Students and community members mobilized for Palestine.
Approximately 150 people showed their support in the “All out for Palestine” rally held in Springer Market Square on Oct. 12. According to demonstrators, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, have been under Israeli occupation for half a century.
The demonstration was part of a larger movement called The National Students for Justice for Palestine, which fell on the National Day of Resistance yesterday.
“We stand here today to empathetically declare our support for our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are courageously fighting for the liberation of their homeland,” said Qamar Bader, event organizer, during the rally.
The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 resulted in the displacement of approximately 700,000 Palestinians, an event they refer to as a Nakba, which is Arabic for catastrophe, Bader explained. The Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas—an organization that is recognized by the Canadian government as a terrorist group—prompted condemnation by world leaders, yet governments have been silent about Israel’s occupation of Palestine, according to Bader.
“The presidents now are not even condemning what’s happening in Gaza. The casualties that it’s yielded, the 67 years of occupation, the blockade on Gaza. Our purpose here is clear—we protest [and] challenge the illegal occupation of Palestine, and to condemn the Canadian Government’s shameful complicity in the heinous acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing perpetrated against the Palestinians,” Bader said.
Protesters gathered waving flags and holding signs, calling to end Israeli apartheid. Chants called for freedom for Palestine in both English and Arabic.
Yara Hussein, ArtSci ’24, led the crowd in rally cries, chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and “stop the killing stop the crime, Israel out of Palestine.”
Standing with the attendees of the rally was Wolfe Ehrlichman, a representative from Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), a group of Jewish people supporting peace and justice in Israel-Palestine.
Ehrlichman read aloud IJV’s official statement, which advocates for Canada to support a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and condemn Israel’s actions towards Palestinians. The statement condemns Hamas’ attack targeting civilians, attributing the violence to the long-term structural oppression of Palestinians.
“Many Palestinian voices are being heard and people are learning about the suffering. It’s true that we’re paying a terrible price for this, but I am optimistic that things will be changing sooner or later,” Ehrlichman said.
Sharing her story with the crowd, Baraa Abuzayed called the conflict in Gaza gut wrenching.
Having lived in Gaza until she was 10-years old, Abuzayed immigrated to Canada before Israel and Egypt imposed what is now a 16-year long land, air, and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip.
“It breaks my heart that I will hear about the unknown family members after tragedy. After their houses have been bombed or after they’ve been murdered in cold blood. It’s hard to come to terms with anything. This reality is not only mine, but many Palestinians as well,” Abuzayed said.
For Abuzayed, being surrounded by other protesters was a breath of fresh air. In her speech, Abuzayed expressed anger and frustration with the international community’s failure to condemn Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip, which began on Oct. 9. The siege cut off the water, food, and electricity supply to the Gaza Strip following Hamas’ attack and kidnapping of Israeli civilians on Oct. 7.
“The situation is terrible, like never before, and it’s only going to get worse. The least we can do right now is amplify [Palestinian] voice and no matter what, the truth will always prevail,” Abuzayed said.
Since the Hamas attack escalated violence in southern Israel, 420,000 people have been displaced in the Gaza Strip, according to The Guardian.
The protestors circled City Hall hoping to draw the attention of local politicians. Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson made it clear on his Instagram account on Oct. 10 the City stands with the Jewish community. In the post, Paterson announced the City Hall will be lit up blue and white this week to honour those who are affected by the attack.
“It is most important right now that we voice our concerns to our municipal government, Mayor Paterson as well as [Member of Parliament] Mark Gerretsen for their silence and for their complacency in supporting the occupation and in supporting Zionism,” Hussein said.
In a passionate speech to the crowd, Layth Malhis, ConEd ’24, told protesters he’s been communicating with his family who reside in Palestine. Malhis described growing up under occupation and apartheid.
“To be Palestinian for the last 75 years has meant living in a system that seeks to erase your history and identity,” Malhis said.
Malhis highlighted Israel’s infringement of the right to freedom of movement in one’s home country, as outlined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He pointed to Israel’s siege and artillery attacks on Gaza over the past week as violating the Geneva Convention’s protection of children, given 44 per cent of Palestine’s population is under 18, according to the State of Palestine in 2022.
A statement by Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights Queen’s, which by the time of publication garnered 585 signatures, singles out Patrick Deane and the Queen’s administration for failing to take a stand against Israeli occupation of Palestine and fostering a safe space for Palestinian students.
“We like to emphasize that our vision for the future of Palestine is marked by liberty and freedom on their ancestral lands, in a nation that champions democracy and upholds its laws to safeguard the presence of Muslims, Christians, Jewish, and Druze alike,” the statement said.
A Kingston Police vehicle was present in the area. Kingston Police noted there are currently no threats directed towards any individuals or properties within the City of Kingston, but the police will respond to any incidents which arise affecting Jewish or Palestinian communities in the city.
“This doesn’t mean that we aren’t very concerned about the various threats seen on various media and social media outlets. We will continue to focus our attention toward any potential targets within our community,” the Kingston Police said in a statement to The Journal.
The protest closed with a prayer. Attendees asked Allah to protect the people of Palestine, and those in need, wherever they may be.
—With files from Asbah Ahmad, Cassidy McMackon, and Meghrig Milkon
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