Canadian Press, Thursday, January 8, 2009
Nationwide rallies staged in solidarity with Israel as others slam Ottawa's
TORONTO — Prominent Canadians called on Ottawa to
demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza in the face of
Israel's "war crimes" as others planned to rally
nationwide Thursday in support of Israelis who have been
"paralyzed" for years by Hamas missile strikes.
While some 30 protesters marched into the Israeli
Consulate in Montreal and handed officials a mock
eviction notice, a group that included Jewish musicians,
academics and activists gathered in Toronto to denounce
Those actions preceded scheduled rallies from
Vancouver to Halifax in solidarity with the people of
southern Israel, with the Toronto event at Beth Tzedec
Synagogue to include a videotaped message from Israeli
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Internationally acclaimed concert pianist Anton
Kuerti said the "servile" way Ottawa is supporting the
U.S. position makes him "ashamed" to be a Canadian.
"The unbelievable war crimes that Israel is
committing in Gaza ... it makes me ashamed to be a Jew,"
Kuerti said at the Toronto news conference.
"The servile way in which Canada is supporting the
U.S. position - basically it's all Hamas's fault because
of missiles that they throw over in desperation - I
think this reluctance of Canada to use its influence
makes me ashamed to be Canadian."
Israel launched an offensive into the Palestinian
territory Dec. 27 to halt repeated rocket attacks on its
southern towns. Nearly 800 Palestinians have been killed
- almost half of them civilians, according to area
officials - while 10 Israelis have died.
On Wednesday, Canada donated $4 million for
humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip while repeating its
call for an "immediate and durable" ceasefire. At the
same time, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said
that, under the UN charter, a country is allowed to
defend itself and that Israel has defended itself after
several years of rocket assaults.
Rallies were planned in Toronto, Montreal, London,
Hamilton, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver and
Halifax to show support for Israelis "paralyzed by
thousands of Hamas missiles from Gaza," organizers said.
"I think that Canadians understand that the values of
a terrorist entity that is committed to destroy its
neighbour are not the values shared by them," said
Howard English of the United Jewish Appeal of Greater
Toronto, one of the groups behind the rallies.
"I think Canadians understand that people who live in
the line of rocket fire every day of their lives cannot
go on living that way."
The group that held the news conference in Toronto
included law professor Michael Mandel, research
physicist Ursula Franklin and was led by David Orchard,
who twice ran for the leadership of the former
Progressive Conservatives and is not Jewish.
"When the world community at the UN tried to stop the
violence, the call for a ceasefire was blocked by the
U.S., and Canada, to its shame, has fully supported the
U.S., actually opposing the call for an immediate
ceasefire," Orchard said.
"These actions by Canada and the U.S. amount to a
green light for the killing to continue, and they make
our governments complicit to the crimes being waged in
The Montreal protesters who entered the Israeli
Consulate said people in that city could not support the
continued bombing in Gaza. The group also called for the
federal government to break off relations with Israel
until the military action stops.
Police escorted the protesters out of the building
after about an hour, and there was no damage and no
B'nai Brith Canada issued a community-wide security
alert Thursday in Toronto calling for heightened
vigilance in light of the escalating conflict in Gaza.
The Jewish human-rights organization said it has
documented a spike in incidents against Jews in Canada,
including harassment and death threats. It also cited
violence abroad, notably the firebombing of a synagogue