Ibrahim Zoghbor speaking at a Ceasefire Grey Bruce event April 27 in Port Elgin.

Ibrahim Zoghbor addressed an audience of a few dozen at a Ceasefire Grey Bruce event at the Port Elgin United Church April 27. Kiera Merriam photo

by Kiera Merriam

While the western world tuned into the Met Gala Monday night, Israel began an offensive on Rafah, a city in southern Gaza, leaving those currently sheltering there with nowhere left to go.

Approximately 1.4 million people are sheltering in Rafah, many of whom having been displaced from their land and homes in other regions of Gaza and beyond, now all but destroyed or re-settled by Israelis. Nearly half of those in Rafah, over 600,000, are children.

In the last six months, since Hamas launched an attack on Israel October 7, killing 1,139, Israel has destroyed hospitals, museums, churches, educational institutions, olive groves and agricultural crops, as well as vital infrastructure such as health care, water and sanitation facilities in occupied Palestine. They've targeted journalists, doctors, first responders, artists, professors and humanitarian aid workers.

Attacks largely funded and supported by the west.

An estimated 35,000 people have been killed in Gaza since October 7, including 14,000 children, and another 79,000 have been injured. It is estimated that over 80 percent of Gaza's 2.3 million people have been displaced from their land and homes.

Data analysis from satellite images suggests that over half of the buildings in Gaza have been destroyed.

British surgeon, Dr Nick Maynard, who has recently returned from Gaza, said people are not just perishing from their injuries but also from complications from malnutrition exacerbating their conditions.

As we scrolled our socials on Monday evening, images of quirky and outlandish fashion and artistic expression from the annual gathering of who's who in pop culture juxtaposed with horrific and unimaginable images of violence, destruction, death and terror, something that for many of us here in the west is quite simply beyond our comprehension.

Dozens of university and college campuses across North America and around the world are now home to Palestine solidarity encampments where students and faculty from all faiths and backgrounds are demanding the institutions disclose their financial investments and divest from weapons manufacturing and Israel's genocide in Gaza.

Broadcast journalist Ginella Massa tweeted Tuesday, "I searched the word 'Rafah' on Twitter and I was met with horrifying images of children killed in the last 12 hours that I can’t unsee. A reminder that this is what university students are protesting, and they refuse to allow their tuition dollars to be spent on a genocide."

The number of protests happening around the world is frankly hard to track given a lack of comprehensive coverage in mainstream media but hundreds of thousands of citizens across the globe are taking to the streets to make similar demands; an immediate ceasefire and a withdrawal of support for the ongoing genocide in Palestine.

If a ceasefire is reached right now, the UN estimates that it would take a century, three generations, to rebuild the Gaza Strip.

Ceasefire Grey Bruce (CGB) has been holding weekly demonstrations Saturday mornings in Owen Sound, on the steps of City Hall, calling for a ceasefire.

Spokesperson Leslie Moskovits told Saugeen Shores Hub that in addition to the weekly demonstrations, CGB "a non affiliated group, a collection of citizens" has also done some information sharing as well as political advocacy toward an arms embargo.

At a recent event held at the Port Elgin United Church hosted by CGB and featuring Palestinian speaker Ibrahim Zoghbor as well as a showing of the film 'Hope in a Slingshot,' a three part series by Polly Tikkle Productions about her first visit to the West Bank, Moskovits stressed the importance of "using our position as Canadian citizens" and "being there as a face of solidarity for Palestinians."

They also aim to learn from the Palestinian perspective, "a perspective that has been long subjugated, villified," she said. "That's how we're going to make the change."

Zoghbor, who is from Gaza but now lives in Canada, said that the Gaza Strip is two times the size of Saugeen Shores and is home to over 2 million Palestinians.

"They don't allow western journalists to go into Gaza to see what's going on," Zoghbor said. "We only have Palestinian journalists and social media to help spread the word," he said.

Ibrahim's brother, Palestinian journalist Ahmad Zoghbor, has been missing since November. Over 140 journalists have been killed in Palestine since Israel's latest offensive began in October.

"It's a genocide and has been for so long," said Zoghbor. "I'm very fortunate to be here in Port Elgin, to have a house here and family here but that luxury which is just a normal thing here, many people in Gaza don't have that, including people who are so smart and so diligent, they just want to live their life," he said.

Zoghbor shared his experiences with the few dozen in attendance at the Port Elgin event April 27, which he later shared with us in an email. "The story with occupation starts in 1948 (the Nakba) when my family was forcibly displaced from Al Majdal, a small town in southern Palestine to Al Shati refugee camp in Gaza," Zoghbor wrote. "This is not something that I read from history books or through a documentary. But a reality that my father witnessed it as a six years old boy when he was displaced."

Zoghbor was born in 1981 in Al Shifa Hospital, a hospital recently destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

"I wish my childhood memories are filled with more joy than what you are going to hear," Zoghbor wrote. "In Gaza there is no airport or seaports, the only checkpoint to the outside world is fully controlled by the Israeli army."

Zoghbor said that growing up he experienced the occupation first hand. In 1987, at the beginning of the first Intifada, journalists came to his house to document the damage caused by the occupation forces, who had dumped garbage and debris in his front yard.

Intifada is an Arabic word that literally means "shaking off."

In 1988, when Zoghbor was in Grade 2, clashes broke out between two young teenagers and Israeli soldiers. "My mother rushed to pick me up from school, and on our way home, a soldier pointed his gun at us and fired a rubber bullet that hit my shoulder," said Zoghbor. "I saw our neighbor Khalid Jadallah, 18 years old, being shot in front of his parents' house. Six years later, his brother Salah, 22 years old, was killed by an Israeli soldier. Recently, in November 2023, their third brother Bilal, 45 years old, was assassinated. Bilal was a passionate journalist who was far from engaging in any kind of violence."

