Palestinian Montrealers protest Israeli police raids on al-Aqsa Mosque
Demonstrators showed solidarity with the Palestinian liberation movement in front of the Israeli consulate
“Justice is our demand, no peace on stolen land,” chanted more than 100 Palestinian protesters gathered in front of Montreal’s Israeli consulate on the evening of April 18.
Organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement and attended by members of the Concordia and McGill branches of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, the protest denounced the Israeli Police’s recent raids on the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Decked out in Palestinian flags and keffiyehs, traditional scarves symbolizing liberation, protesters made their voices loud and clear to passers-by. As the demonstration unfolded, a few onlookers decided to join in on the event.
Protesters met at the consulate and marched down Ste. Catherine St. W., showing solidarity against the Israeli occupation. The crowd was followed by approximately two dozen SPVM officers.
Beginning on Friday, April 15, Israeli police raided the third holiest site in Islam, the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, resulting in 152 people injured. A similar incident happened in 2021 when the mosque was raided during the holy month of Ramadan, leading to a wave of mass protests internationally. The consequences of last year’s actions led to nearly two weeks of armed hostilities between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
A member of SPHR McGill, Fifi, wanted to spread as much awareness as possible. “This movement is to build solidarity and bring attention to this cause,” she said. “We’ve moved down Sainte-Catherine to show the rest of the city that Palestine is in turmoil right now.”
Sarah Abdelshamy, a member of the Palestinian Youth Movement, was devastated by the raids but not surprised.
“The Zionist forces—the occupation forces—use any force necessary to oppress and dispossess Palestinians every single day.” — Sarah Abdelshamy
“The attacks in al-Aqsa are just one example of many. The Nakba, which is the day of catastrophe, is every single day,” she said. “The Zionist forces—the occupation forces—use any force necessary to oppress and dispossess Palestinians every single day.”
The Nakba, meaning catastrophe or cataclysm in Arabic, consisted of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Palestinians after the creation of Israel in 1948. It is also referred to as the Palestinian exodus.
The raids that took place over the weekend were tied to Zionist outrage on Israeli social media and political extremism. Members of the Israeli far-right group Return to the Temple Mount offered money to any of their followers who would sacrifice a goat inside al-Aqsa, a Jewish ritual prohibited in the mosque.
The rumours spread rapidly over social media, prompting some Palestinians to preemptively stockpile stones and other methods of defense inside the mosque. Israeli police were prompted to raid the mosque once confrontations began escalating.
These raids are once again taking place during Ramadan, Fifi noted. “This is a trend that happens every [year] to break the Palestinian spirit. It’s so they can feel powerless; not allowed to be spiritual or be themselves,” she said. Police officers entered the mosque, deploying tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades, enacting mass arrests.
Seeing al-Aqsa raided has made SPHR Concordia member Nabeel deeply frustrated. “This is one of the holiest sites in the world, and they’ve been raiding it for three days,” he said.
“This is one of the holiest sites in the world, and they’ve been raiding it for three days.” — Nabeel
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, announced the government’s stance via Twitter last Friday.
“Violence in & around al-Aqsa is unacceptable. The sanctity and status quo of holy sites must be respected. We call for de-escalation of tensions. Canada stands with the Israeli and Palestinian peoples in their right to peace & security,” Joly stated.
These sentiments, however, were called into question by several protesters. “I need the government to divest from the Israeli government and stop giving bullets and weapons to the IDF,” said Fifi.
Nabeel concurred: “[The Canadian government doesn't] even condemn Israel. See how quickly governments sanctioned Russia when it invaded Ukraine? It’s been 70 years [since the Israeli occupation].”
Members of SPHR Concordia took to the microphone to congratulate students for voting overwhelmingly in favour of the Concordia Student Union’s anti-apartheid stance. They said that this position encompassed Israeli apartheid, but the CSU’s statement made no direct mention of it.
While SPHR Concordia members commended the CSU’s effort, they said it should only represent the first step for change in the university’s approach to Palestinian solidarity.
Reem Said, a McGill student in Political Science and Islamic Studies, has several grievances with how the Palestinian cause is treated in academia. “McGill has a history of silencing Palestinian activists on campus. [There have been] recent threats to defund the Student Society of McGill University over its Palestine Solidarity policy,” she said. The policy was passed during the SSMU Winter 2022 referendum with 71 per cent of voting students in favour.
“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” shouted the crowd in unison.
Palestinian music and the rhythmic banging of drums rang throughout the protest. Near the end of the event, as the sun began dimming, organizers passed around dates in plastic bags, which are traditionally eaten to break one’s fast during Ramadan.
The Palestinian Youth Movement’s next large-scale protest in Montreal will be held on May 15, internationally known as Nakba Day.