Hundreds of protestors gathered outside of the Consulate General of Israel in Toronto early Monday, Oct. 23, to demonstrate against the killing of thousands of Palestinians in retaliation for a Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
Some 1,400 people were killed and another 200 were taken hostage during the Oct. 7 incursion. It’s estimated that more than 5,000 people in Gaza have been killed since the beginning of the latest conflict.
The demonstrators, who identified themselves as members of the Jewish community, expressed their solidarity with the Palestinian people and their opposition to Israeli military operations in Gaza.
Monday’s protest in Toronto is one of several that have taken place across Canada. On Monday in Winnipeg there were pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian rallies. In Vancouver, police kept a vigil for rallies on the weekend, including one at the art gallery calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza.
Meanwhile, many Jewish organizations in Canada, including B’nai Brith and the Jewish Federations of Canada have offered support to Israel in its war on Hamas launched after the Oct. 7 attack. “Israel and its people are under attack by murderous terrorists, and neither Canada nor the world can be silent in the face of this depravity,” Michael Mostyn, B’nai Brith Canada’s Chief Executive Officer, said in a statement. “There can be no equivocation. Israel not only has the right to defend itself, it has the duty to defend itself, and must do so.”
In addition, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that Israel has a right to defend itself in accordance with international law.
The Israeli mission in Toronto was the scene of a similar rally last Wednesday to protest the levelling of a Gaza hospital that killed an estimated 500 people on Oct. 17. Canada is now the third Western ally to back Israel’s claim that its forces were not behind the blast at the Al-Ahli Arab hospital on Oct. 17.
Protestors at Monday’s Toronto rally at the intersection of Yonge and Bloor streets in Toronto called on the Israeili government to implement an immediate ceasefire and “end genocide” in Gaza.
About 500 demonstrators were at the rally, saying they were against Zionism, racism and the “occupation” of Gaza by Israel. Some protestors waved and wore Palestinian flags.
Hamilton Rabbi David Mivasair, who immigrated to Canada 28 years ago, urged Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government to stop attacking Gaza.
“I am here as a Jewish person,” Mivasair told New Canadian Media. “I have a special moral responsibility to do everything I can. Then, as a Canadian and living in a democracy I want my government to know that I and other Jews are against this genocide.”
Mivasair criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, too.
“We do not understand who the Canadian government thinks they are working for. Who do they represent? Who are they doing this for? It is not for us. So, we came today to get that message across,” Mivasair said..
Mivasair was recently arrested with hundreds of Jewish protesters while calling for an end to the violence in Gaza at a U.S. government building in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
Mivasair said that bombing hospitals, schools, and people’s homes is a war crime.
“Eighty percent of the people in Gaza are the descendants of people who were expelled from their own homes, right in 1948. They lived all over Palestine, and villages and neighbourhoods and towns and cities and the Jews expelled them and took their home,” he said.
Mivasair called on the Canadian government to “stop tax receipts for illegal charitable donations that are going to support settlers, or millions of dollars in charity go to support settlements in the West Bank.”
A convoy of 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid which were waiting to cross the border entered Gaza on Saturday while more than 150 others were still waiting as of Oct. 22..
Demonstrators shouted slogans at Israel’s Consulate, calling for humanitarian aid to be delivered for Palestinians in southern Gaza.
“This is not what Judaism teaches, the death of Palestinians will never be in the interest of Jewish safety,” said Surya Cantor, a Jewish supporter and a community organizer in Toronto.
“It is a politic of supremacy, and it is not about religion,” added Cantor who grew up in a Zionist home and a Zionist community.
Cantor said that cutting off the basic needs of millions of people, such as food, water, electricity, and medication is “a crime.”
“Israel is committing apartheid,” Cantor said.
The crowd sang chants for “the freedom of Palestine.” Cantor also prayed while speaking to the crowd using a microphone.
Sadie, a Jewish demonstrator whose last name is being withheld due to safety concerns, said: “I do not believe in Zionism, I do not believe in the State of Israel.”
“They cannot say that they are speaking for the Jewish people when they murder Palestinians,” she added.
Meanwhile, on X, formerly known as Twitter, Trudeau on Sunday reaffirmed his support for Israel’s right to self-defence, in accordance with international law.
The crowd protested against Trudeau’s message.
“Canada should call for [the end of] Israeli apartheid and Palestinians [must have the] right to return to their own lands, but first ceasefire now,” Sadie said.
Asked if the current military campaign was self-defence, Sadie said, “Many governments keep saying that Israel has the right to defend itself and of course, it is sad to lose any lives. However, Israel has occupied Gaza for 75 years. This is colonial genocide, and it cannot be taken out of its historical context. This is not a one-time event.”
As of the 2021 Census, nearly 700,000 people in Canada described themselves as Arab, while 45,905 said their cultural origin is Palestinian. Another 282,015 are of Jewish origin, according to the latest census tables.
This story was updated on Oct. 30 to include a reference to B’nai Brith, the Jewish Federations of Canada, and Canada’s position on the Israel-Hamas war.
Nur Dogan is a Turkish journalist who lives in Toronto. She studied journalism at Humber College. Her stories and photographs were published not only in Canada but also in the U.S. and Europe. As a digital media reporter, she has covered national and international news for some magazines, newspapers and online news platforms. Focusing on human rights for all, Nur observes and reports on human rights violations, oppressions and illegitimate political attempts against visible minorities.