Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Celeste MacKenzie, "Arab, Jewish women unite to call for peace in Mideast," The, August 2, 2006.

OTTAWA (CP) - While rockets fly and more civilians die in Lebanon and Israel, a group of Jewish and Arab women is calling on Canadians to help push for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Jewish and Arab Women for Peace says Canadians must not remain silent as innocent lives are lost, and the Canadian government should call for an immediate ceasefire.

Organizer Tyseer Aboulnasr, a Muslim originally from Egypt, said Jews and Arabs must think of their children's futures and not about scoring political points.

"We can not afford to be silent anymore," she told about 70 supporters, including a handful of men, gathered at the National War Memorial on Wednesday.

"We want this to end. We want people to be able to live lives like we have here in Canada. We want the world to sit all sides down - work it out guys, enough is enough. The two choices that we have live together or die together."

The Mideast conflict escalated Wednesday as Israel sent 8,000 troops into southern Lebanon and Hezbollah retaliated with its deepest strikes to date into Israel, firing more than 210 rockets.

Aboulnasr said Arab-Jewish groups like hers exist across Canada and in the Middle East, but they aren't necessarily well known. She said Arab and Jewish men get together to know each other and talk of solutions too, but mens groups aren't so common.

"On the average I'd say women tend to put aside some of their differences and focus on their commonality, but this is not to imply that men can't do the same thing."

The group formed a few years ago, and held a similar event in July for the first time.

On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said Canada supports a ceasefire in the Mideast, but only if both sides can agree to uphold a lasting ceasefire with clear conditions.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has faced withering criticism since he described Israel's air strikes on Lebanon as a "measured" response for repeated Hezbollah rocket assaults and attacks on Israeli soldiers.

A new poll suggests Harper's support for Israel is out of step with most voters - especially in Quebec where his minority government is counting on gains.

NDP and Liberal critics accuse the Conservatives of abandoning what they called Canada's traditional role as a more even-handed mediator in such disputes. They're also lambasting the Tory refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire even as civilians remain trapped in the war zone.

MacKay cast the situation as a no-brainer choice to support a democratic nation - Israel - as it defends itself against unprovoked attacks by Hezbollah, which he called "a group of cold-blooded killers."

More than 13,000 Canadian citizens have been evacuated from Lebanon so far.

© The Canadian Press, 2006

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