Hamilton stands up for Gaza

ScreenHunter_17 Aug. 01 12.32By Sarvat N. Hanif

Braving the steady drizzle, Hamiltonians with umbrellas, placards and Palestinian flags in hand took to the heart of Hamilton’s most populous area, Downtown, to express solidarity with Palestine and condemn the genocide of innocent children in Gaza.

Several hundred to thousand men, women, children, persons with disabilities and even babies in strollers gathered in front of Hamilton City Hall Saturday (July 19) afternoon to protest the violence in Gaza and Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Six members of the Neturei Karta International, an organization of Jews united against Zionism that opposes Israel’s occupation of Palestine, also participated in the protest/march “to show that Zionism and Judaism are not compatible.”

The peaceful march/protest was organized by the Palestinian Association of Hamilton and the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War and was proudly endorsed by Independent Jewish Voices Canada – Hamilton Chapter, Local 1005, United Steelworkers of America, CUPE 3906, STEEL CUT QUEER, QuAIA Toronto, Amnesty International – McMaster Chapter, United in Colour (Black Feminist Club), McMaster Indigenous Student Community Alliance, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights – McMaster, Anti-racists and Allies of Hamilton, Ontario, McMaster Muslims For Peace and Justice, Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), McMaster Students Against War, and Muslim Association of Hamilton.

The message was clear: Lift the siege of Gaza.

The protestors also sent a clear message to the world that you don’t have to be a Muslim to stand up for Gaza, you just need to be human. And this was precisely displayed by one young protestor holding a placard stating “Neither Palestinian nor Canadian, just human’.

The emotionally charged protesters waved Palestinian flags and carried placard with slogans such as “Stop Israeli war crimes in Gaza”, “Save my friends in Gaza”, “Break the media silence: US dollars feed Israeli terrorism”, “US + Israel + UN += Death of children in Gaza”, “Stop the Holocaust in Gaza now”, “Dear USA, your 9/11 is our 24/7”, “Israel is the real terrorist! Stop the killing of innocent children!”, and “An apple fell to the ground and Newton discovered Gravity; Thousands of Palestinians fall and no one has discovered humanity”.

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Under the watchful eyes of more than a dozen police officers, the protestors marched from City Hall east on Main Street to the Effort Trust building then back up King Street to the federal building on Bay Street, chanting “Free, free Palestine!”, “No justice, no peace”, “One, two three, four, we don’t want your bloody war!”, “Long live Palestine”, “Down with Israel”, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Why, why, why, why? Why so many mothers have to cry” to the beat of drums.

Many of the protesters were angered over the Canadian government’s lack of action over the conflict and its failure to condemn the Israeli assault. They called for an end to Canadian complicity with Israeli war crimes. The crowd also vented its anger at the Conservative government of Harper with loud cries of “Shame on Harper.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called on world leaders to rally behind Israel as it tries to prevent rockets being fired from Gaza into its territory. “The indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel are terrorist acts, for which there is no justification,” Harper said in a statement issued Sunday. Harper says there is evidence that Hamas, listed by Canada as a terrorist organization, is using human shields in its attempts to stave off the Israeli offensive.

ScreenHunter_18 Aug. 01 12.33Silence, he suggested, would only embolden Israel’s attackers. “Failure by the international community to condemn these reprehensible actions would encourage these terrorists to continue their appalling actions,” Harper said.

One of the speakers, sarcastically justified Harper’s statement, saying, “Of course Israel has the right to defend itself. When a murder gets into your home and you fight him back, the murderer will have to defend himself. In the same sense, Israel is defending itself because it is committing crimes and the people are resisting.”

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The Communist Party of Canada has also criticized Harper’s apologetics for the flagrant war crimes being committed against civilians—especially women, children and elderly—by blaming the victims. The party called Harper’s “we bomb your homes, and if your family is killed in the process, it’s your fault” unbelievable and offensive double-think that reflects his aggressive, imperialist foreign policy.

The Communist Party condemned the murderous bombardment of Palestine by the Israeli Air Force, and called for this aggression to end immediately. “Israel’s attacks have already killed hundreds of people and left several thousand wounded and displaced,” the party said.

Maher Hamade, one of the protestors, said his family is originally from Palestine but they were forced into Lebanon many years ago after their village was destroyed. “The reason we chose Canada as our home was because we believe that Canada played a great role on the international stage as a peacekeeper,” said Hamade. “Nowadays, since the Conservatives came to power, unfortunately we see our government biased 100 per cent in favour of the Israelis whether they are wrong or right. We urge our government to play peacemaker to get both sides to peace,” said Hamade, “We believe in justice and our government should support our vision as Canadians.”

One protester holding pictures of children killed in Gaza said, “I’m just so sad about all the innocent children being killed in Palestine. I think it’s such an unequal, disgusting war. Israel conducting sort of a slaughter war in Gaza of a trapped population.”

The turnout at the protests showed that people in the West were becoming increasingly angered by their governments’ failure to condemn Israel’s military actions. The protests show that it may be becoming more difficult for Israel’s allies to justify its actions in Gaza.

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The protestors also vented anger at the UN’s complicity in Israel’s terrorism and the organizations failure in taking any action against Israel. A protestor rightly said: “Israel has broken 65 UN resolutions with no consequences. Iraq broke two, got invaded, bombed and destroyed.”

Another protestor said that the UN has failed in defending its principle of preventing war and promoting peace as it fears to stir the wrath of its US master. “UN Secretary-General has betrayed the very Charter of theUNand all relevant international law principles by failing to even condemn Israel’s massacre of civilians and targeting of civilian institutions and residential neighborhoods.”

The US government, US corporations, and American taxpayers complicity in the human rights abuses committed by Israel was also criticized. They condemned America’s “special relationship” with Israel.

Ten years ago on July 9 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had declared that the barrier being built by Israel in occupied Palestinian territory is illegal, that it should be torn down, and that those who have suffered as a consequence of its construction should be compensated. Yet 10 years later, the barrier remains, cutting into Palestinian territory and separating Palestinians from schools, work, and neighbors.

The Israeli assault on this besieged community is an act of collective punishment against a civilian population which has left 200 people, mostly civilians and children, dead and many more injured. “The Palestinian people have been robbed of their land, imprisoned by separation walls and borders into ghettoes, Gaza has been under siege for seven years and they have little power or influence.

“Israel started this war, Israel will finish,” a young protestor with a knowing smile.