Pro-Palestinian protesters barricade IDF reserve soldiers event

Two people were arrested during the protest, with heavy police presence on-site

Photo Hannah Bell

On March 4, over 150 pro-Palestinian protesters blocked the entrance of the Federation CJA building, to protest three Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers speaking at a StartUp Nation hosted event. 

The original event was set to occur on Concordia University’s campus. Due to backlash, the event was cancelled but was later moved to CJA.

Although CJA didn’t release the address of the event until 6 p.m. on March 4, a half hour before the start of the talk, the address was leaked on social media. 

The Link had a ticket and a media pass, and had confirmed our attendance by phone, yet was not allowed to enter the CJA building.

Along with Solidarity for Human Rights Concordia (SPHRConU) and Montreal4Palestine, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) Concordia joined the protesters to stand in solidarity with Palestine. 

During a speech by IJV members, the speakers condemned the event being hosted in front of the Holocaust Museum. 

“To hold an event like this, at a space that commemorates one of the worst acts of humanity, is an insult to the victims of the Holocaust our ancestors and the Jewish people,” said the speaker. “Being an anti-zionist Jew often means standing against our own communities, which we were once a part of, and taking a critical look at the institutions we were once connected to, but refuse to anymore.” 

Several times during the night, Israeli on-lookers agitated pro-Palestinian protesters, flashing them the middle finger, calling them names and becoming increasingly violent. At around 7 p.m., a woman shoved a pro-Palestinian protester and hit their camera. 

During the protest, several speakers took turns to speak to the crowd. Palestinian activists encouraged protesters to stay calm, keep blocking the doors and not get agitated by on-lookers. 

The protest was monitored heavily by police, with over six police cars surrounding the building and streets. 

Demonstrators blocked all three entrances and demanded that IDF soldiers not be let into Montreal.

According to a protester, who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons, IDF soldiers shouldn’t be allowed in Montreal. “We are talking about soldiers that only a few weeks back were killing children, civilians, conducting war crimes, [yet] they are just invited to an event like they are guests,” said the protester. They continued to urge the Canadian government to sanction and stop their support for Israel. 

The sentiment was echoed by other participants. According to Laith Barghouthi, SPHRConU “[Organizers] are still brainwashed thinking that IDF soldiers... are heroes of some sort. They are genocide enablers, they are killing children... they are doing all sorts of evil crimes,” Barghouthi said.

Montreal4Palestine, SPHRConU and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) all released statements about the event by the night's end. 

In a statement released after the event, Montreal4Palestine accused the SPVM of being hostile and threatening towards protesters. “This behaviour is not an isolated case. It is part of a broader context of police brutality and systemic racism against racialized people in Montreal,” read the statement.

In addition, SPHRConU condemned the location of the IDF event, stating, “Hosting soldiers under investigation for genocide by the International Court of Justice in a place of rememberance for genocide victims is a new low, even for the Zionist entity.”

During the protest, CIJA also released their statement, calling the pro-Palestinian protesters an “aggressive and physically intimidating mob.” The statement further demanded the SPVM to make arrests, citing that calling for “intifada,” which translates to ‘uprising’ in Arabic, is terrorism against civilians and not a peaceful protest. 

With files from Julissa Hurtado, Hannah Bell and Nadia Liboneye