Over fifty people gathered in front of the Hall Building of Concordia University at 6 p.m. on Wednesday to protest the launch of Israel’s most recent Gaza military operation, “Operation Pillar of Defence”, which began earlier that day.
Sara Sheltony, one of the organizers of the demonstration and a member of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights Concordia (SPHR Concordia) told The Daily that the purpose of the demonstration was to “give a place for Palestinians in Montreal and others to express their sadness, frustration, and anger at what is happening in Gaza and Palestine in general.”
She also mentioned that they wished to “raise awareness among the Canadian population and the population in Montreal about the occupation and the apartheid that is happening in Israel, and about the massacre that is about to happen in Gaza and the massacre that happened in 2008 and 2009.”
Sheltony attributed the speed with which they managed to organize the demonstration to “the power of Facebook.” According to Sheltony, the event was posted to Facebook at 12:30 p.m., and by 3 p.m. over 100 people had confirmed their attendance.
Operation Pillar of Defence came four years after Israel’s three-month “Operation Cast Lead” from December 2008 to January 2009 – also known as the Gaza War – in which over 1,400 Gazans were killed.
Escorted by police cars, the demonstrators marched down Ste. Catherine – which had been blocked off by police cars from Concordia to Phillips Square for the march – chanting “Solidarité avec des Palestiniens,” “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea,” and “Israel terrorist, Harper complicit.”
Scarlet Harris, a McGill student who participated in the demonstration, told The Daily, “The international community cannot sit back and watch bombs fall on Gaza. We are complicit in Israel’s war crimes, and therefore I’m here to show my solidarity.”
When the demonstration reached Phillips Square, speakers Doug Smith, Dan Freeman-Maloy, Mostafa Henaway, and Antoine Bustros gave speeches on the issue.
Henaway, a member of the Tadamon! collective, explained that Canada was the first country to cut off aid to Palestine when Hamas was elected.
Activist and writer Freeman-Maloy agreed, accusing Canada of “cheering whenever Israel attacks Palestinians.” According to Freeman-Maloy, it is critical to build international pressure to block Israel from being able to commit these kinds of crimes.
One demonstrator called the operation “an insult to the modern Western society.”
“I am a Palestinian, I was born in Lebanon, I am Canadian,” they said. “I do not believe in lands, borders, and citizenships.”
At the time of the demonstration, Palestinians reported 15 dead – including an 11-month old boy and 7-year-old girl – and 118 wounded. Among the dead was the top military commander of Hamas.
According to Sheltony, these “indiscriminate” killings were “done by a state that definitely has the military capability to target accurately,” and are “very hard to justify.”