(A special report from CKUT’s program Under the Olive Tree)
Mobilization in solidarity with Palestinians continues to intensify in Montreal, as Friday saw the 6th protest against Israel’s war on Gaza since the offensive began on July 8th. Hundreds of protesters have gathered in Montreal to demand an end to Israel’s deadly air and ground offensive in Gaza that has killed over 1,060 Palestinians and wounded over 6,000. Protesters are demanding an end to Israel’s colonial occupation of Palestine and are calling on the Canadian and Quebec governments to end their complicity with Israeli breaches of international law.
After the first protest took place on July 11th, hundreds of Montrealers gathered again on July 16th to march through the streets. Jasmin and Amal, two women from Gaza explained that “it’s just not fair what’s happening to the kids, to the women, to the men. I just want Canadians to step up and say it’s not ok, it’s not right what’s happening”.
Protesters held posters from the Montreal art initiative Imaging Apartheid depicting rockets falling on Gaza and the illegal Israeli Apartheid Wall. Kevin Lo, who designed the first poster, stated that “I’m both heartened that my poster is being used but also saddened because that poster was originally designed in 2008 in response to the Israeli Operation Cast Lead (…) so it saddens me that things have not changed and (that) bombs are still falling on Gaza and that this happens regularly and that people don’t see the larger historical context.”
These regular military attacks on Gaza are one aspect of a larger Palestinian struggle that extends beyond Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. One of the protesters, Samir ElCheikh, who is a Palestinian refugee living in Canada, described how he wasn’t allowed to visit his home in Palestine even when his father and mother passed away. “I lost my dad and my mom and I couldn’t go to their funeral because I wasn’t allowed to enter Palestine (even though) I was born there”, explained ElCheikh. He told Under the Olive Tree that “I will never give up! They think that the Palestinians will die. We will never die! (…) We will continue fighting until we get our land back”.
Montreal protesters marched along St-Laurent and St-Denis streets calling for Canadians to mobilize within their own communities to advocate for Palestinian rights. Julie Michaud, from the Center for Gender Advocacy at Concordia University, addressed the LGBT community and encouraged everyone to denounce Israel’s pinkwashing campaign. She explained that “Pinkwashing is something that Israel has a habit of doing. It takes the rights that it has given to the LGBT people in Israel and it uses those rights to justify the fact that Palestinians have no rights and that they are living under horrendous oppression and occupation. This is complete nonsense. Giving rights to one group can’t possibly justify the oppression of another group and bombing Gaza back into the Stone Age doesn’t do a lot of good for the LGBT Palestinians either.”
Emrical, a Montreal based artist from the group Kalmunity Vibe collective, encouraged artists to use their voices to promote social justice and solidarity with the Palestinian people. He called on all artists to “recognize that the micro and macro aggressions that people are subjected to are their own struggle as well’.
Rabbi Dovid Feldman from Neturei Karta International Jews United Against Zionism encouraged Jewish Canadians to not be afraid of taking a stance against Israel’s violations of international law. He explained that “They (Jewish people who criticize Israel) are treated as traitors and they are traitors, but to whom? They are traitors to this political flawed movement of Zionism but they are the loyal people to the Jewish people and so are we. We are loyal to Judaism as a religion, we are loyal to the Jewish people as a people, we are loyal to the Palestinian people as our neighbors and our friends and we are loyal to humanity. We stand up and we say stop, this has to stop today”.
Protesters gathered again for a third time on July 19th near Montreal’s Jarry Park and Jean Talon Market to show their support for Gazans and to bring attention to Israel’s daily occupation of Palestine and its system of Apartheid both within the Occupied Palestinian Territories and within Israel proper. Two of the protest organizers, Dror Warschawski and Douglas Smith, explained how ten years after the International Court of Justice ruled Israel’s Apartheid Wall illegal, the wall continues to divide Palestinian families, expropriate Palestinian land, and serve as a visual reminder of Israel’s Apartheid System.
