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Penny Jones Square: The “Nakba 74” Commemoration at Winnipeg City Hall on May 15

by Penny Jones Square June 3,2022


It seems only fitting to introduce this firsthand account of the Commemoration of “Nakba 74,” by referring to a Facebook post by one of its hosts, the Canadian Palestinian Association of Manitoba (CPAM), as it set the tone for the rally itself—at once defiant and denunciatory. The post called on supporters to rally at Winnipeg’s City Hall in flagrant violation of the denial, by the Office of Mayor Brian Bowman, of their request to raise the Palestinian flag on a City Hall flagpole. It should be noted that the post included a hashtag that in my view is a hateful message by saying "#ApartheidIsrael." 

The rally was co-hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine - University of Manitoba, Canada-Palestine Support Network - Winnipeg, Winnipeg Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, Mennonite Church Manitoba Israel-Palestine Network, and Independent Jewish Voices - Winnipeg with the support of other individuals, among them organizers Idris Elbakri and Rana Abdulla, both of whom spoke at the rally, and both of whom are known for their anti-Israel stance.

According to Jeremy Davis, spokesperson for Mayor Bowman, "organizers were previously advised that the protocol at the City of Winnipeg allows for flag raisings of foreign nations with which Canada has diplomatic relations.” 1 There is, therefore, a sound reason for the City’s refusal of their request. Palestine does not exist as a nation because Palestinian leaders have repeatedly refused all offers of land for a state—in 1937, 1947, 1967, 2000, 2001, 2008, and in 2019.

The organizers of the event do deserve credit for a peaceful gathering; however, it is unfortunate that their cause is based on a false premise. They claim their land was stolen when in fact they were awarded their own sovereign state by UN Resolution 181 on November 29, 1947 when the UN decided to create a state for Palestinian Arabs and a state for Palestinian Jews. The Jews accepted the resolution and built the modern thriving democratic State of Israel; the Arabs rejected it, attacked Israel with five other Arab armies, and has been attacking Israel ever since. The Palestinians are certainly entitled to their own right to self-determination, but so are the Jews. Their refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist is the source of the “Nakba,” and the suffering of Palestinians is only perpetuated by clinging to this false narrative.

What the Palestinians view as the “Nakba” (Arabic for “catastrophe”) of 1948 refers to the creation of the State of Israel and the suffering they endured as a result of the offensive war their leaders along with five other Arab countries started against the day-old State of Israel. Rather than exploiting the occasion to blame and condemn Israel and the Jews for their own ongoing statelessness, Palestinians and their supporters should be petitioning their leaders to become true partners in peace with Israel, to abandon their rejectionist stance, and to recognize the right of the State of Israel to exist. In the same seventy-four years that the Palestinian people have persistently remembered the “Nakba,” the Israelis have continuously sought a two-state solution, and the Palestinian leadership has relentlessly renounced every opportunity to have a state of their own.

It is critical to point out that from the very beginning of the rally, the tone set in the Facebook post was reinforced by each speaker referencing the tragic and accidental death of Al Jezeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and exploiting it as a means to demonize Israel. The first speaker claimed it had been a “targeted assassination” by an Israeli Defence Forces sniper, and that it was only another in a long line of such targeted murders of journalists by the IDF since 1992 to “establish Israel’s own false narrative” and “silence other narratives.” The first claim is yet to be determined, the second is absolutely unsubstantiated.2 The IDF does not target the press deliberately, nor any civilians (unlike the terrorists with whom they are in an ongoing struggle); in fact, according to British Colonel (ret) Richard Kemp, “the IDF is the most moral army in the history of warfare.” 3

Whenever this tragic incident was reiterated, mention was never made of the following facts: that nineteen innocent Israelis were killed by terrorists in the past weeks, that the raid by IDF forces together with Shin Bet domestic security service agents was in response to these murders and took place in Jenin—a hotbed of terrorist activity, or that when the IDF were trying to apprehend terrorist suspects, they came under heavy fire from armed Palestinians. “The operation in Jenin was thus justifiable and unavoidable,” according to Yochai Guiski.4

