Crowds gathered for an emergency sit-in at Edmonton’s legislature grounds last Wednesday with calls to end the Israeli siege of Gaza.
The event began with a short ceremony commemorating the victims, and many attendees were grieving.
Gaza’s suffering is close to home for many in the crowd. Nisrin Salah, a protestor, said, “I’m kind of at a loss for words.”
When Salah was eight years old, she came to Canada from Palestine. She notes that Canada is built on multiculturalism, and seeing all kinds of people at the protest helps.
“It’s just being here together, seeing all the other young people, we feel supported,” Salah said.
The organizers led the crowd through a solemn address. Chants of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Israel, Israel you can’t hide, you’re committing genocide,” could be heard and many in attendance held signs that read lines such as “free Palestine,” “stop funding Israel’s crimes,” and “no war.”
Another protest attendee, Judy Al-Dayeh said, “We just want to bring support and awareness of the Palestinian people who struggle to have a voice.”One of the speakers, Asher Kirchner of the Independent Jewish Voices group, spoke about Jewish solidarity with Palestinians.
“Israel does not have a monopoly on Judaism,” he said. “Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism.”
“What is a Jewish man doing here? I’m practicing my Judaism. What does Judaism teach? Justice. Justice, shall you pursue. You shall love your neighbour as yourself. You are not my neighbours; you are my cousins. You are my family.”
Asher Kirchner of the Independent Jewish Voices
“What is a Jewish man doing here? I’m practicing my Judaism. What does Judaism teach? Justice. Justice, shall you pursue. You shall love your neighbour as yourself. You are not my neighbours; you are my cousins,” he said.
“I’m here to protest for Palestine,” said Mo, a protester who chose to remain anonymous. “I’m not a Palestinian; I am Syrian, but Palestine is in my heart; I’ll always love it.”
“I will always protest for it. Show love,” he said. “We are here for the Palestinian people.
Abdul, another protestor who withheld his surname, said the community is gathering to stop the war and support the suffering civilians of the region. “Palestine is not only for Palestine,” Abdul said. “Palestine is for everybody.”
The blast at al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City on Oct. 17 reportedly killed at least 500 people and would be considered one of the deadliest since the Israeli assault on Gaza began on Oct 7. Israel denies that it hit the hospital, though the claim remains disputed
Al-Dayeh described the silencing of Palestinian voices in the media.
“There’s a lot of censorship and controlling the narrative,” she said. “There isn’t enough honest media coverage about what’s going on in the world, not just in Palestine.”
“I think apartheid is very evil,” Al-Dayeh said. “It should have ended in Africa. I don’t know why people are okay with it today.”
The number of Gazans killed since Israel’s siege on Gaza has escalated with over 4,000 dead. Many of them being civilians and children.
“I think apartheid is very evil, It should have ended in Africa. I don’t know why people are okay with it today.”
Judy Al-Dayeh, protestor
Salah said that what Israel is doing is collective punishment, and everyone in Gaza is paying the price.
“Hamas has been categorized as a terrorist group, and I don’t agree with everything they do. But, they wouldn’t exist if Israel didn’t exist,” she said.
“The events on October 7 started because of the apartheid,” she said. “It’s every day, they’re under siege. You can’t expect people not to get sick with what’s going on. They exploded. They went crazy,” she said. “I can’t justify what they ended up doing,”
Salah said Israel doesn’t go after Hamas. Instead, it punishes Gazans. “What is going on right now,” she said, “bombing schools, hospitals, homes. That’s collective punishment. You don’t bomb everybody, just flatten towns.”
Salah said that for many Palestinians, it is no longer okay to condemn “both sides.” Palestinians know why Hamas resists, and Palestinians know the root cause, Salah said.
“There is no both sides in genocide.”
Photos by Amanda Erickson