After 66 years of Israeli control over the Palestinian people, many have questioned Israel’s willingness to truly allow Palestinian sovereignty. The Times of Israel recently reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu “made explicitly clear that he could never ever countenance a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank”. Protester, Sabine Friesinger, reacted by saying “there will come a time when it won’t be his decision anymore to make. I think there will be a time when the whole world will come to the reality that the one-state solution will be the only option…We thought in South Africa that it would be impossible for whites and blacks to live together. It’s not perfect now but we ended the apartheid system in South Africa and we can do it again”.
The march culminated in front of the G4S Montreal Office calling on the Quebec Government, which holds shares in the company, to divest from it. G4S is a British-Danish security company that supplies services and equipment to Israeli prisons where Palestinians are held without charge or trial in Administrative Detention and where the torture of Palestinians has been reported by human rights groups as a regular occurrence. The company also supplies the full-body scanning equipment to the more than 500 checkpoints that operate along the Wall that impede Palestinian freedom of movement. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation sold its shares in the company last month as one of the most recent successes of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign against Israeli Apartheid.
Dror Warschawski explained that “The beauty of this (BDS) campaign is that everybody can get involved. You can get involved in your workplace; you can get involved at the supermarket and decide to buy products that do not collaborate with Israeli apartheid; or you can work in your union in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle”.
Warschawski explained how “it’s a personal thing that one does but it’s also a collective thing. (…) After you meet people in such demos, you can do things together so it’s not only attending a demonstration but you can apply BDS and be in solidarity in your daily life”.
Saturday’s protest was part of a pan-Canadian day of solidarity with the Palestinian people. HK, from the French group HK et Les Saltimbanks, who was in Montreal performing at the Nuits d’Afrique music festival, was there to show his solidarity and oppose a ban against Palestinian demonstrations in Paris organized on the same day.
On Wednesday July 23rd, a fourth rally was organized in front of the Mont-Royal metro station denouncing Israeli war crimes, hours after the United Nations Human Rights Council agreed to begin an investigation into suspected war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza. Protesters denounced the recent Shuja’iya massacre where at least 97 Palestinians, 60 of whom were from the Gaza neighbourhood of Shuja’iya, were killed by the Israeli Army in the middle of the night. The Israeli attack took place on July 20th, breaking a Red Cross mediated ceasefire. According to current reports, most of the injured are children. Protesters held lists of names of the hundreds of Palestinians killed since Israel began its offensive on July 8th. A petition circled through the crowd demanding that the Canadian Government take a political stance that respects the human rights of Palestinians.
JULY 25 – Israeli Consulate
On Friday, July 25th, protesters gathered in front of the Israeli Consulate demanding that Israel respect the following international laws and United Nations resolutions:
- The right of return for all Palestinian refugees displaced since 1948 (Resolution 194)
- The end of the occupation of the Occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights that began in 1967 (Resolution 242)
- The end of the illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza that has been in place for the past 7 years (Universal declaration of human rights, the Geneva Conventions, and the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights)
- Cessation of the illegal construction of the Apartheid wall, which was declared illegal 10 years ago by the International Court of Justice.
- Elimination of Israel’s apartheid policies (International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid 1973)
Several members of the Palestinian community addressed the crowd. Among them a Palestinian girl who asked that the assault on Gaza end and wondered what was the crime of all the Palestinian children who died since the beginning of this deadly and indiscriminate attack on the Gaza Strip.
Afterwards, a Palestinian woman read some of the names of the Palestinians killed during this latest assault on Gaza, while protesters held candles in their memory.
JULY 25 – Night Vigil
That same day some of the protesters gathered again at night for a quiet vigil at the Montreal Old Port. Protesters lit candles and released sky lanterns in the memory of the hundreds of Palestinians who have died since July 8th.
The next Palestinian solidarity initiative will take place on Monday July 28th at 5:30pm in front of the Israeli consulate.
Rallies will also be held every Wednesday at 5:30pm in front of the Mont-Royal metro station until Israel’s attacks on Gaza end.
Under the Olive Tree is a Montreal-based community radio program in solidarity with Palestinians aired live every Thursday from 11am – 12 noon on CKUT 90.3 FM in Montreal and on CFRC 101.9FM in Kingston, Ontario from 4pm – 5pm.