Transcript of Interview with CJPME

Listen to the full interview.

This transcript was generated automatically and contains some inaccuracies.

Nur Watad  00:06

Hello and welcome to all things Palestinian Canadian podcast a project of Canadians for justice and peace in the Middle East. Together, we dive into the realm of what it means to be Palestinian living in Canada. We explore all aspects of fastening culture and art as well as history and politics to encourage Palestinian pride and engagement and name is Nur Watad. I’m the Director of Communications campus and community development for CJPME and your the podcast host for today. Joining the conversation with me is Thomas Woodley, producer of the podcast and the president of Cgap. Thanks, everyone for joining us. Today, we are pleased to introduce you to our ATPC guest Mr. Shawky Fahel. Mr. Fahel is a Palestinian Canadian who came to Canada in the 1960s and started his first business in 1979. With $1,000 loan and nothing more than a few carpet and paint supplies. Mr. Fahel lives in Waterloo, Ontario and studied political science and government that Wilfrid Laurier University. He’s a businessman, philanthropist and political activist, who has received a number of awards over the years, both national and local for his various contributions. His most recent philanthropic gesture, one that we’ll discuss during our conversation was a donation of $100,000 to launch a foundation for Palestinian Studies at the University of Waterloo. Welcome, we’re still for her. Thanks for joining the All Things Palestinian Canadian podcast. Is it all right with you, if we call you shoki?

Shawky Fahel  01:31

Absolutely. Okay. Sounds good.

Nur Watad  01:32

Well, I’m excited to have you join us today.

Shawky Fahel  01:37

Thank you know, good morning. Thank you for this opportunity. It’s an honor for me to be here to share with you, my my immigration to Canada, I

Nur Watad  01:51

always like to start with interviews with asking our Palestinian guests where they’re originally from, from Palestine. So can you tell us where you’re from?

Shawky Fahel  02:00

I was born in in USA. In 1949. I like to say I was conceived in Palestine, and I was born in Israel. I come from a family of five brothers, my eldest brother ASA bless his soul. And I’m number four in the family. So three of my brothers were born in Palestine, and myself and my younger brother were born in Israel as 1948. Palestine was lost and Israel became a state. So I grew up, I grew up in in the alpha in Jaffa, which used to be the bride of Palestine.

Thomas Woodley  02:41

Right, you know, you know, shocky my father in law is actually from yava. My father in law was born in 1949. Of course, his family fled Yassa so your family was actually mistaken. Yabba

Shawky Fahel  02:53

What’s the last name? About June by June? We still have lots of mushrooms of right there are some there are some. And there’s some of them in Australia too, by the way.

Thomas Woodley  03:03


Shawky Fahel  03:04

Absolutely. Admit some of them. So,

Thomas Woodley  03:06

what’s your family? Your family was able to stay though your family was able to stay three nights

Shawky Fahel  03:11

stay and my Father bless his soul had four brothers and three sisters and we all kind of lived on the same street, you know, okay. And in 1948 My father was married to my late mother, who was a Huri from California, CIF and Norwood. No, go for your seafarers. You know,

Nur Watad  03:29

my mom is from the hoody family to

Shawky Fahel  03:32

the F word of Nazareth.

Nur Watad  03:35

It’s a huge it’s a huge family,

Shawky Fahel  03:37

your family? My father, we’re not to to go for your sleep. When they were attacking and what happened all my uncles and aunts, unfortunately, they all left, you know, okay. And from Jordan, they disperse to Lebanon to Australia, and the list goes on and on. And I happened to go back to our house, you know, and actually there was a Jewish family occupying or, and he walked in, and he said, This is my house. You know, my Father bless his soul was a very good feisty Fahel Europhile in Arabic. And he kicked him out and that’s we stayed in the house and we grew up. We grew up in Java and it migrating to the US.

Thomas Woodley  04:26

That’s impressive, honestly, because that takes guts that takes guts and like you say a lot of people fled and never came back. My mother in law’s family was never never went back.

Shawky Fahel  04:38

I believe. So a very good to see, you know, absolutely. And yeah, you’re right. I mean, you know, when you think about 800,000 refugees, you know, that have lost their homes and what have you ever would print them out? So, and they’re very, very few that have claimed back the

Thomas Woodley  04:54

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Now, then you I guess you you emigrated to Canada. In the 1960s, late 1960s, I guess right after the 1967 War, of course, that was you were I guess, in your early 20s. Or actually, maybe you weren’t even 20. Yet you were 18 or 19, when you emigrated

Shawky Fahel  05:11

to Canada, 17 and a quarter. Wow.

Thomas Woodley  05:15

What was it particularly that moment? Or you were just anxious in the minute you could leave you want if you were to get a leave? What were the circumstances? No.

