On Saturday, in Ottawa over 1,000 people marched towards Parliament Hill asking the government to oppose the collective punishment of Palestinians through the bombing campaign on Gaza. The Ottawa march was one of several coordinated protests across the country in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, Quebec City, London, Waterloo and Calgary.
Canadians from all backgrounds attended the protests. In Ottawa, Gabrielle Castilloux of the First Peoples’ Council at Carleton University presented a speech and shared a song to show support. Members from the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Peace Alliance and representatives from other organization also attended the rally and presented speeches calling for an end to the violence.
Rabbi Dovid Feldman spokesman for Neturei Karta International spoke on Parliament Hill stating that Judaism, as a religion, does not support the Israeli government’s actions.
“As human beings, we stand up and we oppose, and we condemn, what is happening in Gaza,” he said, “As Jewish people we stand up and we condemn what is being committed contrary to Jewish religion.”
He added: “As descendents of Jews from the Holocaust, people who were tortured or murdered, we stand up here today, and we express our pain when oppression is being done to other people in Palestine.”
According to the United Nations, since July 7 at least 168 Palestinians have been killed. The UN’s report on July 13, also noted that 80 per cent of the fatalities have been civilians and 21 per cent of those were children.
Al Jazeera released a list of the victims that died because of Israel’s bombing campaign, Operation Protective Edge.
The protests across Canada, over the weekend demanded an end to the violence.
Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated that Israel’s airstrikes could violate international law. The United Nations Security Council called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. In a statement UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s said he is deeply worried about the impact the bombing has on Palestinian families. He noted that he feels “a sense of responsibility” for Palestinians in the Gaza strip “who have long been denied the sense of freedom and dignity that they deserve.”
According to the United Nations, no fatalities have occurred in Israel to date, but rockets firing from Gaza by armed groups have resulted in injuries. In Gaza, bombs from Israel have fallen on mosques, homes and a centre for the disabled. The report by the UN noted that 1,140 Palestinians have been injured and about 5,600 Palestinians displaced by the bombing. The report also noted that 25,300 children are in need of psychosocial support because of their experience with injury, death and displacement.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird says Pillay’s criticism of Israel’s operation is uncalled for. In a public statement on July 13, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated that his government support’s Israeli’s “right to defend itself.”
The government’s statement should not come as a surprise said Dylan Penner, organizer with the Ottawa Peace Assembly and member of Independent Jewish Voices. “We shouldn’t be surprised,” said Penner, “We should be shocked, appalled and disgusted but not surprised, not anymore. This is a prime minister that has called Israel’s war crimes a measured response.”
He added, “But we need not and cannot wait for a political leader to finally rise to the occasion and end the cherry picking of human rights. We will end these crimes, through our organizing, one by one, to say they cannot and will not be complacent in this anymore.”
Since Saturday’s event, protesters have also voiced their concern over what they say is innacurrate reporting of the protests, after an article in the Ottawa Citizen said 500 people attended the protest in Ottawa on July 12 under a headline reading “Palestinians protest bombing of Gaza.” Comments on the article by readers affirmed that the crowd was not made up of Palestinians only.
Miriam Katawazi is a fourth-year journalism and human rights student at Carleton University and rabble’s news intern. She has a strong passion for human rights and social justice in Canada and across the world. Her writing focuses on health, labour, education and human rights beats.