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British Columbia’s Own Gaza – 2300 People Lose Homes

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Like many others, I watch with amazement and sadness as the Israeli Army drags longtime Israeli residents of Gaza from their homes and off their land, never to return. Amazement because it is hard to imagine a civilized country taking land and homes away from their own citizens and forcing them to relocate. If a “man’s house is his castle” this action can be considered a demolition of the soul.

It would probably surprise most North Americans, including Canadians (even many British Columbians) to learn that a similar event took place in the Columbia River Valley in south-eastern British Columbia in the early 1960’s. Yes, you heard correctly, our own little Gaza right here in Lotus Land.

In 1964, the Columbia River Treaty was ratified by both the Canadian and US governments. It is a bi-national trans-boundary water agreement that allows for the cooperative development of the Columbia River water resources. Essentially, it provided for the construction of dams to generate hydro-electric power on both sides of the border and provide flood control capabilites.

One of the dams that had to be built resulted in the flooding of over 500 square kilometers of fertile valley bottom between Castlegar and Revelstoke, BC. This was bad enough, but more importantly, over 2300 people lost their land and their homes (sound familiar). No amount of protest or civil disobedience could stop the floodwaters. People were forced out, some physically removed and buildings were burned or became part of the lake bottom.

The economic, social and environmental impacts are still being felt today. This is a lasting wound and a similar fate will be felt by the former residents of Gaza. While the times and the situations are different, the trauma is the same.


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  • khashm

    It would be beneficial for you to gain some knowledge about the conflict in the middle east. only then you would realize how wrong you are using the term “their land”.

  • Kurt

    I am reminded of the native American concept that none of us “own” the land – we are only blessed to use it, gently, for awhile. That really messes with our American system, eh?

  • Point taken, they have only been living there for 38 years. Long enough to feel the pain which was the point of my article. I wasn’t making a political statement.


  • kuros

    just to clarify

    It was quite simple to talk to the settlers. I didn’t need to exert myself with Hebrew. Most of them were from the United States and France and a surprising number were recent converts to Judaism. “Real” Israelis were in the minority. They preferred to sit in Café Atara in Jerusalem or take a stroll on the boardwalk in Tel Aviv. “That’s no kind of life,” is what the Gaza settlers said to me when I asked them if they didn’t want to lead a normal existence — one without fences, armored cars and constant stress. “Here our life has meaning; here we are writing history,” they said.

    In Gaza they hadn’t just settled in comfortably and cheaply — everything was subsidized by the government — the rents, the jobs, the income and the costs — they also built ideology into their subsidized adventure playgrounds. “We protect the state of Israel with our presence.” “He who gives up Gaza has no right to Tel Aviv.” “It makes no difference to the Palestinians if we live in Haifa or Gaza — it makes no difference to us, either.”

  • If you want to get into forced removals, when the Tennessee Valley Authority was created in 1933, 80,000 people were kicked off family farms and relocated – one of the largest such locations in history – and much more comparable to your Canadian case than the Gaza situation is.

    There’s a big difference between moving people to build a dam and moving people to give their lands and homes to other people.

    BTW, one of the main complaints when they moved the folks in the Tennessee Valley was that the new homes they were getting had indoor toilets, which many of them saw as a health hazard.


  • Almost every dam displaces people. River bottom land is usually the most fertile farmland for miles around.

    Look into how many people were forced to move when Egpyt built its Aswan Dam, or the displacement of people by China’s Three Gorges project.

    This is one of the reasons for the movement to remove the dams from many rivers in the Western United States.

  • What all the people who were displaced in the Gaza strip in 1967? Those settelments were political moves by a variety of right wing Israeli governments and by ultra nationalist Zionists, who, as an earlier commenter pointed out, were not even Israeli born.

    As a person of jewish heritage, I have always found it appaling to hear jewish people talk in the manner of some of these settlers who equate palestinians and Arabs with less than human status.

    Is sounds much to much like the talk that had too many of my family in camps seventy years ago.

    The land known as the Gaza strip was taken by the Israeli army in a war of agression in 1967. In a pre-emptive strike they invaded Egypt and Jordan. As well as Gaza, they occupied the parts of Jereuselam not given them during independance, and what’s now known as the West Bank.

    Their justification of security reasons for the occupation, which in 1967 were very real, have since that time been reduced. True they still face terrorist attacks, but now at least they have the aid of the Palestinians themselves in preventing them. The new leader seems far more willing to crack down on Hamas and others than Arafat ever was.

    There will always be elements that can’t be controlled, but they will continue to be pushed to the fringes of acceptance, as Palastine and Israel work towards peaceful co-existance. The settlers are and were as much a hinderance to the peace process as Hamas. Fanatics are Fanatics no matter what religion.

    The setlers knew what they were doing was against international law, and had to know that it was only a matter of time before they were removed. It would have happened a lot sooner if one of their number hadn’t assasinated Yitzak Rabin.

    If they want to help Israel, go work on a Kibbutz, or participate in its economy. Stop being a drain on the armed forces and the treasury.

  • Arrow Lake compared to the Gaza? That is completely laughable. Sorry, this long-time resident of the Kootenays ain’t buying it..

  • Mary, I was not suggesting the two relocations were equal in any way. I was just imparting some information that these things have happened elsewhere (even Canada) which would be a surprise to most people, except perhaps to us Columbia Valley-ites.

    Why is this laughable?