In 1991, they were under curfew for 40 days during the Gulf War. In 1993, he spent half the school year without education as his school was closed by the army.

After Oslo Accords in 1994, Zoghbor said the Palestinian authority took over the internal civil affairs with a plan that a five year transitional period would lead to an independent Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, two territories that were occupied in 1967 and defined as occupied Palestinian territory in international law.

"When I finished my high school in 2000, I wanted to study mechanical engineering in the West Bank which is only 80 kilometres from Gaza," Zoghbor said. However he was denied entry to the West Bank by Israeli authorities and instead studied civil engineering in the Islamic University of Gaza.

Prior to the age of 25 the furthest Zoghbor had been able to travel was "in a circle of 12 kilometres" due to military checkpoints and travel restrictions.

After he finished his degree in 2004, he began a career in the field of civil engineering and worked on projects including building student halls and administrative buildings that were later destroyed.

"In 2005, Israel withdrew from inside Gaza but continued to control it from outside," Zoghbor said. "I worked on a project to convert settlement areas into vegetable farms, but every time the crops were ready for export, the Israeli authorities closed the borders, making the project unviable."

It was at this point Zoghbor said it had become clear to him that he could not build a normal life under Israeli occupation. He left Gaza in 2006.

"Like all other people in Gaza, my family was forcibly displaced to different parts of the Gaza Strip. We lost our house, but the most difficult thing happened to my wife's sister, Dalia Abu Ajwa. She lost her daughter, husband, and the entire husband's family of 31 innocent people. By a miracle, she survived with her 4-year-old son, the only survivor of three generations," said Zoghbor.

Zoghbor said that every part of Gaza is under attack, that nowhere is safe. But he said the Palestinian people are determined. "Enough is enough," he said. "We need our independence in our own state, beside Israel," he said.

When we chatted with Zoghbor April 27 he said that if we don't resolve this now there will inevitably be another October 7. He said that he hopes that there is a shift in understanding and that people are starting to look past the propaganda.

"You people are kind," Zoghbor said. "You are *free people here and you deserve to have the right information because the government is part of supporting Israel," Zoghbor said. "Israel wouldn't do this without support from Canada, the US, France, the UK," he added.

He also said that this isn't a religious issue. "It's not Muslim against Jew," he said. "Hamas is an Islamic group, however their fight is not for Islam, it's for freedom, they fight is for a free Palestine," he said.

While the Palestinian population today is largely Muslim; roughly 13 percent of the population is Jewish and less than 3 percent identify as Christian; the history of Palestine dates back thousands of years and genetic studies indicate a shared ancestral heritage with the Jewish diaspora.

Falastin Altanany, an engineer from Palestine who came to Canada in June of last year, one month after the birth of her daughter Carmel, was present at the April 27 event.

No stranger to war, Falastin said she knew exactly the sound of bombs. In October she was trying to contact her brother and when she was finally able to get a hold of him, he told her that the bombing they experienced in 2021, the worst that Altanay had ever experienced, was a joke compared to what they were experiencing now.

At the time we spoke, Altanany said her family was living in a small tent in a small community in Rafah. They were Gazan refugees, having been evacuated from a nearby village during the Nakba in 1948. "When I called my family to just check that they are safe, they told me that the man who's buying the food is killed, our neighbours they are killed, the driver who's in our area, is killed. You feel like it's a genocide," she said.

Altanany's cousin, 4 year old Habiba, was killed April 1, 2024.

She recently looked up her former university professors and a couple of them have been killed. "My husband, he has 10 brothers and three sisters, all of their homes is destroyed," she said.

Altanany said that Americans and Canadians need to know what is happening with their tax dollars. "At least they have to know the reality and the truth of what's happening there," she said.

"And when you feel like you didn't have the power to save the people but you have the power to say the truth, you have the power to say what's happening to you, to your family," Altanany said. "None of families in Gaza, every single house, they lost someone, they lost relatives, many members family, they lost their jobs. They lost everything actually," she said.

Altanany said living here in Canada is like they are stuck. "When you are coming to new life with to have safe place to reach out, safe place for your children, and suddenly your memory and your past, everything is gone, you feel like you couldn't sometimes, you couldn't cry, you know it's too much, it's too much to deal with, especially when you have a big family."

A fundraiser to help Altanany's family evacuate Gaza is available at

Update: As of Tuesday, May 14, the assault on Rafah continued.

Contact information for Members of Parliament in Canada can be found at

Ben Lobb, MP for Huron-Bruce can be reached at

Alex Ruff, MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound can be reached at

'Hope in a Slingshot' can be viewed on Vimeo:

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

The April 27 event also displayed a collection of books for those interested in learning more:

The Hundred Years' War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917–2017 by Rashid Khalidi
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt
Mornings in Jenin: A Novel by Susan Abulhawa
Sitti's Bird: A Gaza Story by Malak Mattar
The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine by Miko Peled
Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew by Avi Shlaim

*Editors Note: Canada was founded on genocide, settler colonialism and forcible displacement of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Nations exist here under the Indian Act, part of a long history of assimilation policies that aim to terminate the cultural, economic and political distinction of Indigenous Peoples.

Falastin Altanany and Carmel

Falastin Altanany with her daughter Carmel. Kiera Merriam photo

Leslie Moskovits

Leslie Moskovits, spokesperson for Ceasefire Grey Bruce, addressed the crowd of a few dozen at the Port Elgin United Church April 27. Kiera Merriam photo

Map of historic Palestine

Palestine as it existed in 1917. Every village, farm and city is represented by different colours and patterns. Gaza, indicated on the left, is approximately twice the size of Saugeen Shores and is home to roughly 2.3 million people. Kiera Merriam photo