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Demonstrations held across Canada in solidarity with Israelis and Palestinians amid ongoing Israel-Hamas war

More than a thousand congregated at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square Monday afternoon, many saying they were there to support the Palestinian people and not to glorify the deadly attacks launched by Hamas against Israelis. Still, many also refused to condemn those attacks.

Palestinians deny rallies in Canada glorify violence, but some refuse to condemn Hamas attacks on Israelis

Palestinian supporters hold a rally in Downtown Toronto on Oct. 9, 2023.

More than a thousand people congregated at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square Monday afternoon, many saying they were there to support the Palestinian people and not to glorify the deadly attacks launched by Hamas against Israelis over the weekend.

Still, many also refused to condemn those attacks that have reportedly killed more than 900 Israelis, saying instead the focus should be on how Israel has mistreated Palestinians and occupied Palestinian land for decades. They also pointed to the nearly 700 Palestinians who have been killed by Israel in response to the attacks.

"It's not a question of whether we support the attacks. It's a question of what do we stand against," said Yara Shoufani, with the Toronto chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement, which organized the event. The organization says on Instagram that it's a grassroots, independent movement "struggling for the liberation of our homeland."

"We are here again in support of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian nation, across all walks of life inside of Palestine, outside of Palestine, in the refugee camps, all across the world that is fighting to return home."

Protests across Canada

The rally in downtown Toronto was peaceful. Supporters held Palestinian flags chanting "Free Palestine" as they marched along Queen Street West. It was one of many similar pro-Palestinian protests held across Canada on Thanksgiving Monday, which included events in Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Halifax.

The rally in Toronto was a peaceful affair. Supporters held Palestinian flags chanting 'free Palestine' as they marched along Queen Street

A number of pro-Israel rallies were also held throughout the country on Monday. But was those in support of the Palestinian cause that came under criticism. Jewish organizations and some politicians condemned them, characterizing the rallies as events to glorify the attacks on Israel.

The glorification of violence is never acceptable in Canada – by any group or in any situation. I strongly condemn the demonstrations that have taken place, and are taking place, across the country in support of Hamas’ attacks on Israel. Let’s stand united against acts of terror.

—@JustinTrudeau

"The glorification of violence is never acceptable in Canada — by any group or in any situation," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a tweet. "I strongly condemn the demonstrations that have taken place, and are taking place, across the country in support of Hamas's attacks on Israel. Let's stand united against acts of terror."

Mayor Olivia Chow also condemned the rally in downtown Toronto, saying she "unequivocally" denounced the unsanctioned event.

"Glorifying this weekend's indiscriminate violence including murder and kidnapping of women and children by Hamas against Israeli civilians, is deplorable," Chow said in a tweet.

But Omen Sayah, a 49-year-old Palestinian Canadian living in Mississauga, Ont., who attended the Toronto rally, said Chow and those denouncing the protests don't have a good understanding of the situation faced by Palestinians

A side by side images shows a man on the left holding an Israeli flag. On the right, a young girl is holding a Palestinian flag.

"It's the Palestinians dying. We are the people who have been dying for many years," he said.

As for the killing of Israelis by Hamas, Sayah said they were "not attacks. They are trying to regain their land back."

'Nobody stood for us'

Dalia Alusta, a Palestinian Canadian who also attended the Toronto rally, said that it has been painful to see "this amount of blood, no matter for whom."

"But we've been killed all those years, nobody stood for us."

As for the family members of those Israelis who were killed or kidnapped, she said they should just leave Israel.

"It's an occupied land. I'm sorry for them, but they have the option to leave."

She said she doesn't agree with Hamas, that she doesn't share their "moral value system" but that she supports any resistance and as long as they fight for the rights of Palestinians, "I will stand for them."

On Monday, the Israeli defence minister ordered a complete siege on Gaza, saying authorities would cut electricity and block the entry of food and fuel. The order came two days after Hamas fighters unleashed a barrage of rockets and infiltrated southern Israeli towns, killing hundreds, while capturing and holding hostages in what some are labelling as "Israel's 9/11."

WATCH | How the surprise attack by Hamas unfolded:

How Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel unfolded

1 day ago

Duration 7:42

Featured VideoIsrael has declared war with Hamas after the Palestinian militant group launched a surprise attack that killed hundreds. The National breaks down how Hamas went seemingly undetected by Israeli intelligence for months and days leading up to the attack and what could happen next.

Israel, which has formally declared war on Hamas, pounded the Gaza Strip from the air and prepared for a campaign Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said would destroy "the military and governing capabilities" of the militant group. Palestinian officials say under 700 people have been killed in Gaza.

In Vancouver, up to 300 protesters gathered with Palestinian flags. Some were wearing the traditional keffiyeh scarf, and called for the end of what they deem to be a settler-colonial occupation in the Palestinian territories.

In Winnipeg, about 100 people showed up for the "Resistance is a Right" rally. Damon Nasser, one of the organizers, said the purpose was to show solidarity with the Palestinian people who are again under attack by Israel.

"After over 70 years of occupation, 70 years of attacks from the state of Israel, they finally [rose] up and resisted, not always in the best of way but it's to be expected," he said. "One plus one equals two and this response was to be expected."

In Calgary, separate pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel rallies were held at City Hall and Calgary Beth Tzedec Congregation respectively. Calgary police told CBC News late Monday afternoon that one adult male had been taken into custody at the rallies that took place at City Hall for "causing a disturbance." Police said they do not believe the man to be affiliated with either group.

On Monday evening, a at pro-Israel solidarity event at Ottawa's Soloway Jewish Community Centre, the prime minister said that Canada "unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms, condemns these terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas."

'We stand with Israel: Trudeau'

"We stand with Israel and reaffirm our support for Israel's right to defend itself in accordance with international law," Trudeau said.

WATCH | Trudeau speaks at pro-Israel rally:

Trudeau speaks at Israel solidarity event

7 hours ago

Duration 6:35

Featured VideoPrime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers remarks at an Ottawa-area event designed to show solidarity with Israelis amid an ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

In Toronto, at North York's Mel Lastman Square during a rally in support of Israel, Ontario Premier Doug Ford described the attacks as "heinous acts of terror" and that now is the "time for moral clarity."

"There can be no question or confusion — Israel has an absolute right to defend itself and its citizens."

Chow told the crowd that as mayor, she will not stand in silence.

"In this dark hour, I stand with you, the members of Toronto's Jewish community."

Police said that four arrests were made at the event and that there were a number of counter protesters in the area, but the event remained relatively peaceful.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gollom

Senior Reporter

Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.

    With files from The Associated Press

    *****
    Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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