Also not mentioned was the IDF’s commitment to a joint investigation of Abu Akleh’s death and to transparency and open reporting on the issue, to the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) denial of Israel’s request for a joint investigation and autopsy, or to the PA’s refusal to share forensic and ballistic evidence with Israeli investigators. (Palestinians had “rushed Abu Akleh’s body to the Institute of Forensic Medicine at An-Najah University in Nablus, where an autopsy was carried out.”)5

Like the PA, the speakers and participants with signs accusing Israelis of “the brutal murder of Shireen” were committed to a different agenda: “exploiting the incident to scapegoat Israel.”6

Many historical inaccuracies and distortions were espoused by the four speakers—Leah Gazan (far left NDP inner city MP); Breanne Lavallee-Heckert (member of the Metis group Red River Echoes); Idris Elbakri (director-at-large of the Manitoba Islamic Association and frequent media commentator, who has been criticized for his anti-Israel bias)7; and Rana Abdulla (community organizer).

For a corrective to the repeated myth of Palestinian expulsion (what was even referred to as “ethnic cleansing”), I turn to Benny Morris, foremost historian of the conflict, who states the Arab exodus began in December 1947, when “Arab officers ordered the complete evacuation of specific villages in certain areas, lest their inhabitants ‘treacherously’ acquiesce in Israeli rule or hamper Arab military deployments.”8 Morris also points out: “There can be no exaggerating the importance of these early Arab-initiated evacuations in the demoralization, and eventual exodus, of the remaining rural and urban populations.”9

Although some Palestinians were expelled, many were urged by their leaders to leave to make way for the invading Arab armies or by Arab military leaders to “prevent their hamper[ing] the operations of the fighters” and to prevent their being “an obstacle to the holy war” (Arab National Committee, March 8, 1948).10 Others left out of fear of being caught in the crossfire of war.

Benny Morris concludes: “The [refugee] problem,” and hence the “Nakba”, “was a direct consequence of the war that the Palestinians—and . . .  surrounding Arab states—had launched.”11 The Israeli War of Independence (1948) was unquestionably a war of self-defence on Israel’s part. Had the Palestinians accepted the UN Partition Plan of 1947, as the Jews did, they would have a state today and there would be no refugee problem, and no “Nakba” to commemorate.   

The all-too-familiar, despite being untrue, accusations repeated by all the speakers about the occupation, the killing of innocents, the expulsion from homes and land, the system of apartheid, and ethnic cleansing and genocide ring hollow to anyone with any real knowledge of these terms, or of the authentic history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is troubling that so few have actually been to Israel to witness firsthand the reality of Israel’s democracy where all its citizens have equal rights, including Israeli Arabs who have openly admitted to wanting to remain citizens of Israel should a Palestinian state ever come into being. 12

1. CBC News, “Palestinians Rally in Winnipeg on Sunday, Marking Anniversary of Displacement,” at

2. “Lieutenant General Aviv Kohari (Israel Defense Forces) Addresses Shireen Abu Akleh Investigation,” May 27, 2022 at

3. Richard Kemp, “A salute to the IDF,” Jerusalem Post, June 15, 2011, at;  Richard Kemp, “Col. Richard Kemp on the IDF & Hamas in Gaza,” YouTube, August 14, 2014, at

4. Yochai Guiski, “An Al Jezeera Reporter’s Death and the Palestinian Agenda,” Algemeiner, May 13, 2022 at

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Mike Fegelman, “CBC Publishes Opinion Column and Broadcasts Interview Whitewashing Palestinian Terrorism,” Honest Reporting Canada, April 8, 2022

8. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881 – 2001, New York: Vintage Books, 2001

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Daniel Pipes, “Israeli Arabs Say No to Palestine,” The Jerusalem Post, Feb. 4, 2020 at 



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