Shawky Fahel  05:23

If I reflect back in 1967, on June the sixth, in 67, we know what June the sixth is. It’s not the Six Day War. It’s the six hour war, okay, which is the second next day for the Palestinians, the loss of the West Bank, jazz and the Golan Heights, I was headed down to receive my in Israel, it’s B group, which is the high school diploma, graduating from youngmee High School in California safe, okay. And that’s when the war broke. And I will roll it forward. Right after the war, there was a complete change and transformation in the mental set of the Israelis, you know, extra arrogant, they became racist, they became you know, because, I mean, everything became Arab, you know, if to Israeli teach a soccer mom played a bad game of his plane and Arab game. And it was very, very difficult. I wanted to study law, actually, I went to University of Tel Aviv and I get all of my applications, but then, you know, there was a friend of mine Palestinian youngster with me, and we will look at or look at them barbarians, they want to get educated literally

Thomas Woodley  06:42

speaking, you know? Wow. Yeah.

Shawky Fahel  06:46

You know, so I went to the only Arab College, in features College in Haifa. Okay. Okay. So overlooks the harbor. And out of 3500, applicants, it takes 350. And basically they say, Hey, you know what, you scratch our back, we’ll get you back. Okay, you know, if you know what I mean. And I said, You know what, I’m not staying in this country. The Queen Anna Maria was in the harbor, if I could hear, you know, okay. exactly four months on January the 27th. I was on board of the Queen Anna Maria, coming to Canada, because my eldest brother is, bless his soul had migrated and came to Canada with the first the first batch of immigrants from Yaffa. Okay, they were from Jaffa rumley. And look, there was eight of them, that all came to Canada and he was here. And he was working at the Grand River Hospital. He was a, a licensed inferior that was at the Dimona nuclear plant in Israel when he was there. And he sponsored me and I came, and I applied to, at my time, it was not a new Lutheran University, right, right. To change the names, it changed the name in 1973. And I landed in a monetary, march 1968, which makes it 54 years, four months and 10 or 12 days,

Thomas Woodley  08:17

you’re you’re really good. You’re really good with these dates, I tell you, that’s fantastic. You know, that the, the story that you’re telling us so typical I find of Palestinians in Canada, in terms of, you know, one comes over, and then they bring the next in my wife’s case, she came to Canada because she had a cousin who was there and so on is just so typical, but it takes a lot of courage. What you did, obviously took an awful lot of courage. But of course, coming as a 17 or 18 year old to Canada and then within just a few decades being so successful and having your your JG Group of Companies was was very impressive. I mean, how did you know what were some of the key moments as you you’ve sort of developed your business and develop things like I know, it was a long struggle, but can you can you give us a few of the highlights as you built your your business?

Shawky Fahel  09:08

You know, before you build any business, you have to truly be honest with yourself and build yourself, okay? You have to be successful as as a person you have to be successful in what you do in whatever arena. It may be. Okay, you know, when you can try to apply, apply your success parameters to whatever you envision, and, you know, I mean, it’s, you know, you graduate from the school of hard knocks, I mean, every immigrant that comes in here even for me, 17 years old, it was difficult because you know, it’s a strange guy. I remember the first snowstorm that I I encountered in Kitchener Kitchener here we have twin cities by the way, okay, right. Yeah, Kitchener Waterloo, right. I live most of my life in Kitchener. You No, I went downtown, it started snowing, I went to apply for a job and the unemployment office took the bus went back, all the houses were covered with lighting stations away from where I live, and I walked home and let me tell you what I had my ticket, then I would have been on it.

Nur Watad  10:19

Honestly, I don’t blame you.

Shawky Fahel  10:21

Challenges you overcome these challenges. And you know, and you roll with the punches, so and, you know, for all immigrants, people that come in here, they’re, they’re all looking for the better life, they’re all looking for a better future. And in our case, you know, I was looking for education I was looking to, to go to school. I need one course for my BA So, but the transformation historically, I mean, you know, I started painting homes. You know, when I was at university survival of the fittest, we I don’t come from a very rich background, I don’t come from parents that could send you a check, you know, and pay your bills, you had to earn it, you know, and I went out and I remember going up after work after work when I worked in the summertime and hustled some houses to be painted, you know, if, if Thomas wanted to have his house painted outside, you know, yeah, I think the ladders from my job at 430 When they finished and go and use him for four hours taken back in and go the next day. It’s, but you grow your and one thing leads to another I started as a painter in 1979. I borrowed $1,000, from the Bank of Montreal, my late father in law, bless his soul, who survived the lending on Juno Beach. By the way, I’m born on Christmas Day. I’m married. On Father’s Day, we just celebrated 46 years. My children, Shelby and Amanda are born on Remembrance the two years apart. who landed on Zuma beach on June 4, June 6 1944. Right, daddy and happy to have two children born on the day of remembrance remembrance say, Yeah, well, that was sad for me for the $1,000 and I bet on some Ontario government housing painting, I remember my first contract $15,350 to paint 9090 homes. And I won the bid by $15. They were at 15,000.

