Protesters took to the streets of downtown Vancouver on Dec. 8 and 9, to express their opposition to President Donald Trump’s Dec. 5 announcement that the U.S. now recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The protests were held in front of the U.S. consulate and the Vancouver Art Gallery. They were co-hosted by the Canada Palestine Association, StopWarCa – Vancouver Coalition for Justice & Peace and Independent Jewish Voices Vancouver, and were endorsed by a dozen or more other organizations, including the University of British Columbia Social Justice Centre.
Protesters could be heard chanting, “One, two, three, four, Israel, no more! One, two, three, four, occupation, no more!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”
Concerns were raised online after videos posted on Facebook showed young children calling for the Al-Aqsa Mosque to be redeemed with “blood” and “souls,” while demonstrators shouted, “Millions of martyrs are marching toward Jerusalem!”
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and is located in Jerusalem.
A statement issued by the organizers said that Trump’s move was “not only in violation of international law, it also runs contrary to the goals of the peace process of which U.S. has been one of the main arbiters,” and was “yet another iteration of the colonial occupation of Palestinian lives, who everyday see their homes destroyed by Israeli bulldozers building illegal settlements on Palestinian land and mourn the murder of their children and families by U.S. and Canadian funded Israeli bombs.”
One speaker, Laith Fraijiat, said that, “We will not accept any capital for a Palestinian state, aside from east Jerusalem,” referring to the aspirations of some Palestinians to have Jerusalem be the capital of two states, Israel and Palestine.
“The reason I love this flag so much,” Fraijiat said, pointing to a Palestinian flag, “is that this is a flag that can be held by anyone – by a Shia, by a Sunni, by a Jew, by a Druze, by anyone. This flag represents inclusiveness.”
A few members of the city’s Jewish community stood nearby at both rallies.
This is merely the latest in a worrying string of anti-Semitic incidents in Vancouver.
– Michael Mostyn
The protests were generally peaceful, but one counter-protester had his Israeli flag taken from him and destroyed by protesters. In a video posted on Twitter by reporter Hana Mae N. Nassar, protesters can also be seen burning a cardboard cutout of an Israeli flag.
“This is merely the latest in a worrying string of anti-Semitic incidents in Vancouver in recent months,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada.
“It is simply unacceptable for pro-Israel Canadians to be physically intimidated, while pro-Palestinian protesters call for violence and martyrdom.”
Protest organizer Sara Sagali disputed claims that the demonstrations were anti-Semitic.
We will not accept any capital for a Palestinian state, aside from east Jerusalem.
– Laith Fraijiat
“There’s a very clear divide between Jewish people and the State of Israel. And the flag is the flag of the state. It is not the flag of every Jewish person around the world,” she told CTV News.
In a Facebook post, Sagali expressed frustration that the only media attention the rallies had gotten focused on the burning of the cardboard Israeli flag, instead of the message the organizers hoped to communicate.
Similar anti-Israel protests took place around the world this weekend, including in London, New York and Toronto.
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies reported that at the Toronto rally, which was held in front of the U.S. consulate on Dec. 9, a man wore a poster that said, “9/11 was a Zionist job.”
In Sweden, more than a dozen men hurled firebombs at a synagogue in the southern town of Gothenburg, feeding international concerns that anger at Israel will morph into acts of anti-Semitism.