Toronto activists paint Israeli consulate steps with 'river of blood' after more than 200 Palestinians killed, 66 children
TORONTO -- The steps of the Israeli consulate in Toronto were painted red today as some members of the Jewish community and other activists condemned Israel’s violence in Gaza that led to the death of more than 200 Palestinians, including 66 children.
The protest painting on Friday meant to symbolize a river of blood comes just after a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that ended the 11-day war that left more than 250 people dead – the vast majority Palestinians – and brought widespread devastation to the already impoverished Gaza Strip.
The idea for the action on Friday came from Rabbi David Mivasair, a member of Independent Jewish Voices, who welcomed the ceasefire but said the human rights issues in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel will persist.
“The death and destruction inflicted by Israel in Gaza, as well as the heightened violence by Israel across Palestine cannot be washed away,” he told CTV News Toronto on Friday. “Red paint streaming from the Israeli consulate onto the street in Toronto represents the blood of massacred innocent Palestinian civilians.”
“The ceasefire doesn't end the injustice and oppression. Palestinians are living under pervasive deprivation, domination and Israeli oppression.”
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who also welcomed the ceasefire on Thursday, issued a statement saying the UN is “deeply committed” to dealing with the root causes of the conflict.
He said that includes ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and allowing “for the realization of a two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 lines.”
The Canadian government does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967, including the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
“Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” the government states on its website. “The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”
For weeks now, protests have been held in occupied East Jerusalem in response to the planned forced expulsion of several Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, which the United Nations’ human rights office has stated, “may amount to war crimes.”
The recent bombardment was triggered after an Israeli crackdown on protesters spread to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem, which saw hundreds of worshipers wounded during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
World Beyond War’s Rachel Small, who helped organize the protest in Toronto on Friday, said the paint on the steps is to remind people working at the consulate of the loss of life and damage caused by Israel.
"We are making the violence of Israel's brutal occupation, military attacks, and ethnic cleansing visible right here on the consulate's doorstep,” she said.
“We are making it impossible for anyone to enter and exit Israeli government offices here without directly confronting the violence and bloodshed they are complicit in."
In a statement to CTV News Toronto, Israel’s Consul General Galit Baram wrote that the painting of the steps on Friday was an act of vandalism, and counter productive to finding solutions.
She said that Israel’s recent bombardment was a response to aggression from Hamas, which sent millions of Israelis into bomb shelters, and that the country was acting in self-defence.
“Israel was forced to defend its citizens,” she said in her statement. “Israel did so in a surgical, controlled manner, in an effort to eliminate Hamas terror infrastructure, while making substantial efforts to limit civilian casualties.”
Health authorities report that at least 232 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli bombardment of Gaza since May 10, including 66 children. Authorities put the death toll in Israel at 12, including two children.
The World Health Organization reported more than 8,500 people injured, and stated that 30 health facilities in Gaza were damaged, with one clinic destroyed and another with significant damage. The United Nations also condemned attacks from Israel affecting refugee camps, media offices and UN facilities.
Mivasair said he and others from Toronto’s Jewish community took part in the protest to call on Canada to stop weapon deals with Israel, and to freeze trade with Israeli settlements
“Canadian Jews and others joined today to make sure that cry is heard even if the blood stops being spilled anew,” he said. “As Canadians, we demand that our government holds Israel accountable for war crimes and stops the Canada-Israel arms trade.”
"Jews in our communities in Canada are overcome with grief and anger. Many of us stand in solidarity with our Palestinian siblings. We say loud and clear, 'not in our name.' Israel can no longer continue to commit these atrocities in the name of the Jewish people."
Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019. This past week, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called on the federal government to halt arms sales to Israel and freeze trade with Israeli settlements.
"By arming one side of the conflict it is undermining the peace process and it is supporting illegal occupation," he said during question period on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded by asking all sides to protect civilians and end the violence, saying rocket attacks against Israel as well as violence at the mosque are "unacceptable."
"Canada supports Israel's right to assure its own security," he said. "Places of worship are for people to gather peacefully and should never be sites of violence."
Tens of thousands of people have been protesting across Canada demanding that the federal government takes a strong stance against the violence and Israel’s occupation.
Independent Jewish Voices Canada said in a news release that the federal government received at least 150,000 letters following the attacks on Al-Aqsa and Gaza.
“Canada is very implicated in what Israel is doing to Palestinians,” Mivasair said. “The ceasefire is not ending that and if the past is any prediction of the future, nothing's really going to change until people outside of Israel take a moral stance.”
-- With files from the Canadian Press and Associated Press