Thomas Woodley  12:37

Wow, wow, Impressive, impressive

Shawky Fahel  12:40

break from painting. We move into retrofits, you know, when an opportunity presents itself in business, you have to grant it. Okay. And you have to do to move forward with it. So I realized hotels, you know, every five, six years, they do a complete refurbishing, right. Carpet paint and what have you. So I shifted into the into the market. I had a crew and we’ve done over 2000 hotel rooms in October, you know. And that’s what we did. And mostly kitchens and bathrooms. Because after the Second World War, most of the most of the homes were smaller ones. We didn’t have the three and the 4000 square foot right off today. We had an average of 400 square foot, what have you. So I also created a crew to do renovations interior invasion. So we have a tremendous amount of renovation moved from residential into commercial into offices. But one of the things that attracted me or was history and heritage of communities was always very close to my heart. Right? We such and such building 100 years old, tear it down, turn it into a parking lot, you know. So I moved into heritage retrofitting. I call myself. I’m not a heritage buff. I believe in history, and I believe in retrofitting of old buildings. And we have done many, many buildings that we are very, very proud of. We have just finished a building in the heart of the City of Kitchener or Kinguin. For the American Hotel, the oldest building built in Kitchener, Waterloo and Waterloo Region. 1864. Wow. My son and I, my son had Hamdulillah. He’s running my businesses and running. Now, Sherry, we bought it three years ago, and it is fully occupied, and we restored it to its old formula. What have you.

Thomas Woodley  14:50

Yeah, you know, that’s it. It’s very impressive. And, you know, I think a lot of people are sort of familiar with sort of the sort of story of sort of developer version sort of developers growing their business and so on. But I think you took a very interesting and strategic tack. And obviously it tied in with your interest in heritage in terms of getting into the design. And when we were doing some research for this episode, I was impressed that, you know, you really have all the services, which you are actually, it’s not just about putting up buildings, it’s about actually making nice buildings, as you say, restoring heritage and respecting heritage. And it’s, it’s really impressive. And I mean, did you do you think that is tied to your sort of interest in Palestinian heritage? Or is it something integral to you? Or what was sort of your vision? Or was it just sort of one thing led to another?

Shawky Fahel  15:39

I need to mention this building that we’re in that I’m doing my interview with you? Yeah. 100,000 square foot building on five acres, had a demolition permit in 1993 when I bought it. And today, Google leases 60,000 square feet from us here. Okay. And I turned it into a magnificent building. And that’s again, that’s it’s not only heritage, you know, you have to have the vision. Yeah. I mean, we had a cabinet shop here. And we had the vision to retrofit it, and shut the cabinet shop by choice, you know, and move Google in here and turn it into the offices that Google needs. So you can try to imagine, you know, going from extreme woodworking to hiking, right, as does it tie? You know, I traveled the world believe 100 150 years is to all you know, I say, Hello, I have stayed in hotel rooms that are 900 years old in Europe. Definitely him, you know, we have it is part of history, because to me, heritage is history flexion of who we are and what we are. And I’m I’m a history buff, I like history or whatever. And naturally, it ties in, you know, like, when you see an old building that everybody wants to tear down. It’s a very challenging, you know, and we take it on, and we are very honored and proud, you know, with Alexandra school, American Standard and Hespeler. You know, they produce 60,000 best apps, you know, I want the whole complex and it is turned today into magnificent riverbank laughs You know, wow. Yeah, lander school Market Village. Brand for the individual for the university. I took Old, old decrepit buildings and turn them into

Thomas Woodley  17:38

housing first. Yeah, that’s so impressive. That’s so impressive. Well, hats off to that, you know, and to have that vision to sort of see what something could be, as you say, it requires a vision and a concept and the perseverance to actually achieve that vision. Turning, turning back to your Palestinian heritage. I mean, did you face do you feel that you faced various challenges as a as an up and coming businessman, an immigrant, a Palestinian, are there particular instances where you can recall where it was more complicated or more difficult for you?

Shawky Fahel  18:08

Listen, I think yes, it was. Yeah, whether you’re in business or not, I do have to admit, though, 54 years ago, the narrative is changing, you know, because folks like you, and organizations like you, and social media, and today’s culture, and socio economical changes, makes a huge difference on our, on our days. Yes, the lesson. For a young kid like me coming in here, there was challenges of the of the language, there was challenging of the culture, there was challenges of, you know, economic challenges, spiritual challenges, and new start searching actually, like every immigrant, where are the Arabs, we’re gonna go, we’re gonna live with Arabs. And that’s something I detested. Later on. I realized that, you know, what, if you’re with the Romans, you have to do what the Romans do. And that’s one thing that I really, really appreciate about having them I took Canadian roommates. You know, actually, my modus operandi was blue guys. I speak no good English. I mistake correct me please. I started Sesame Street. So every morning for an hour. You know? There are challenges absolutely identification, especially when you said a Palestinian old sister for you forget 54 years even today, you know? Yeah. You You are associated with with terrorism, you’re associated with violence, you’re associated with Islamophobia. You’re, you know, unfortunately,

Thomas Woodley  20:12

unfortunate. And it sounds to me like my wife, she would often say even though she’s she’s Palestinian, she would often say when people asked her where she was from, she would often say she was Lebanese, just to sort of avoid all these questions that would follow. Did you ever find yourself in a position where you sort of had to sort of, you know, sort of avoid the question of where you were from, or things like that, or sort of say, well, I’m, you know, sort of be vague on those issues. How did you handle it

