Over a thousand individuals gathered at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto on Monday afternoon, with many expressing their solidarity with the Palestinian community rather than endorsing the violent assaults carried out by Hamas against Israelis during the past weekend.
However, there were also many who declined to condemn the attacks, which according to reports have resulted in the deaths of over 900 Israelis. Instead, they believe the main emphasis should be on Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians and its occupation of Palestinian territory for many years. They also highlighted the fact that Israel has responded to the attacks by causing the deaths of approximately 700 Palestinians.
“It’s not a question of whether we support the attacks. It’s a question of what do we stand against,” said Yara Shoufani, with the Toronto chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement, which organized the event. The organization says on Instagram that it’s a grassroots, independent movement “struggling for the liberation of our homeland.”
Once again, we stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, their nation, regardless of where they reside – in Palestine, outside of Palestine, or in the refugee camps. This support extends to all individuals across the globe who are actively striving to reclaim their homeland.
Protests across Canada
The rally in downtown Toronto was peaceful. Supporters held Palestinian flags chanting “Free Palestine” as they marched along Queen Street West. It was one of many similar pro-Palestinian protests held across Canada on Thanksgiving Monday, which included events in Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Halifax.
On Monday, several pro-Israel rallies took place across the country. However, it was the demonstrations in support of the Palestinian cause that faced criticism. Jewish organizations and certain politicians denounced these rallies, asserting that they served as platforms to celebrate the attacks on Israel.
The glorification of violence is never acceptable in Canada – by any group or in any situation. I strongly condemn the demonstrations that have taken place, and are taking place, across the country in support of Hamas’ attacks on Israel. Let’s stand united against acts of terror.
“The glorification of violence is never acceptable in Canada — by any group or in any situation,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a tweet. “I strongly condemn the demonstrations that have taken place, and are taking place, across the country in support of Hamas’s attacks on Israel. Let’s stand united against acts of terror.”
Mayor Olivia Chow expressed strong disapproval of the unauthorized rally held in downtown Toronto, making it clear that she unequivocally condemned it.
Chow expressed his disapproval in a tweet, stating that it is unacceptable to glorify the acts of violence committed by Hamas over the weekend, which included murder and kidnapping of women and children, against Israeli civilians.
However, Omen Sayah, a 49-year-old Canadian of Palestinian descent residing in Mississauga, Ontario, who participated in the Toronto demonstration, expressed that Chow and those criticizing the protests lack a comprehensive understanding of the challenges Palestinians are confronted with.
He mentioned that the ones who are losing their lives are the Palestinians. We, on the other hand, have been enduring death for numerous years.
Regarding the instances of Israelis being killed by Hamas, Sayah stated that these were “not attacks, but rather attempts to reclaim their land.”
No one supported us.
Dalia Alusta, a Canadian of Palestinian descent who also participated in the Toronto demonstration, expressed her distress at witnessing “such a significant loss of life, regardless of the individuals involved.”
“We have endured countless years of oppression without anyone advocating for us.”
She suggested that the family members of the Israelis who were killed or kidnapped should simply depart from Israel.
“It is a land that is currently inhabited. I feel empathy towards them, however, they do have the choice to depart.”
She expressed her disagreement with Hamas and stated that she does not align with their “moral values.” However, she affirms her support for any form of resistance that fights for the rights of Palestinians, saying, “I will stand with them.”
On Monday, the Israeli defense minister issued a directive for a total blockade of Gaza. This involves the discontinuation of electricity supply and the prevention of food and fuel from entering. The decision was made in response to an attack by Hamas militants, who launched a series of rockets and infiltrated Israeli towns in the south. This resulted in numerous casualties and the taking of hostages, with some comparing the incident to “Israel’s 9/11.”
Israel has officially declared war on Hamas and has carried out extensive airstrikes in the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced his intention to completely dismantle the military and governing structures of the militant group. Palestinian sources report that the death toll in Gaza has exceeded 700.
Up to 300 demonstrators in Vancouver gathered, displaying Palestinian flags. Several individuals wore keffiyeh scarves and demanded an end to the perceived settler-colonial occupation in the Palestinian territories.
Approximately 100 individuals gathered in Winnipeg for the rally named “Resistance is a Right”. Damon Nasser, an organizer, expressed that the objective was to demonstrate support and unity with the Palestinian population, who are currently facing aggression from Israel.
“After over 70 years of occupation, 70 years of attacks from the state of Israel, they finally [rose] up and resisted, not always in the best of way but it’s to be expected,” he said. “One plus one equals two and this response was to be expected.”
Two rallies, one in support of Palestine and the other in support of Israel, were held in different locations in Calgary – City Hall and Calgary Beth Tzedec Congregation. The Calgary police informed CBC News that an adult male was arrested for causing a disturbance during the rally at City Hall. The police clarified that they do not think the man is associated with either of the groups.
During a pro-Israel solidarity event held at Ottawa’s Soloway Jewish Community Centre on Monday evening, the prime minister expressed Canada’s strong condemnation of the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas, using unequivocal language.
Trudeau declares his support for Israel.
Trudeau stated that we support Israel and reiterate our endorsement of Israel’s entitlement to protect itself as per international regulations.
During a gathering at Mel Lastman Square in North York, Toronto, Ontario Premier Doug Ford condemned the attacks as “atrocious acts of terror” and emphasized the need for moral clarity at this moment.
There is no room for doubt or uncertainty – Israel has an undeniable entitlement to protect itself and its inhabitants.
Chow announced to the audience that she will not remain silent during her mayoral term.
“I am here for you, the individuals belonging to Toronto’s Jewish community, during this challenging time.”
The police reported that they made four arrests during the event and there were several counter protesters present in the vicinity. However, overall, the event remained relatively calm.