MONTREAL: As Israeli continues its brutal assault on the Gaza Strip, Montrealers took the streets to voice solidarity with the Palestinian people. Hundreds of demonstrators marched through the heart of Montreal reflecting growing international outrage toward the latest attack on Gaza.
“Intifada! Intifada! Long Live the Intifada!” shouted demonstrators marching under rainy skies, in contrast to the silence of Canadian politicians in response to Israeli war crimes committed in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun.
“It is important to demonstrate in Canada because our government is not only complacent but supportive of Israeli actions both politically and diplomatically,” stated Mostafa Henaway of the International Solidarity Movement at the demonstration. “Israel could not stand if it was not sanctioned by the governments of Canada and the U.S.”
A report issued by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights [PCHR] in the Gaza Strip depicted the Wednesday, November 8th shelling of residential buildings in Beit Hanoun, “at dawn, the IOF [Israeli Occupation Forces] fired eleven artillery shells on six homes in the town killing 18 civilians… 53 others were wounded.”
Jameela al-Shanti an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council for Hamas wrote in the Guardian that the Israeli military, “has turned the town into a closed military zone, collectively punishing its 28,000 residents. For days, the town has been encircled by Israeli tanks and troops and shelled.”
Israel, Canada & War Crimes.
Canada’s Conservative government increasingly stands out internationally as a staunch ally of Israel, boasting extensive economic and diplomatic ties including a unique bilateral free trade agreement [FTA], Canada’s only in the entire Middle East region. Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the Israeli 2006 assault on Lebanon a “measured response”, sparking political outrage in Montreal this summer.
The hundreds of Montrealers who took the streets today in Montreal for Gaza also marched this summer for Lebanon, in both cases condemning Canadian complicity toward Israeli war crimes.
“When I see the images of Beit Hanoun today I remember the massacres of Qana in south Lebanon,” said Rami Bassam of Tadamon! a Lebanon solidarity group in Montreal. “It is the same war criminals in the Knesset that make the orders to kill in Gaza who decided to invade Lebanon this summer.”
Demonstrators in Montreal drew parallels between the current siege on Gaza and the relentless 34-day assault on Lebanon. Recent Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip entitled “Autumn Clouds” extends from “Operation Summer Rain”, the first major ground invasion of the strip after Ariel Sharon’s unilateral “withdrawal” in 2005, which has taken the lives of hundreds of Palestinians in recent months.
“In June the Palestinian resistance captured an Israeli soldier and all hell broke loose! Israel refused to negotiate and besieged Gaza,” stated Ahmad Mustafa of Tadamon!. “Similarly in July the Lebanese resistance captured 2 soldiers to negotiate an exchange for Lebanese prisoners, again Israel refused to negotiate and invaded Lebanon killing over 1300 people.”
“I lived through the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and remember the massive suffering and death we faced in the south,” continued Ahmad Mustafa. “Today I remember the 1982 bombardment of Lebanon and see its shadows in Beit Hanoun.”
“This aggression has been happening for almost 60 years in Palestine and is happening today in both Lebanon and Iraq,” said Hanin Amr of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights [SPHR] who initiated the Montreal demonstration. “Palestinians are facing ethnic cleansing today in occupied territories, which will continue unless the international community reacts despite the U.S.”
As conditions in the Gaza Strip degrade over the weekend the U.S. vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Israeli military action in Gaza. According U.S. representatives at the U.N. the resolution was not an “even-handed characterization” of the Israeli dawn attack on Beit Hanoun that killed 18 Palestinians, mostly women and children this past week.
Israel’s attack on Beit Hanoun this past Wednesday was the highest Palestinian civilian toll in a single military incident since the beginning of the 2nd Intifada in September 2000.
Demonstrators in Montreal carried a symbolic coffin through Montreal on Saturday, with “United Nations” scripted onto the side, representing the failure of the international body to halt Israeli war crimes against Palestinians.
According to the Reuters news agency “the United States has cast 82 vetoes in the United Nations’ 61 years, and nine of the last 10 council vetoes, seven of which dealt with the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”
“The U.N. is totally ineffective,” declared Ehab Lotayef of the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine during the demonstration, “without the ability or the will to enforce policies that will lead to a solution for the Palestinians.”
Calling for Boycott of Israel.
In Canada, there is growing support for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. In October an estimated 600 people gathered at a landmark conference in Toronto focused on building a concrete movement against Israeli Apartheid in Canada.
Last May, the Ontario division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees [CUPE], the largest labor union in the Province, passed a resolution supporting a full boycott against Israeli. The decision of the 200 000 member strong union signals an important shift in political strategy of Palestinian solidarity organizing in Canada.
Growing calls for a boycott campaign targeting Israel internationally are rooted in an international call for boycott initiated by over 170 Palestinian organizations in July 2005 which called “upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era.”
“In Canada we are pushing to isolate Israel,” explained Mostafa Henaway of the International Solidarity Movement [ISM]. “Current Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip and this summer in Lebanon make it clear that Israel is a pariah state in the Middle East region.”
Stefan Christoff is a regular contributor to the Electronic Intifada and is a member of Tadamon! a Lebanon solidarity group organizing in Montreal. You can reach Stefan by email at: email@example.com