Shawky Fahel  20:38

many times, depending on the occasion, depending on who you’re talking to, you know, if I’m on with, with Jewish colleagues, I’m what have you, you identify yourself from Israel, you know, because, you know, and that’s, you know, you don’t comprehend these things. I mean, you’re I had to, to go through a transformative of thinking through through my years, and whatever, till I get to the point, Al Hamdulillah. To be able, I always say frankness is my mother. Understanding is my father. You know, you tell it as it is, to whoever it is, and I don’t care what you are going to hear my opinion, as long as I am true, to my beliefs to myself. Yeah,

Thomas Woodley  21:23

yeah. For you,

Nur Watad  21:26

I’m shocked. I know, you’ve had a very impressive growth in your business. But the thing, the interesting thing about is that you still managed to continue to be involved in issues related to Palestine. And in addition to many other roles that you are a part of you were an unofficial Canadian representative at the Oslo meetings that resulted in the 1993 Oslo Accords. You also met the late Palestinian leader yasser arafat’s on several occasions. Can you tell us a little bit more about your role with Oslo and what was the context of your meetings without a thought?

Shawky Fahel  21:58

As far as as flow is concerned? 1993 Canada was not involved in the outflow negotiations between the Israelis, the Palestinians and revisions that was taking place we were in part of it, okay. And I was not an official representative, to also I was an advisor because of my passion because of my involvement. My involvement goes back to 1989. Actually, when I was in, in the West Bank, that was in the height of the Intifada, the first before I had Dr. English was me. He was the the head of the Canada international CIA CIC we met Faisal Husseini, we met Anna SRA we so and that naturally, some of the political, the political, political influence in my involvement actually really started and I did a lot of write ups and a lot of updates over since 1968. Good for you. Well, over 300 opens in the past 50 years.

Thomas Woodley  23:13

Wow. That’s impressive.

Shawky Fahel  23:15

I’ve done a lot of interviews. I was on Sheila Rogers this morning. And I debated rabbis and debate presidents of Canadian Jewish Congress. And I’ve been a brief and the list goes on and on. My involvement actually was in 1980 81, there was a nomination in Waterloo for a Mennonite professor who was one of the founders of the Colorado River College and the School of conflict resolutions, you know, that was running for Liberal nomination, and there was another member Maitland Meyers that was running against Fran cap. And what Lynn Meyers won the nomination he said, If I am elected, I am going to vote to move Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. The embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Just met Frank a moment No, you didn’t understand the Mennonites this year. Central Mennonite community is celebrating 100 years. Okay. Have their office in Jerusalem. Okay. Waving that and I worked with them last year by the way to raise money for for Lebanon, we know $340,000 For the blessing Lebanon through life Central. So nice particular moment. You know, when I heard that, I said, I am gonna get involved. And that’s when I get involved in in the political arena and I get involved with the liberals and you roll it forward to 1997 I was the president of the Canadian, the Federal Liberal Party in southwestern Ontario representing Members of Parliament, and I found it writing for Len Myers who Who was the member that said, He will move the the embassy? Wow, I naturally get involved in the political arena, let’s say naturally get involved because I will send a message to everybody you know, especially our youth, you know, any changes in society to have any changes in your beliefs in whether it be political, whether it be economical, wouldn’t be spiritual, whether it be health and what have you, you must get involved. You have to get involved in political arena, because that’s where the changes are made. And that nothing really happened doesn’t matter who you are, what you are, and how much money you have. Unless you’re really involved, you know, and right from the grassroots on and to the youth we get involved from from from the began, get involved, not only party, get involved with all parties, get involved, and spread it your views, believe in yourself, you know, values, believing in whatever, that’s what I believe that as a Palestinian, you know, I have done a lot of subtle diplomacy in the past 50 years, Mahatma Ghandi said, it is not the numbers. It is what you do, you know. And it didn’t matter. I didn’t have to have 1000 Members, I had Kitchener Waterloo, Arab Canadian Friendship Association that I established that was maybe five years, but I was at parties every year for 15 years, inviting 350 peoples prominent peoples politician, mayors, you name it, you know, every year, you know, to spread who we are. What? Yeah, the narrative of the premiums that have been dehumanized for the past 74 years.

