“We will free Palestine within our lifetime”

Protesters continued to demand a ceasefire as the war in Gaza hits 100-day mark

Palestine protest marks 100 days of the war in Gaza Photo Maria Cholakova

On Jan. 14, 2024, hundreds of Palestinian flags filled the streets of Montreal as protesters gathered to denounce over 100 days of the genocide in Gaza. Since Oct. 7, 2023, nearly 24,000 Palestinians have been killed and approximately 2 million people have been displaced

Protesters marched from Esplanade Place Ville Marie to Francois Legault’s Montreal office, demanding a permanent ceasefire and a halt to the killing of Palestinians. They also denounced Canada’s lack of support for Gaza. A number of speakers from the Montreal for Palestine and the Palestinians Youth Movement (PYM) groups addressed the ground and encouraged them to keep fighting for Gaza’s liberation. 

Iyad, a representative for Palestinians Abroad, reminded attendees of the struggles Palestinians face during the war and the importance of fighting for the Palestinian cause. 

“For 100 days, we have been watching this war. It’s a matter of humility. Nowadays, you are [either] human or not human,” he said. “Palestinians have resisted with no food, water or electricity because it is a matter of dignity. If you are standing against oppression, anywhere—Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Sudan—you stand beside Palestine,” he added. 

Anissa Kouki, attended the protest because they believe all people deserve the right to live in safety and in dignity. Considering protesters’ readiness to speak up for Palestine, Kouki denounced Canada’s lack of support for Gaza. 

Kouki expressed that it is hard to keep their pride in Canada considering the country’s disregard for Palestinian lives. 

“Especially, [because] you live in a democracy, you’re voting for people who have similar ideals to yours,” they said. “To see that [you’re] not represented [brings a] feeling of shame. Wow, I can’t believe that I used to be proud to be from this place and they’re failing me so viscerally right now.”

A protest attendee, who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons, echoed Kouki’s sentiment. “We’re always fed this propaganda that we live in the liberal West and that there is an international rule of law. We now see very clearly how false all of that is,” they said. 

Since Oct. 8, Palestinian groups in Montreal have been organizing protests at least once every week, demanding that the government take action against Israel’s measures towards Gaza, holding vigils and mourning the loss of Palestinian lives. The protester has been attending every demonstration since then. To them, their attendance is just “a drop in the ocean”. 

“As Muslims, we are all one brotherhood and sisterhood. When any of us are hurt, all of us are hurt. And so it’s very important for us to do whatever we can to help our brothers and sisters in Palestine,” they said

A few days prior, on Jan. 11, 2024, a vigil was organized to mourn the loss of the 117 journalists who were killed since the start of the war.  The vigil was held in the Old Port and a moment of silence was held to honour their lives. 

Speakers from PYM, Montreal for Palestine, Indigenous community members, and journalists took turns to give speeches to the crowd, honouring journalists and denouncing mainstream media for their coverage of events. 

“[Mainstream medias] have repeatedly chosen not to report the horrors and the violence that Palestinians endure. This pattern reflects not only a lack of courage, but a moral bankruptcy on the part of the CBC, CTV, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, and every other mainstream Canadian news source,” one speaker said. 

Sarah Shamy, an organizer for PYM, started her speech by asking the crowd to chant, “We will honour all our martyrs, all our fathers, sons and daughters” 

In her speech, Shamy reminded the crowd of the sacrifice Palestinian journalists endure to broadcast events in Gaza. 

“In these 100 days, we've also learned what it means to be a hero. We've seen journalists like Wael Al-Dahdouh learn about his wife and children getting killed in a targeted Israeli airstrike live on air and remain firm and unbreakable,” she said. 

She continued to explain that even through everything that Al-Dahdouh has experienced his conviction and the belief for a free Palestine, only emboldens protesters to be braver.

“They inspire us to make bigger sacrifices for the movement to ensure that as long as we are witnesses to these atrocities, we will not just be passive watchers of history, but we will be active agents in history and we will mobilize against those responsible for these war crimes,” she continued. 

In between speeches, an organizer recited the names of each killed journalist, with the crowd chanting along. 

The fight for Palestine has also risen to the international legal scene. On Dec. 29, 2023, South Africa brought forward a case to the United Nations’s International Court of Justice (ICJ), which accused Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. On Jan. 11, 2024, South Africa presented their case, outlining Israel’s crimes under international order. A day later, on Jan. 12, Israel delivered its response to South Africa’s genocide case. Although both sides presented their arguments, the verdict is expected to take weeks. 

According to Shamy, the ICJ case is just one step in the right direction. 

For Shamy, South Africa’s support and recognition for Gaza is monumental, especially coming from a country that had suffered under Apartheid themselves. “[The case] shows that countries that have been colonized, [...] they know what oppression looks like, and they’re willing to take a stance. That being said, the court of ICJ is largely symbolic and will likely not lead to anything concrete,” Shamy said.

However, for Shamy, the issue is way more complex. “What will it take for the world leaders to stop making profit from war and to stop greenlighting genocidal projects just because they profit from them?”

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 8, published January 16, 2024.