Article written by Modeline Longjohn and Anna Philpott.
On May 10th, 2021, the world was rocked by gruesome videos of the bombings in Palestinian cities. The bombing, one of many, left massive carnage and hordes of bodies in its wake. In response, supporters in cities all across the globe took to the streets to march in solidarity with Palestinians. Here in St. John’s, Newfoundland, many joined the rally held at the Colonial Building located next to Bannerman Park on May 16th, 2021. The event began at 12 in the afternoon and lasted for about 20 minutes.
Throughout the rally, a host of speakers and volunteers from different organizations and coalitions came to share their stance on the situation in Palestine. With chants such as “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” “the occupation has got to go,” and “the apartheid’s got to go,” roughly two hundred people could be heard voicing their protests and support.
Anna Philpott and Modeline Longjohn of The Muse were in contact with one of the rally’s organizers, Yazan Jabr, a recent Memorial University undergraduate who was responsible for introducing the aforementioned speakers.
According to Jabr, “the rally was a show and stand of solidarity for my Palestinian brothers and sisters who are currently in Gaza or Jerusalem and the West Bank. They have had a very hectic week, we started towards the end of Ramadan which made its way up to Eid (another festival which we celebrate right after Ramadan). Thankfully, this time, with the rise of social media and people having access to the Internet, today more than ever we are able to see things in a clearer way instead of just hearing about it.”
In terms of why it was significant to host a rally here in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Jabr stated:
“For me, the rally was really just to create awareness to let the people of Newfoundland know what’s going on back in my homeland. […] There are also other solidarity protests going on around the world, and I thought it was just fitting to do one in Newfoundland.”
When asked how he would explain what is currently happening in Palestine, Jabr described the events as the result of an ongoing occupation that has been taking place since 1948.
As Jabr told The Muse, this occupation saw the displacement and disposition of around 800,000 Palestinians to be forced off their land. Meanwhile, the remainder of the population was left to be under the control of an apathetic Israeli government.
Speaking on his personal relationship towards Palestine, Jabr stated:
“My ethnicity is basically of a Palestinian background. I am not an official Palestinian because during the first displacement back in 1948, my grandparents were one of the people who were kicked out of the country and they had to go to Jordan, a country that borders Palestine, and they got their citizenship from there. So, although I am a Jordanian citizen by passport, I am also ethnically Palestinian if you go up my roots.”
“The topic of Palestine has always been a topic of discussion between myself, my family, my friends, even back home. I was born and raised in Kuwait, another country in the Middle East, and the issue of Palestine is an issue of utmost importance back home. […] You know, a lot of Arabs have always stood in solidarity with Palestine and it’s always been an ongoing topic.”
In terms of his initial reaction to the news, he asserted:
“My reaction is that I am not always surprised to be honest, because when you’re living under an occupation like an apartheid system, what can you really expect from that? There can’t be any good that comes out of it.”
In the most basic sense, the Britannica dictionary describes an “apartheid system” as a policy that aims to segregate people racially and discriminate against people of colour both politically and economically.
Correspondingly, Jabr offered some counsel on how people in the MUN community can help:
“For people to help is to read up on the history of what is happening and continue to raise awareness. As I previously mentioned, this is not the first time a topic like this has come up. It’s been coming off and on for the last few decades and I am beginning to see this time, in contrast to other times, that a lot of people are being made aware and the reaction from people is all that’s needed. We can’t sweep this under the rug. The more people are aware of this, the more they can stand in solidarity with Palestinians and therefore elect officials who will stand for Palestinians and make sure that the injustices we see don’t happen as much anymore.”
When asked what he would like to say to the Palestinians impacted by the attacks, Yazan emphasized:
“My heart is hurting, and I am feeling for them, and I hope they know a lot of people are standing beside them, how much they are valued, and how much they are in our hearts. They are basically living in an occupation where they don’t have ease of access to leave when they want, with limited electricity and water. I stand with them and wish one day I can be there with them to advocate. This situation is definitely in the forefront of our hearts.”