Thomas Woodley  26:56

Yeah, no, that’s, that’s great. Yeah. You know, and sometimes what I say is like, if not you, then who, you know, that quite often people sort of assume that there’s someone else that’s going to jump up and represent them. Yeah, we know, each of us is the best at representing ourselves. So right if if something’s gotta change, Palestinians have to jump into the arena, they have to be involved. The first

Shawky Fahel  27:18

time I met that. In 1995 1995, the offer agreement was signed, and then the Divas World Economic Summit held the MENA Summit, Middle East North African Summit, and it was held in, in Morocco. Okay. And I was invited Claude level to was our Foreign Affairs Minister, and we had a delegation and I tagged along with him, I found out in Morocco that the 16 members, they were all bought a fancy if you use a province. And that was the only English to the Minister, can you translate that for me? And we had a meeting was out of fun that evening. Morning, and that was my first meeting, you know, okay. And he invited me to have a coffee with them. When I go overseas, you know, and but the true meeting that I had out of Fort and was in 2004, I believe. I was the vice chair of the Canada Business Council for many years. One of the original, original members of the council, even though I don’t deal with the Middle East, but to me whenever I was in the Middle East, I were six or seven different hats. I wear my Palestinian hat, my I work, my economic development hat for our country, and so on and so forth. And so I was there. And they, the council was looking to have a speaker for our annual meeting in Ottawa. And they were reaching out to Paul Martin, who is a good friend. I worked with Paul Martin from 1990 as his chief fundraiser in Waterloo Region, but anyhow, I had a meeting arranged to meet to meet Yasser Arafat in the micarta. Actually, he was under siege.

Thomas Woodley  29:25

And I remember that, remember that? Yeah. He was

Shawky Fahel  29:28

under siege. I do have a very prominent lawyer, very proud of him that my cousin Joette Boulos, who was Arafat’s lawyer who’s at best his lawyer. And he’s the head of SEO today, you know, hitting 43 lawyers in Palestine, so,

Thomas Woodley  29:49

okay, that’s nice. Well, you know, we wanted to ask you those questions, because, because, you know, at some level, you’re part of history. You know, you’ve been at these junctures you you’ve visited Arafat now was compound when it was under siege. And I remember I obviously I was in Canada, reading about in lose that was a very difficult time for, for the Palestinians for artifact of course. And it’s just neat to hear, you know, hear about someone who was met these people was present at these these meetings and so on. But let’s turn, let’s turn to your philanthropy. I know Nora has a question about yours philanthropic work. Yeah. Go ahead, Nora.

Nur Watad  30:22

Yes. I do know that you’ve dedicated a lot of time and energy to your philanthropic projects, both locally and in Palestine. I do want you to tell us a little bit more about some of those projects, and why are they’re so important to you.

Shawky Fahel  30:37

There is nothing in the world that is stronger than the heart of a volunteer. volunteerism is the price we pay for being down on earth here. Your legacy, as I said earlier, is not by how much money you legacy is, what kind of a difference Have you made today in somebody’s life? That’s what my dad used to say. And to me. And you are right. You know, if I want to think about all of my involvement through the course of the years, it is, it’s it’s astonishing. Self praise is not an invitation to people to participate, and I did spend 60% of my personal time on all my philanthropy, none of my business. Wow. I definitely said if I was expected my business, I’ll be flying my seven for seven years. One of the first things that I did Palestinians needed help, okay, they needed quickly, they needed help politically, they needed help. And we don’t have too many Palestinian friends in this country, particularly in the House of Commons. I started in the 80s 1980 was Ian Watson was our first member of parliament in Ottawa that was a friend of the Palestinians. And it goes to the late Marcel Pradhan, Sen. prodrome and then Senator do bunny and what have you. Having said that, on all of my trips overseas, you know, when I see something, I started in 90 Many see who can eat Canadian International Development Organization is geared towards sedo is geared towards shipments of medical equipment feed. And I’m very proud and honored of my, my board of directors then and my board of directors today, you know, we have we have accomplished a lot of things and the Canadian government wanted to establish a Canada Israel Health Research Foundation in the 90s. And David Berger, our ambassador at the time in Israel, who I helped tremendously before he he went to Israel after he was appointed. He was attacked by all Arabs in this community for his political stand. I helped him out and by having him meet the Palestinians in Palestine house Canada Federation, I hosted him here was few members of parliament. And David said, reach out to Shawky Fahel. And we need to establish a Canada Palestine Health Research Foundation. Absolutely. And the Canadian Research Council reached out to me, the rest is history. I established the foundation and what have you. And we were having an annual meeting for the board in Jerusalem. That’s in hospital. And what I did is I garnered members from around the country Palestinian members, doctors from from London from Halifax, you know, as part of the, of the foundation and as I was working in, in mocassin, hospital, you know, to meet with the board, three hospitals, they have Augusta hospital, they have mocassin husband, and they have St. Joseph B, mill oats in Jerusalem. That’s where, Mr. Biden tomorrow, he’s going to make an announcement to get some funding for the Palestinian hospitals, and for probably organizations that that support a normalization with Israel. That’s the only money he’s gonna give. Tomorrow, having said that, I saw a Palestinian it always resonates in my eyes with an amputated leg and he had a piece of foot, you know, a thick piece of wood. It crush Wow. And, you know, I looked at that and say, God, I gotta do something about it. I came back and I worked on I go into it into sales. In 100 beds, hospital beds, you know, because of the y2k, you know, they were worried about they were electric, they were worried was that they were gonna run River Hospital donated it to me. I reached out to the to the Hilton was Minister of Defense and we used to have airplanes that took food to the Canadian peacekeepers in the Golan Heights. Okay. Every month there was a Hercules 132 took food. So I asked the government and we shipped the 100 beds on the Hercules, you know, and send them to St. Joseph Hospital. I picked up 75 wheelchairs and crutches or what have you send them to a Maria in Ramallah? You know, we had a CT scanner, battery operated CT scanner $750,000 piece of machine that we bought from from Vancouver hospital for very reasonable money wanted to send to the Palestinians, but allow us because of the mercury and the city scattered with with terrorism, and what have you. So we ended up shipping it to Kenya actually.

