afforded a moment to bury their children. Fathers are having to collect pieces of their babies’ body parts in bags. Kids are having to write their names on their limbs in hopes that they'll be identified amidst the carnage being rained down upon them. Entire family lines have been rendered extinct.
If I could write all their names on my body, my skin would drown in ink.
Canada's bilateral relationship with Israel comes with the moral responsibility to hold its ally responsible for its desecration of international human rights and humanitarian law. This is not a matter of taking sides but of addressing the fundamental rights and dignity of a people deserving of peace, liberation, prosperity and most certainly worthy of life.
We have an obligation to tell the truth, to distinguish between the occupier and the occupied, and protect the sanctity of human life. Otherwise, we incur a debt against our moral conscience. We cannot afford the price that the Palestinians never consented to pay.
I am not alone in my sentiments. My outrage and demands belong to a diverse collective of fellow Canadians and our voice is vast and enduring, as we continue to speak for the people of Palestine. Calling for a ceasefire is the very bare minimum that Canada can do.This article appears in the Nov/Dec 2023 issue.