In recent weeks, the world has been closely following developments in Palestine and Israel. Following Hamas’ Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, the Israeli Defense Forces have responded with ongoing military operations and shelling in Gaza. 


As of the time of writing, the conflict has escalated into ground and air incursions into the Gaza Strip resulting in thousands of victims and displaced Palestinians. According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, over 6,000 people have been killed since the attacks began. Many of the victims are children, reflecting Gaza’s youthful demographic composition. 


These events have also resonated in Fredericton. Government officials have wasted no time in expressing their support for the Israeli government. On October 10, Blaine Higgs said: “New Brunswick condemns the terrorist attacks against Israel.”


“We mourn the loss of innocent civilian lives and our prayers are with everyone affected by this unthinkable violence.” Higgs had no word of support for Palestinian victims.


In response, the Fredericton Palestine Solidarity has been actively involved in advocating for the Palestinian cause. The Brunswickan interviewed Dr. Jeffrey Brown who shared his perspective on the matter. A professor of History at the University of New Brunswick and a founding member of this organisation, he has been an active participant in the most recent pro-Palestine protests.


“I’m horrified and depressed by [Israeli aggression].”


Concerning Canada’s role in the unravelling conflict, Dr. Brown had this to say, “[It] has been to facilitate it, and also obscure the actual nature of the Israeli war on Gaza.”


However, he also noted positive steps taken by activists. “There has been an upsurge in political activity by folks who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, there have been rallies Downtown,” he said.


A lot has changed in Fredericton since Fredericton Palestine Solidarity was established, in the early 2000s. “One of the really interesting and heartening things is that since the early 2000s, when Fredericton Palestine Solidarity began, there are many, many more Arab and Islamic people in Fredericton,” said Dr. Brown. “So the events are really well attended and there are many more people of Palestinian descent in Fredericton, as well.”


Regarding the University’s response, Dr. Brown mentioned that he was aware of a message from the University President acknowledging the events in Israel. However, no organised efforts were noted to support Palestinian or Israeli students. “I don’t know of the University having done anything,” said Dr. Brown.


Looking forward, Dr. Brown had these thoughts to offer, “I doubt if it’s feasible in the political climate right now, but I absolutely do think that every responsible peace-loving institution should be engaged in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign.” He continued, “I don’t think there has ever been a campaign here at UNB to try to move the University in that direction.”


“But what that would take would be an organised effort by the students, faculty and staff to persuade the UNB administration to take part in BDS,” Dr. Brown concluded.  


The Brunswickan also spoke to Dr. Tracy Glynn, another founding member of Fredericton Palestine Solidarity. According to her website, Dr. Glynn is an activist-scholar based in Fredericton. She teaches at both St. Thomas University and the University of New Brunswick.


“I think it’s very difficult to watch what’s unfolding and in the Palestinian territories right now, watching that number of people be killed,” she said. “I work with somebody whose wife lost her uncle and cousin and a two year old child.”


“I think groups like Fredericton Palestine Solidarity, and other groups across the country, are also shocked by the statements that are coming from the government,” she said. 


“[They’re] maybe not a surprise, because it follows the long-standing support for the State of Israel.”


“But I think that with every attack, with every blockade of food and electricity, and loss of life, it’s time for our government representatives to have some courage,” she continued.


Dr. Glynn also acknowledged that speaking up against the actions of the State of Israel can be challenging, citing personal experiences of being targeted, along with professors and others.


Fredericton Palestine Solidarity has been revived during this crisis, with new members, including students, joining their efforts. Dr. Glynn sees students as having a significant role in advocating for the Palestinian cause, particularly in educational institutions, where they can raise awareness and facilitate discussions.


“We can educate people through talks making connections between settler colonialism in Canada and in the Palestinian territories,” said Dr. Glynn. “For students, it is often a freedom of speech issue, where Palestinian voices are often silenced.”


“I think if we can’t stand up for some of the most oppressed people in the world, you know, we have a problem,” she opined. “Genocide is currently unfolding.”


Fredericton Palestine Solidarity is currently promoting rallies, vigils, and other demonstrations downtown. They are also organising a Palestinian film festival at the Gallery on Queen, which will feature a film every Wednesday at 7:30 pm, starting on November 8 and running until the end of the month.

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