Thomas Woodley  36:12

And this is this is all in the early 2000s. Sort of timeframe. Right?

Shawky Fahel  36:16

This is 2008. With a different project. Yeah,

Thomas Woodley  36:21

like I see on your website, right. Right now you currently the year or two ago, you’re working with Arab immigrant women in Canada, you also been working with the Middle East scouting project and stuff like that, but especially in the early 2000s Things were really that was the Second Intifada was sort of getting launched in 2001 2002. Things were really tough. Actually, at that point. Our own organization was doing a little bit of work in terms of you know, there were women that were giving birth at checkpoints. It was just terrible. So it was amazing what you were able to do there. Going back, just briefly to your experiences with with Paul Martin in the Liberal government. I mean, one of the things I did want to talk about, you’ve brought it up a few times in the conversation, your involvement with the Liberal Party, of course, the the Trudeau liberals now in power, the liberals do have a mixed record on Palestine, I joined the Israel crate 10 years, we’re we’re a little bit better. I mean, what’s your sense in terms of and you, of course, have been a huge contributor to the Liberal Party, you were voted the you were twice awarded the lift federal liberal parties Outstanding, outstanding volunteer award. I mean, what what were your experiences with the Liberal Party? And what what would your advice be to people in terms of getting involved? Or if there’s a way that we should be challenging or working with the Liberal Party or challenging them? Or, or, or well, what’s your what’s your attitude? What do you think? It’s?

Shawky Fahel  37:44

Very good question. You’re right. 100% During the Christian days, you know, we were a much fairer party. Yeah. We adhere to the Lester Pearson Personen Foreign Affairs approaches. Okay. We adhere to, I mean, you know, Lester Pearson established the United Nations peacekeeping force, and so on. And so, and we as a country, we’re always, particularly during correction days, and what have you, we always tried to be fair, so as a party we had, yes, we always supported the State of Israel and the security and what have you. But we also were much kinder, shall we say, to? To the Palestinians, I know. I, I had asked for Martin to raise the money to the Palestinian rule, given the Palestinians $5 million, I think we went up to 35 million now we think there was $25 million. You mean for UNRWA or just for the Palestinians in general? Okay. And the money that we did today, actually, so this government goes into the West Bank and is to be spent only on security and food.

Thomas Woodley  39:08

Exactly, exactly.

Shawky Fahel  39:10

So has there been a change? Absolutely. You know, there has been a tremendous change between what I like to call the Old Guard, the old Intrado really discarded since 250. And he didn’t want to have anything to do with the old guard. So all the old guard the promotions of the war, I had to call and ask for permission to get formwork in here in 2015. To hold a fundraiser for one of the members of parliament here. Wow. They put his feet in. So there’s a huge chain because I mean, Justin Trudeau wants to have his own legacy. And I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with taking us at the United Nations from our independent Palestinian state to the aspiration of the Palestinian people. Okay. And then it’s very very unfortunate that we are so divided. You know, in this country, we are not unified. I mean, there’s 1.3 to 1.5 million Arabs and Muslims in Canada. So if you take a parallel, and you look at the Ukraine, there’s 1.2 million Ukrainians, they are unified and strong, you know, and look at the monies that we are giving them rightfully and what have you. Yet, for 74 years, we have a much more pressing issue, you know, that do not tackle so if there’s any message I send to every Arab and every answer anybody that’s listening to this program, you know, why? To unify My Father bless his soul is to say, you singularly it’s like a bamboo stick you go desk, you break it, but you put the five brothers together, you tried to break him utensil, unified, Unison strength. Yeah, that’s what we need. A new folks are doing an excellent job in trying to change the narrative. And we have a long way to go. But if you create a ripple, I create a ripple new creates a ripple. Net, we will all create a wave. And that’s, that’s what’s needed. So as far as party is concerned, the Liberal Party, that’s where the political involvement has to come, you have to get involved, you have to go to convention, you have to participate in the policy sessions, that effect your beliefs, not necessarily Palestinian, but you believe, you know, economic, social, spiritual, health wise otherwise environment, you know, that’s where the arena is, because that’s where the policies are set, and it becomes part of the platform, you know, of the campaign for any would be elected official.

Nur Watad  41:52

Yeah, yeah. Um, speaking of changing the narrative, I do know that you have done a recent philanthropic project that I really wanted to talk about. I mean, for decades, you’ve been a steadfast champion of the Palestinian cause. But your most recent contribution being the launch of the foundation for for Palestinian Studies at the University of Waterloo, to support Palestinian peacebuilding conflict, avoidance, coexistence, and cultural understanding. I want to know, what are the main objectives of the foundation in the near future? And what are some long term goals that you also hope to accomplish?

