As conflict in Israel escalates, concerned Canadians protest for peace
Published Saturday, November 17, 2012 1:22PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, November 17, 2012 8:52PM EST
As the conflict between Israel and Gaza militants continues to escalate, pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel supporters in Canada are speaking out, each calling for an end to the fighting.
Protests have been staged in several cities across the country, as concerned Canadians rally for peace.
The Palestinian Solidarity Network organized a rally outside Edmonton’s city hall on Saturday, calling for an end to the attacks on Gaza. More protests are planned for the coming days across the country.
“We organized emergency demonstrations across Canada in quite a few cities to call on the international community to immediately put a stop to the bombing and terrible aggression against Gaza,” said Peggy Morton from the Coalition Against War and Racism.
“What is said is that some rockets were fired in response to some Palestinians being killed, so that’s the pretext to launch all-out attacks. If these rockets were set, how is that a justification for collective punishment on the people of Gaza?”
In Montreal on Friday night, about 150 people marched outside the Consulate General of Israel to protest Israel’s attacks on Gaza.
The protesters refuted Israel’s claims that the strikes are acts of self-defence against Hamas militants.
On Thursday, a similar protest was held outside the Israeli consulate in Toronto. Demonstrators chanted “Stop the killing in Palestine,” including some who were holding signs that read: “Jews against Israel’s war crimes.”
Across the street and separated by rows of Toronto police, members of the Jewish Defence League shouted back with their support for Israel, chanting, “Stop the bombing, stop the hate.”
The escalating tension has the Jewish advocacy group B'Nai Brith Canada warning that there could be fallout here in Canada. They note that whenever fighting intensifies in the Middle East, acts of anti-Semitism tend to rise outside Israel.
That's why the group says it’s been in contact with police and security officials across Canada “to assess security implications for the Jewish community.”
It says it’s been assured that there will be extra security at local Jewish community buildings, such as schools and synagogues.
“People will have their eyes and ears open, police will do more surveillance, they will do more drive arounds,” said B’nai Brith spokesperson Steven Slimovitch.
B'nai Brith emphasizes that the moves are a precaution and that no recent incidents have been reported.
In a statement posted on its website, The Canadian Peace Alliance strongly condemned the Israeli offensive.
“The Canadian Peace Alliance condemns this collective punishment of the people of Gaza, who have endured a life under siege for years. We call on our member groups and supporters to endorse and join demonstrations across Canada in opposition to these brutal attacks,” read the statement.
“It is time for the people of Canada and the official opposition to stand on the side of peace and justice and condemn these illegal attacks.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose government has been a strident backer of Israel, has condemned Hamas’ attacks against Israel.
"We recognize and support Israel's right to defend itself against such terrorist attacks," Harper told reporters in Quebec City Friday. “But obviously, we urge all sides to take all precautions possible to spare any innocent lives.”
Earlier in the week, Liberal Leader Bob Rae also called on Hamas leaders to halt their attacks on Israel.
“The terrorist group Hamas must take responsibility for these acts of violence out of Gaza and order them to stop,” he said. “We recognize Israel’s right to defend its population, and we also urge that parties involved take all possible steps to protect civilian life and work to implement a ceasefire.”
In its own official statement released Wednesday, the NDP called on Ottawa to pursue a “balanced and constructive approach.”
“We are very concerned by the recent escalation of tensions in Gaza and Israel. We call on all sides to exercise restraint and respect international humanitarian law obligations to protect civilians at all times,” the party said in a statement.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and continue to call on the Canadian government to pursue a balanced and constructive approach in the Middle East.”
With files from CTV Montreal and CTV Edmonton