Pro-Israeli, Palestinian rallies face off over Gaza
Published Sunday, December 28, 2008 9:50PM EST
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 9:50PM EDT
Palestinian-Canadians and their supporters held protests in Toronto and several other Canadian cities to call for an end to the air strikes that have left hundreds dead in the Gaza Strip, while some pro-Israel demonstrators made their voice.
Sunday's protest was held outside Israel's consulate at 180 Bloor St. W., just west of Queen's Park/Avenue Road. The crowd was estimated to be about 800 people.
"Israel is terrorist!" chanted the pro-Palestinian crowd, which included flags from Muslim nations such as Turkey and Lebanon.
The much smaller pro-Israel side jeered back and held up signs with messages such as "stop Islamic racism."
The protest spilled onto Bloor Street for a time, blocking traffic both ways until police intervened to keep the roadway clear. Police kept an eye on the demonstration but no arrests were reported.
The protesters eventually moved to the U.S. consulate on University Avenue.
"We're here in solidarity with the people of Gaza who have been under siege for the past 18 months and who've just had another war crime committed against them," said Jenny Peto of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid.
"Hopefully ... (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper and the rest of the international community will have the guts to stand up to the bullies and Israeli murderers of the Palestinian people," said Ali Malalah of the Canadian Arab Federation.
The Canadian Islamic Congress also issued a statement calling on Harper to take a position against the collective punishment of the Palestinian people in Gaza.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has expressed concern about the escalating violence but has made clear the federal government believes Israel has a right to defend itself.
Pro-Israeli demonstrators say the Jewish state is just trying to protect itself against Hamas rocket attacks.
"I have personal friends who have lost loved ones because of bombs going off in supermarkets ...," said Meir Weinstein of the Jewish Defence League.
Some on the pro-Palestinian side accused Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinian population of Gaza, a position rejected by the Canada Israel Committee.
"It is completely irresponsible, and deceptive, and morally outrageous to refer to this as genocide," said the committe's Berl Nadler. "This is not targeted killing of a civilian population."
Another Ontario protest was to take place at the Human Rights Monument in Ottawa. Montreal also hosted a demonstration.
Israel is attacking targets in the densely-populated Gaza Strip in retaliation for rocket attacks launched against it by Hamas, the Islamic Palestinian group that controls the strip. The Palestinian death toll is estimated to be at least 280.
The air strikes continued on Sunday, and Israel has indicated that its campaign will continue indefinitely. There are reports of Israeli troops massing on the border with Gaza.
Hamas has vowed revenge for the attacks.
The United Nations has called for an end to all violence in Gaza, including Hamas's rocket attacks against Israel.
In a written statement issued Sunday, the Muslim Canadian Congress -- which bills itself as a progressive and secular group -- accused Hamas of deliberately trying to provoke Israel, noting it didn't fire rockets into Egypt even though that Muslim country has a sealed border with Gaza.
"Instead of working towards a two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian State, Hamas has done everything in its power to undermine the authority of President Mahmoud Abbas and sabotage the peace process," it said.
The MCC urged Palestinians to follow a non-violent path to statehood.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Naomi Parness and files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press