Shawky Fahel  42:29

First of all, as a Palestinian that has been in this country for 54 years, and in the follow up to our discussion on the Liberal Party, it’s very difficult for Palestinians that want to run for political office to be actually approved and what have you, I have held every position the Liberal Party, a year ago, I decided I might turn for the nomination, then I realized, you know, what, I am too passionate of a Palestinian, you know, and I did not and I sat back to think about my being in this country for 54 years, and to talk about all the things that we’re talking about as a Palestinian in the diocese, and without, and I realized that, as I said, earlier, we are equipped we are associated with negative visit period, and I don’t want to everything negative and I, the President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Waterloo Ferdinand Candela pool for 11 years. He was on his last month actually, very good friend. And I started talking to him and to few other friends, Dr. English, the official biographer of the year to those biography, you know, give advice of a former ambassador, John Allen, our former ambassador to Israel, Michael, Dan, former deans and presidents of what have you, and I brought them all together say, look, I, you know, I need your opinion, I would like to do something, how do we try to change the narrative view? We, I realized to change the narrative of anything is through education, education, education, because by changing the attitude of the mind, you can change the course of history. Yeah, that’s when I reached out to the university for new academy of arts. And I told them, I would like to establish a foundation for the study of for Palestinians, because the narrative for 74 years has been hijacked, dehumanized, you know, I want Canadians to know who we are, who are the Palestinians, our culture, you know, Jaffa in the sea charities had 30, social clubs, three newspapers, they had 1010 theaters, they were the light unto the nations around them, you could buy a whole lamb in Jaffa in 1929, for 70 cents 70 cents, you know. So you we need to change the narrative we need to let people know. And I thought the best place to do that is through the university by creating a foundation by creating a hub that becomes 44444 education for students and faculty interaction and community at large, you know, for speakers, international speakers, we have speaker series, we are going to give scholarships, we are going to have trips for students overseas to learn and see a comeback here and, and interact, you know, and that is the essence of it. So what we did in May the 24th, we actually have a soft launch on May the 24th. And we were honored to have we had over close to 200 people. It was beautiful, amazing event, it was an excellent clouds and rain Paddy is you know, I mean, I can’t say enough about her accomplishments, how she also, as a Palestinian in the diaspora, I want to talk to you about I spent an hour and a half, two hours between me and her about the challenges that she faced one she wants to know that you know, but I’m very, very, very proud of her. I’m proud of the University of Waterloo to be our partner of the whole team. And what we did, the foundation for Palestinian studies is the university’s ownership. Okay. And I am very honored to say we have a special relationship with the university, because it gives the university X amount of dollars, they deal with him once or twice a year with Salam Alikum. That said, in our case, I wanted to help the foundation, I wanted to move it forward our market and I want to I want to augment the fundraising for you, you know, every five funds over the past 50 years for anybody and everybody can think about liquid making. I’m very proud and honored of that. And now I’m devoting and dedicating my time to try and raise money for our foundation. I started the friends, Palestinian friends have the foundation for Palestinian study. So we have our own separate organization, Palestinian That’s our website. Because right now, we are working on a master strategic fundraising campaign, because we want to raise $5 million over the next five years. And I have to admit, ever since our, our launch on the 24th We have some people that have come forward and have an endowment for five years, you know, $7,000, a year and $5,000. And we haven’t even embarked yet to start pounding the pavement. The sledgehammer? Yeah,

Thomas Woodley  48:29

that’s great. That’s great. Well, really, hats off to you. And I, we, I know, Sharkey, we’ve exchanged some emails on this, and I’ve, we’ve tried to connect you with some people and, and there really is a big, big need, on the one hand for scholarship on the issue of Palestine, but also, as you were saying, to also give students a chance to, you know, study in Palestine and, and, you know, have enriching experiences related to Palestine, which is, which is great. I’ll remind our listeners that we are putting a link to the foundation for Palestinian studies in the show notes for this episode. And we’re also putting a link to the Friends of the Friends of the foundation for Palestinian studies, which is what you just mentioned, chowki so obviously, people that would like to contribute to this, they’re there, we would certainly encourage it. Just to we’re sort of getting to the end of our time here a little bit, but I did want to come back to something that you said a moment ago chowki, which, which sort of made me sad, you said a moment ago that you you sort of concluded that you were too passionate as a Palestinian and and I sort of feel like you know, if you have say a black activist and they said they were too passionate as a black activist or if you had a an indigenous activist, and he said, they said all I’m too passionate as an indigenous, it sort of feel sad. So in the same way, I feel sad that it should no one should be, you know, should be too passionate for anything. And I just sort of wanted to tie that back to this sort of broader question of, you know, you know, and even you talked about members of PA Parliament and having friends you know it Michael Levitt and Anthony house father, who were members of parliament will love it quit the last election. But, you know, no one would ever say that they were too passionate for as Jews. And I’m just wondering, I mean, and the air Canadian Lawyers Association just put out a report on anti Palestinian racism, which raises these things, which is sort of, you know, Palestinians are told that they’re too passionate and these and they’re told that they shouldn’t be talking about the Nakba, and so on. I mean, how do you feel about that?

