City of Ottawa's Decision to Raise Israeli Flag Amidst Ongoing Offensive in Gaza is Racially Insensitive

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2024-05-06-Ottawa Flag FR (2)Montreal, May 07, 2024— The Anti-Racism Program of the CJPME Foundation (ARPCF) is urging Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe to reconsider his decision to celebrate the creation of the State of Israel by raising the Israeli flag at City Hall on May 14, 2024. Especially when Israel's brutal military operations in Gaza have led to staggering Palestinian casualties and destruction, such a gesture on the part of the City of Ottawa is extremely insensitive. Many international observers have criticized these actions as disproportionate and in violation of human rights. Additionally, assertions at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) indicate that Israel is plausibly committing genocide in Gaza.

The choice to raise the Israeli flag at Ottawa City Hall on May 14 is not only insensitive, but also deeply hurtful to Ottawa’s Palestinian community and to anyone concerned with human rights. Historically, May 14th marks a day of profound grief and loss for Palestinians, known as the Nakba ('The Catastrophe,' in Arabic) which saw the mass displacement and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948 by organized armed Israeli groups. “Celebrating” this day at Ottawa City Hall is not the only problem, however.  Rather, the West’s tendency to completely erase the history associated with Israel’s Independence Day is the issue here. “Marking the Nakba as a day of celebration blatantly ignores the pain and injustice experienced by countless Palestinian families. It is an act that erases the history of murdered and displaced Palestinians and delegitimizes the voices of those who continue to suffer," stated Jamila Ewais, a researcher for the ARPCF. “Celebrating Israel’s violent founding, especially this year, is equivalent to a celebration of injustice against the Palestinians.”

Mayor Sutcliffe's decision is indicative of a broader pattern of systemic anti-Palestinian racism. Palestinians and their advocates may experience vicarious trauma due to the pervasive systemic racism surrounding them. According to a report by the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association (ACLA) on systemic anti-Palestinian racism: "Targeting Palestinian identity and narratives, along with the loss of opportunities and negative treatment, can trigger racial trauma for Palestinians and some advocates." This racism encompasses a range of actions or policies that contribute to the systemic marginalization of Palestinian people by denying their history, struggles, and human rights.

The ARPCF calls on Mayor Sutcliffe and the Ottawa City Council to reconsider their decision and to engage in actions that foster inclusivity, respect, and justice for all communities, including Palestinians. It is crucial for elected leaders to demonstrate balanced and compassionate leadership, especially in the context of displaced indigenous peoples. We urge the City of Ottawa to be sensitive to the concerns of all communities, and not take actions that suggest a bias against one community vs. another.  Additionally, the ARPCF calls the Ottawa City Council to acknowledge the Nakba and place the independence of Israel in its historical context.

About the ARPCF – The mandate of the Anti-Racism Program of the CJPME Foundation (ARPCF) is to create public awareness about racism in Canada.  This mandate falls in line with the Foundation’s broader purpose of monitoring and combating manifestations of racism, xenophobia, and discrimination by increasing public awareness of such biases.

For more information, please contact Jamila Ewais, 514-389-8668
ARPCF, [email protected]

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  • Lynn Naji
    published this page in Statements 2024-05-07 10:31:21 -0400