Support for Palestine isn’t terrorism

Labelling support for Palestinians’ fight for freedom as terrorism is unspeakably dangerous.

Following pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Toronto and Vancouver this past week, some are calling for the Canadian Federal Government to criminalize glorifying acts of terrorism. Crucially, such demands misinterpret pro-Palestinian support as being pro-Hamas.

Just as we can’t fault all Jewish people for the Government of Israel’s actions with respect to Palestinians, we mustn’t reduce the struggle of Palestine to the inhumanity and terror of Hamas. Conflating Palestinians with Hamas is inaccurate and creates further obstacles to Palestinian freedom by dissuading sympathy for any advocate of Palestine.

The protests in Toronto and Vancouver were in support of Palestine, not Hamas. The slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” some demonstrators chanted doesn’t aim to glorify Hamas, but to express Palestinians’ desire for self-determination. Many protesters were likely motivated by the lack of attention and support displaced Palestinians have faced through 75 years of conflict over land they share equal claims to.

Choosing to label a group of demonstrators in a Western liberal democracy as terrorist is never an objective decision. Political and social bias make the difference between whether protestors become “terrorists” or “freedom fighters.”

Calling for the criminalization of Arab people who advocate for the country they or their families come from escalates conflict domestically.

Anti-Arab sentiments should be a particularly pronounced concern in the mind of the Canadian Government given the rising levels of discrimination against other marginalized groups—such as LGBTQ+, Black, Jewish, and racialized communities—in North America. The aftermath of 9/11 demonstrated how readily the public discriminates against and others Arab people. New terrorism legislation associated with Arab-led protests will encourage a new wave of mass Anti-Arab discrimination amongst the public and politicians.

Existing legislation against hate speech enables the police and government to act against antisemitic demonstrations or extremist ideological groups that arise in Canada. Creating new legislation to target a particular group is unnecessary and sets a dangerous precedent of enabling censorship.

Even if new legislation outlawing glorifying acts of terrorism were created only with the intention of silencing one group, it could become harmful if co-opted by a future Canadian government less motivated by equity. Such a government could easily enact legislation to curtail the right to free expression held by other groups, including Israeli ones.

Making it unsafe for Palestinian Canadians or their allies to contribute their perspective to the ongoing violence in Palestine and Israel is far more dangerous and a much greater threat to freedom of expression than pro-Palestine demonstrations.

The Canadian government often boasts of our nation’s diversity. Canada can’t justifiably define itself by being a place for people of different cultures to co-exist without protecting the free expression of each of those cultures. Both Palestinian and Jewish Canadians deserve protection and the right to freely express their views and beliefs.

Canadian legal procedure and media coverage must emphatically differentiate the violence between Israel and Palestine from the concurrent Israel-Hamas war. Promoting the freedom of Palestine and the safety of Israeli citizens from Hamas requires the freedom of all groups to express their perspectives without being labelled terrorists.

—Journal Editorial Board


free speech, Israel, Palestine

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