Thousands gather in Vancouver in solidarity with Palestine

Activists called for a ceasefire in Gaza and boycotts on Israeli companies and goods

This is a photo of the protests at the Vancouver Art Gallery for Palestine. The crowd of people is walking down the street. They are holding Palestinian flags and signs that say, “Israel is committing genocide,” and “ceasefire now.”
PHOTO: Olivia Sherman / The Peak

By: Olivia Sherman, News Writer

Editor’s Note: The implications of the juxtaposition of the Swastika and the Star of David in this image is not a message authored by The Peak. The organizers probably did not control the signage that protestors brought. The photo was included to capture the event as is, as documentation of the protest taking place. For the record, here at The Peak, we are careful not to condone any message we judge to be antisemitic.

Content warning: mentions of genocide, displacement, and war crimes 

Over 1,000 protestors gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery on November 18 in solidarity with Palestine. They called upon Canadian politicians, particularly Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to demand that Canada back a ceasefire. Protestors also participated in a march across downtown Vancouver and called for boycotts on companies investing in or supporting Israel’s actions. Although Israel called for a four-day truce at the time of writing, BBC and PBS have reported that Palestinians returning north of the Gaza Strip have been shot at by Israeli forces.

The State of Israel was created after the Nakba in 1948 — the Arabic word for catastrophe — when 300,000 Palestinians were violently dispossessed from their land and 15,000 were massacred. Palestine has been illegally occupied by Israel since the 1967 war. However, the process of ethnic cleansing began earlier, with the forceful expulsion of Palestinians. After the militant group Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, Israel retaliated with nonstop bombardments on Gaza and neighbouring cities, resulting in mass death and destruction. Israel has cut off water, electricity, communications, and food supplies to Gaza. At the time of publication, roughly 1,400 Israelis and an estimated 20,000 Palestinians have been killed. Around half of Palestinian deaths are children under the age of 18. “Any child born before 2009 has now survived five wars,” said a protestor at the Vancouver rally, who is an activist working with the United Nations’ agency for relief in Palestine. The Peak was unable to verify their name. 

“Like you, I’d been sold the myth that Israel is a liberal democracy. I did not see evidence of that,” they continued. “I saw families in the West Bank strangled by a 30-foot wall, illegal settlements built on stolen land. I witnessed bulldozers guarded by soldiers, literally pushing children out of their homes.” 

While the Israeli occupation was exacerbated by the events of October 7, it did not begin there. Palestine has been subject to settler colonization, bombardments, apartheid, and killings for over 75 years. Zionism is an ideology that holds the belief Palestine is inherently Jewish land, and Israel has the right to Palestinian land. This ideology provided justification for settlers to expand further into Palestinian land, resulting in millions being displaced and crammed into refugee camps. Palestinians have always been Indigenous to that land, before the League of Nations declared Palestine a “national home for the Jewish people” after WWI.

“I am extremely mindful of the long history of pogroms and genocide and ethnic cleansing against my people. But that is precisely why I am against what the modern Zionist movement has done in Palestine,” said Jason, a Jewish anti-Zionist educator. The phrase “never again” has commonly been used by Jewish activists to symbolize that Jewish people will not allow the events of the Holocaust to be repeated — against Jewish or Palestinian people. “Because ‘never again’ means ‘never again’ for anyone,” said Jason. 

Jason continued, “When I oppose these actions, I think I’m staying truer to the idea of ‘never again’ than those who refuse to see these things because it’s Israel. See, I am anti-Zionist, not in spite of my Jewish identity and knowledge of our tortured past. I am anti-Zionist because of it.” 

Many believe the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has been using excessive and disproportionate amounts of force. The IDF has targeted medics, journalists, and civilians in neighbourhoods and refugee camps — in addition to using white phosphorus in populated areas, which can severely burn civilians down to the bone.  

Activists have criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for not calling for a ceasefire in Occupied Palestinian Territories. Trudeau condemned the killing on both sides of the conflict, and has requested Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exercise “maximum restraint,” to which Netanyahu replied: “It is Hamas, not Israel, that should be held accountable.” He added, “Israel is doing everything to keep civilians out of harm’s way.” 

Saturday’s rally comes just days after hundreds of protestors swarmed Trudeau while he was having dinner at a restaurant in Vancouver. Protestors reportedly chanted “ceasefire” at Trudeau, for his lack of action. Two people were arrested — one for “assault” and another for “obstructing police” — and Trudeau was escorted away. 

“When our government refuses to condemn war crimes, or even call for a ceasefire,” our hands become “drenched in blood, and our government becomes full architect of, and complicit in, war crimes,” said a protestor at the Vancouver Art Gallery. 

The petition e-4661 is an ongoing petition to the House of Commons calling for the sanction of Israel for violating international laws in Gaza and to “condemn the ongoing war crimes.”

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