Radio — Palestine, statelessness, and Omar Ben Ali’s fight for immigration status in Canada

On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, you will hear about Omar Ben Ali’s fight for immigration status in Canada, about a new campaign from the group Tadamon in support of that fight, and about how Omar’s struggle relates to the broader Palestinian struggle.

Omar Ben Ali is a Palestinian man from the Jenin region of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. He has been in Canada, living in Montreal, for almot ten years. He claimed refugee status on arrival, but despite coming from territory under violent military occupation, his refugee claim was denied. He then applied for immigration status in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, and that was also denied.

And yet, despite having no legal status in Canada, Omar cannot return to Palestine – Canada does not recognize the existence of a Palestinian state, and Israel as the occupying power will not allow him to return. So he remains stateless and in bureaucratic limbo, separated from his wife and children, unable to go back to the home he came from and yet prevented by law from very basic elements of belonging and from living a normal life in the country that he has made his new home.

In Montreal, Omar is very involved in the struggle for justice and freedom for Palestine. In the course of that involvement, he got to know the members of Tadamon, which means “solidarity” in Arabic. They are a grassroots collective that has been involved in supporting the Palestinian struggle in various ways, including the struggles of Palestinian refugees, since around 2005. They do so from an anti-colonial and anti-authoritarian perspective. When they found out about Omar’s predicament, they decided that they must launch a campaign demanding that Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau use their ministerial discretion and grant Omar status.

Omar happens to be a resident of Justin Trudeau’s riding, so a major focus of the campaign so far has been both public education and mobilization in the riding itself. As well, they are currently seeking support from elsewhere in the country – primarily, they are asking people to send letters supporting Omar’s request for status to the minister of immigration and the Prime Minister, as well as to Tadamon, and eventually they hope that mobilizations can occur in other cities as well. In the course of this, they are also drawing the connections between Omar’s predicament and the larger issues at the heart of the Palestinian struggle – Palestinian statelessness, the occupation, Israeli apartheid, the refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, and the complicity of the Canadian settler state in all of this.

This episode includes an interview that Scott Neigh did with Mostafa Henaway of Tadamon, as well as excerpts from an interview that Henaway and Sawssan Kaddoura did with Omar Ben Ali. The latter interview was done for the show Under the Olive Tree that broadcasts on CKUT in Montreal and is used with permission.

Image: Modified from a photograph taken by Neal Rockwell and used with permission of the Tadamon collective.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

Talking Radical Radio has been nominated for a Hamilton Independent Media Award. If you like the show, please vote for Scott Neigh under the category of “Best Journalist – Social Justice and Human Rights” before November 8!

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