On Saturday May 14, the Montreal-based human rights group Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU) organized a midnight demonstration to mark the 68th anniversary of the ‘Nakba’, which translates to “the catastrophe” in Arabic. The demonstration aimed to commemorate the expulsion and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland following the 1948 Palestine War and Israel’s subsequent Declaration of Independence.
According to PAJU’s Facebook event page for the demonstration, “Palestine has been subjected to a systemic ethnic cleansing operation at the hands of the Zionist movement for the past 68 years. In a blink of an eye, Palestine was wiped off the map.”
“The Zionist movement has announced the creation of the Israeli state on Palestinian territory through the destruction and expropriation of over 500 villages and towns and the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians to refugee camps all over the world,” the page continued.
“Israel’s military supremacy is the spearhead of its occupation of Palestine.”
Hala Yassin, a member of PAJU, addressed the crowd in French prior to the march, condemning the federal government’s turning a blind eye to Israeli military actions against Palestinians.
“Israel’s military supremacy is the spearhead of its occupation of Palestine,” said Yassin. “It allows Israel to act with impunity. The Israeli army is proud to collaborate with arms manufacturers that brag to clients about testing its products in the field [the Gaza Strip].”
“Can you believe that? Products tested on humans, on Palestinians!” she repeated.
Around 150 people gathered outside the Mont-Royal metro station for the demonstration. Notwithstanding a heavy police presence, the demonstrators chanted “Israel terroriste, Trudeau complice!” in French, (“Terrorist Israel, Trudeau an accomplice!” in English) as they marched from Rue Saint-Denis to Rue Sainte-Catherine and looped back through Boulevard Saint-Laurent.
“Can you believe that? Products tested on humans, on Palestinians!”
“We have to remember that this movement of Zionism, the State of Israel, was not created by the Jewish people that followed the traditions of their forefathers,” said Neturei Karta rabbi David Feldman to the crowd before the march. “These were people who attempted to transform Judaism from a religion into a nationalism.”
“As Jewish people who do practice our religion, we say that that the state of Israel does not represent world Jewry,” Feldman continued. “These people do not speak in the name of our people, they’re not supported by all Jewish people, and certainly the crimes that they are committing are not condoned by Jewish religion.”
The police initially blocked the march at the intersection of Rue Sherbrooke and Rue Saint-Denis, instructing the demonstrators follow their route west of Rue Sherbrooke. After a brief confrontation, the police succumbed and demonstrators continued marching down Saint-Denis, shouting “A nous la rue!”
“As Jewish people who do practice our religion, we say that that the state of Israel does not represent world Jewry.”
The demonstrators stopped in the middle of the intersection at St. Laurent and Mont Royal, blocking off the street to hear a spokesperson for Women of Diverse Origins, Dolores Chew, speak about the importance of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement.
“BDS is what we need to struggle for,” said Chew. “For our communities and all organizations and all our institutions in our church groups, in our political parties – we must push for BDS to be adopted.”
“Israel is really afraid; this is the only thing that is going to make a difference,” Chew continued. “Women of Diverse Origins stands in support of Palestinian women, and their families ask us to take a stand and struggle and not to give up.”
“Israel is really afraid; this is the only thing that is going to make a difference.”
Montreal municipal bylaw P6 (section 2.1), requires march organizers to disclose their route prior to their event. However, Anna, a demonstration organizer, told The Daily in a Facebook message that P6 is “political repression, plain and simple.”
“They want to scare, discourage, and punish people for protesting, so [we] refuse to acknowledge and give power to such a law,” Anna said.
She went on to discuss the connection between refusing to abide by such laws and protesting the Israeli occupation. “All of our adversity is connected to the same systems of oppression and repressive audacity of authority,” she explained.
“They want to scare, discourage, and punish people for protesting, so [we] refuse to acknowledge and give power to such a law.”
Members of the Young Communist League of Canada were also present at the demonstration. Speaking to The Daily, Adrien Welsh, a representative of the League, asserted “To us it is important to denounce [the occupation], first to show our solidarity with the Palestinian people, but also to show that we are active, that we are able to do things although we are geographically far away.”
“It is important to support the resistance through such actions like this demonstration and BDS, and to demand for at least the creation of a Palestinian state, at least within the borders of ’67,” Welsh added.