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Israel's Canada Park: Why a Palestinian refugee expelled from an Arab village in Israel 49 years ago came to a United Church in Winnipeg to plead his case

By Terry Davis, May 7, 2016



Last month Haider Abu Gosh spoke at the Sturgeon Creek United Church at a talk before some 70 people, about what he believes was an injustice that occurred in the immediate aftermath of the Six Day War. 



In 1967, fourteen year old Haider Abu Ghosh  was living in  an Arab village Imwas.  Imwas, along with two other Arab villages in an area called the "Latrun salient" was conquered by the Israeli army during the Six Day War, and  its residents (approximately 5,000 to 10,000) were expelled to the West Bank. After the war concluded, all other residents within the West Bank that had been displaced by the war were allowed to return to their former villages. The exception was the residents of the Arab villages Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba who were barred from returning. Their villages were declared a closed military area, and the homes of the villages were demolished shortly after the war ended. Abu Ghosh claims that 10’s of villagers, mostly elderly and disabled were killed in the demolition process.  



The land was eventually developed into a national park, with funding assistance that included from the Canadian government, and was named “Canada Park”. In addition, the land was utilized to allow the construction of the main highway currently linking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and more recently, the fast train linking the two cities. The village residents were offered compensation, both monetary, and in terms of alternative land in the West Bank, but refused, insisting on their right to return to their villages.



Haider Abu Ghosh has become an activist seeking the right to return to these villages. He came to Winnipeg as part of a cross Canada tour, sponsored in part by the United Church of Canada, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), and CUPE.



Alan Baker,  who served as legal advisor to Israel's Foreign Ministry and Israel's ambassador to Canada (2004-2008)  has described what occurred in this area in the Canadian Jewish News as follows "In light of its strategic location commanding the main route to Jerusalem and the vital security implications involved, and in accordance with Israel’s rights pursuant to the rules of armed conflict, the area was declared by Israel to be a closed military area under strict military control, and the presence of the few civilians who remained after the majority had chosen to leave was prohibited. "



In his presentation, Abu Ghosh traced the history of his village back to the time of Jesus, where Imwas was said to be the meeting point of Jesus and his disciples. He argued that the land is occupied land in the same way the West Bank is occupied land, since neither was part of pre-67 Israel. As such, this land is recognized by Canadian foreign policy and the United Nations as occupied land. Because of this, he claimed that Canadian government funding for Canada Park was contrary to Canadian foreign policy, and may have resulted from the Canadian government being duped into believing it was part of Israel. He indicated that Canadian money was spent beyond the “green line”, because  maps of the villages and Canada Park clearly show that virtually all of  the land lies over the green line. 


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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