Activists occupy NDP office demanding end to silence on Gaza

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Twitter photo: Ben Powless

Fifteen protesters are occupying NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar's office in Ottawa demanding an end to what they call a "deafening silence" from the NDP on Israel's war on Gaza.

One activist, Joel Harden told rabble.ca that after word of the occupation exploded on social media Dewar entered the office to listen to the occupiers.

"We're meeting with Paul Dewar, he came to the office right now, and were talking to him, he's listening to us, to his credit," said Harden.

Earlier as the activists waited for a response from Dewar, they read out names of the 1,263 people who have died in Gaza. The United Nations reported that since Israel started its attack, over 249 children and over 800 civilians have died in Gaza at the time of writing. 

In a statement on July 22, the NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said, "Hamas is a recognized terrorist organization and Israel has the right to defend its citizens from these attacks, while doing its utmost to protect civilians… the world must redouble efforts toward de-escalation and a ceasefire now. The priority has to be to work for peace."

Voter for Gaza, the group that organized the action on July 31, tweeted that many of the people occupying the office had once donated, voted and worked on NDP campaigns. The group is also calling out for people to join a virtual occupation of the office by sending in emails and calling the office's phone.

Harden said he wants to see the NDP adopt a more serious position on the crisis in Gaza and that the party needs to publicly condemn Israel. 

"We expect the NDP to name and shame Israel for the atrocities it is committing. It's not equivalent to say that what Israel is doing is just as awful as a few irate Hamas rockets. This is a long running situation of repression that goes back to 1948 and the party needs to be speaking out for justice," Harden said. 

"In the minimum, it should be talking about the need to enforce international law. But more importantly given the terrible scenes we've seen on our screens it needs to tell Israel to stop committing war crimes," he added.

Harden added that the party is not treating the issue with the urgency it deserves. 

"We are each giving our two cents to Paul [Dewar], but if Tom Mulcair won't change his position and refuses to name and shame Israel for committing war crimes then this is going to continue, we won't wait until the fall or wait until another 1,400 Palestinians are dead," he said.

"There will be more occupations in NDP offices this week. It will continue to grow, because we expect more from them. We've protested Harper and the liberals but we expect them to tow Israel's line, but we don't expect this from the NDP, we expect better from them."

Miriam Katawazi is a fourth-year journalism and human rights student at Carleton University and rabble's news intern. She has a strong passion for human rights and social justice in Canada and across the world. Her writing focuses on health, labour, education and human rights beats. 

Twitter photo: Ben Powless

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