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Calgary’s Palestinian community wants to raise awareness after journalist is killed

Calgary’s Palestinian community wants to raise awareness of the killing of American-Palestinian journalist Shereen Abu Aqleh.  

For 25 years, Abu Aqleh had covered the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. However, on May 11, while wearing a blue vest with “PRESS” written on it, covering an Israeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, Abu Aqleh was shot and killed.

Reyad Abusalim, president of the Calgary-based Jerusalem Council of Canada, said it’s important for the municipal government and the Calgary community to care about this, because Palestinians have been a part of this community for more than 60 years.

Abusalim also said that it’s important to him and other local Palestinians because they grew up in Calgary watching Abu Aqleh report from Palestine since 1997.

In a May 24 news story by American media outlet CNN, it was reported that Abu Aqleh was potentially targeted by Isreali forces.

However, in a piece by the Jerusalem Post, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) refutes these claims, saying there must be a full investigation into the death.

The conflict between Palestine and Israel is an ongoing one since the mid-20th Century. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has lasted 54 years. The last round of peace talks began in July 2013 and were suspended in 2014.

In May 2021, amidst rising tensions, the 2021 Israeli-Palestinian crisis began with protests that escalated into airstrikes by Israel and rocket attacks from Gaza.

Calgary Palestinians held major 2021 protest

Calgary’s Palestinian community organized one of the biggest local rallies in May of 2021. Hundreds of protesters also stood in front of city hall to send a message to elected officials to denounce the violence in the region that went on for more than a week.

According to Abusalim, Calgarians should be concerned because of the threat to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The killing of Abu Aqleh is shutting down that freedom, he said.

“[The municipal government should] condemn the killing of a journalists’ freedom of speech,” said Abusalim

Abusalim also said it’s important that Calgarians come together in support of the Palestinian cause.

“[We] want people to show a little bit of respect to the Palestinian cause. It’s been going on for 74 years. My parents immigrated here over 45 years ago and there was already a Palestinian community inside Calgary, and it is a part of Calgary,” he said.

“Popular local businesses are all Palestinian owned, Palestinian-Canadian owned, and when we have one of our all-star trailblazing journalists get killed, it does affect us for sure.”

Moral and humanitarian support needed

Abusalim said the support he and other Calgarian-Palestinians are seeking is not one of finances. It’s of moral and humanitarian support.

“We are not looking for funds or donations. What we want is people’s support in the Palestinian cause,” he said.

“We want people to look at Shereen’s death as a reminder of the brutal occupation that these people are going through on a day-to-day basis.”

Abusalim believes that the best support Calgarians can give to this cause is through education.

“Every person in this city should be well educated in this conflict. This constantly affects every part of society. It’s tied to the Aboriginal situation right now that we’re experiencing here 150 years later, the government is apologizing for how they treated the Aboriginal people. This will [also] happen [one day] in Israel,” he said.