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Canadian Town Rejects Proposal to Name Street After Massacre

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The town council of Mississauga, a suburb west of Toronto, has politely suggested to the small Palestinian community that they drop their proposal to name a street in memory of the victims of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps massacre of September, 1982.

The name “Sabra Gate” was suggested in a letter from the Canadian Arab Federation which one council member, Larry Taylor, found “slightly strident in tone.” The letter stated, “As you know, both Lebanese and Palestinian civilians were massacred by the Israeli invaders. Naming a street after the Sabra camp will serve to immortalize that tragic event where more than a thousand civilians were slaughtered.”

The letter was in error on several points. It thanked the town council for naming the street — in a new housing development — “Sabra Gate”, something the council did not do and has no role in the naming. It accused Israel of the massacre which was in fact carried out by units of the Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia. It also exaggerated the number of victims.

Mayor Hazel McCallon said she would meet representatives of the Arab Federation to try to persuade them to choose a name with more positive connotations. Taylor explained that in order to balance the predominance of Anglo-Saxon street names in a multi-ethnic community, “I requested that each group submit a half dozen names that were important to their communities. It’s not my role to consider these.”

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