Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Residents of Brantford Burn a Candle for Peace in Palestine

The Sputnik - January 7th, 2009

A fire is burning despite the cold night. Matches were passed around while candles were lit from hand to hand. As traffic along Brant Avenue slowed down to a trickle, a flurry of activities was causing a stir near the statue of The Unknown Soldier at the corner of Brant Avenue and Dalhousie Street. The Palestinian Association of Brantford (PAB) recently held a candle light vigil near the statue on Saturday evening. Their aim was to peacefully protest against Israeli aggression on Palestinians and to raise an awareness regarding the escalated conflict on the Gaza strip.

The dawn of 2009 saw Palestine shrouded in a familiar cloud of anxiety. Peace talks between Hamas and the Israeli Government failed yet again resulting in both parties engaging in air attacks which lasted for nine days and saw hundreds of Palestinian civilians dead. On Saturday, Israeli troops officially began a ground invasion of the Gaza strip at around 8 p.m. under cover of darkness. Israeli troops bisected the city in their efforts to locate and destroy Hamas’ military stronghold. The Associated Press reported that at least 20 Palestinians have been killed since the ground invasion began. Many fear that the number will increase as Israeli forces progress in their efforts.

An estimated fifty people attended the vigil to support the peaceful protest. They included local Muslim families as well as students from Laurier and Mohawk College. Supporters stood at the street corner holding placards, waved the Palestinian flag and chanted ‘One, two, three, four! Stop the killing, stop the war!’. Several motorists passing by showed their support by sounding their horns and waving their hands at the protesters. One protester passed out flyers to motorists stopping at the traffic lights. The flyers contained information regarding the situation in Gaza and how the Canadian Government can help end the conflict.

‘It’s a crime against humanity’ says Mohammed Chaudary, a resident of Brantford and ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause. ‘You tell me, anywhere in the world [do] you bomb a place of worship. Everybody’s telling them[Israeli government] to have a seize fire, let people live in peace but yet since they have the power, they think they can do anything. Just murdering women, men, kids, old and young.’ Mr. Chaudary’s passionate speech echoes the feelings of many. There has been world wide outcry of protests since the Israeli invasion began on Saturday.

Hamas claims that they began air strikes as a retaliation against the blockade that the Israeli Government imposed on the Gaza strip even while both parties were engaged in peace talks. Mohammed Chaudary believes this to be true. ‘When somebody comes to take your home, what [are] you going to do? You will resist!‘ he says.

Sumaiyah, a Palestinian-born resident of Brantford tearfully relates how her family living in the Gaza strip have been deprived of the basic amenities of clean water and electricity for the past nine months as a result of the blockade imposed by the Israeli Government. Born in 1948, she has been a witness of Israeli aggression on Palestinians all her life.

‘Israelis want land with no people…nobody understand[s] this. And they have been trying to do this for 61 years,’ says Sumaiyah. She expresses fear for the lives of her family members who currently live in the Gaza strip. Sumaiyah explains that the oppression of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government will not end as long as there is Israeli presence in Palestine. ‘We go from war to another war….the problem is not Hamas. They(Israel) need the land. What do babies [have to] do with Hamas?’ she asks.

Many Non-Government Organizations world wide have been untiringly calling for their respective governments to condemn Israel’s invasion of Palestine and for people to rally together and take action anyway they can. The candle light vigil held by the PAB is one of those efforts to bring peace to Palestine and bring the world‘s spotlight onto their plight. As one protester puts it, ‘I’m here to give my support. When people see this [protest], they will know about it and then maybe they will do something.’

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