Shawky Fahel  50:32

First of all, to their of Lawyers Association, congratulations. is something that should have been tackled years ago, absolutely. But it is never, it is never too late. When it comes to trying to run for political office, and that’s what I said, the challenges that we face as Palestinians, I was basically told that I was too passionate about my people might create some problems politically, in case I am, quote, unquote, the lead. And, and I find that to be reprehensible. You know, I said, you know, and today, we have the movements which we are benefiting from as Palestinians, blacks, like me, the indigenous people, you know, solidarity, and yes, you’re the Jewish members. I mean, some of them spend more time about Israel, even though they’re members of parliament here, you take a look at the enemy. I mean, you know, and what happened there in terms of the in terms of the criticism, you know, that people that criticize Israel are anti Semites and and may refuse to actually criticize her chief?


Thomas Woodley  51:50

Annamie Paul, right with the Green Party, right?

Shawky Fahel  51:53

Exactly, you know, but we must stay steadfast. I’m never to passion. I’m never passionate. Of course not. Of course, not my emotions on my shoulder. I am who I am. For young Palestinians, for young Arab for young immigrants that come to this country. Be true to yourself, get involved the foundation audience to me, is the Aqsa Mosque Jerusalemite women of 30 or 40 years old that have never voted in their life right that one a good life that want to live like human beings that want to be humanized you know that’s who I’m reaching I’m not reaching out I’m never belong to any political Palestinian faction by the way. I sat on the Palestine has bought Canada Federation for National Council for for Canada liberation, but I am never affiliated myself as self I play alone. In Arabic We say elaborate why not? Because you Ravi, you play alone in combat very happy, you know. I and Mahatma Ghandi said, fight your enemy was a weapon that was not the weapon that you feel and what we need to learn, you know, and we need to learn that the political arena is which we need the youth to belong to purchase to buy memberships, you know, we need them to join different parties, not necessarily the Liberal Party. I was a liberal because I knew Pierre Trudeau and Pierre Trudeau. 1960 is the one that opened the gates for all immigrants. And that’s why 90% of immigrants they vote, they vote Liberal because it was the Liberal Party that established all of that, because separative party, under whoever leadership, quote unquote, has to establish itself and they’re trying to bring in and that’s where Pat Brown actually is 150,000 memberships are all immigrants.

Thomas Woodley  54:02

Right? Patrick Brown writes,

Shawky Fahel  54:04

are immigrants so we need to be involved on the ground. We need to participate in campaigns. We need signs we need to help with organization we need to help with fundraising. We need to help with policy set on the executive. Yeah, every member of parliament have their executive and liberal Kitchener, I have 26 executive you know, each one sits on different community from economic environmental, as we learn and learn the process and to apply the process you cannot sit at home and be critical as we are known to be as Arabs, you know, right. They are quick to criticize everything anything and Dan was this country and this is bad and that’s the part of the process, be part of the community become a leader in your community and not only federally All in every aspect of the political arena, whether it be at regional, municipal, provincial, or federal, or levels of governments in this country, get involved. Because that you can help write a new horizon to get a bit of a change.

Thomas Woodley  55:19

Yeah, you know, I couldn’t agree with you more shulkie I think you’re really saying what needs to be said. And that quite often sort of people are sort of hoping someone else will sort of step in, and someone else will represent them. And, oh, we just need to ally ourselves with someone that will, that will fight for our cause. Know, each of us well, I say if I were Palestinian, but each of us are interested in this issue, we need to stand up and represent ourselves and speak for ourselves and be part of the process. So Shawky Thank you very much, this has just been a really enjoyable interview. I mean, you’ve you’ve lived such an impressive life. And it’s, it’s, it’s fascinating to hear the, you know, the, the the scope, the arc of your life and the things you’ve accomplished and the and the people and things you’ve been involved with. And it’s just a really pleasure to have hosted you and have heard your perspective and have gotten some of your insight and, and also your advice. Obviously, this is a podcast that we hope many young people will listen to. And I think you’ve given some very sound advice and, and feedback to young people, especially young Palestinians, and so many things that you’ve said here today, just we totally agree with so so thank you very much.

Shawky Fahel  56:30

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you, first of all, to thank you for, for your zeal and for your belief in justice, and for your organization, and for doing what you’re doing. He’s like our pleasure, every organization that has the very same belief in the very same values, believe in justice. I’d like to thank them all for their efforts. I would like to thank all the volunteers because our organizations without volunteers, you know, we cannot survive grace as to where the foundation is going. We cannot afford to not make the foundation a very successful in North America, and we’re very proud of the University of Waterloo and our partnership together.


Thomas Woodley  57:24

Thanks so much.

Nur Watad  57:25

You’re secure, inspiring individual.

Shawky Fahel  57:26

Thank you and have yourself a wonderful day.

Nur Watad  57:30

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