This past Friday, there was a pro-Palestinian demonstration outside city hall in Calgary. Almost 1,000 protesters reportedly showed up to rally for the people of Gaza. But what was expected to be a peaceful protest eventually turned into mobs of angry thugs attacking a group of six Jewish and Christian protesters holding Israeli flags.
The pro-Israel crowd did not provoke the other side by using violence or inciting hatred. They chanted pro-Israel messages of peace and some were thrown to the ground, punched in the face multiple times and brutally beat up for being Jewish and supporting the Jewish state.
Among the victims were Samantha Hamilton and Jake Birrell. Hamilton was viciously attacked, punched in the face and hit in the stomach. Birrell was punched in the face and dragged across the street by the Israeli flag tied around his neck. Some of his friends and family members were also jumped and attacked, as the perpetrators yelled things such as “Hitler was right” and “Kill Jews.”
Although the City of Calgary was made aware of this protest days before it occurred, only three police officers were initially on scene. When more did arrive, well after the fighting had ended, Birrell said he was asked by a police officer, “What did you expect holding a flag like that?”
Video from the Calgary protest
The response by Calgary police was inappropriate and shameful. They failed to do their job by remaining neutral in a heated situation and protecting their citizens from harm. Perhaps their lack of responsiveness is due to the fact that no one could have possibly expected that this form of ugly hate speech and violent protest that is terrorizing the streets of cities such as Paris and London could appear in a peaceful city like Calgary.
The hundreds of people who attended this protest are neither pro-Palestinian nor pro-human rights. They do not seek justice and peace, and they do not respect, nor value the democracy, freedom and liberty that Canada has given them. They are anti-Palestinian, anti-Jew and anti-human rights.
If these protesters cared about “Palestine,” they would blame Hamas for the plight of its people, for hiding behind civilians and for using millions of dollars on building rockets and terror cells instead of giving their people a functioning society. If they cared about innocent people dying, they would express condolences for Israel’s fallen as well as their own. Finally, if they cared about Gaza, they would thank the Israel Defence Forces soldiers for sacrificing their lives in a ground offensive to defeat the real enemy of the people of Gaza, the terrorists of Hamas.
Because these protesters do not blame Hamas, do not care about Israeli casualties, do not cry out against other injustices against Muslims and do not care about defeating terror, this only leads to one conclusion: they hate Jews. Any effort they make to claim otherwise, such as the claim that they are merely anti-Zionist or anti-Israel is a blatant lie. This applies not only to protesters such as these, but also any leader of any country in the world today. They are either with Israel, with the Palestinian people and against Hamas and terror, or they are supporters of evil and murder.
The pro-Israel vs. pro-Palestinian debate is no longer about politics. It is no longer a partisan issue. Politicians from the left and right of the spectrum are coming together to support Israel’s right to defend itself against terror. Canada should be proud that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has outspokenly, unequivocally and unabashedly voiced its support for Israel. It’s the moral and ethical obligation of any human being to support a state that values all human life – Israeli and Palestinian – and to condemn a terrorist organization that sacrifices its own people in order to kill Jews.
Canadian cities should look to Paris as an example and ban these violent pro-Palestinian protests. It is clear now that this issue goes beyond the Israel-Hamas conflict, and people are using this war as an excuse to propagate anti-Semitism. It is time to stop being politically correct. The City of Calgary and the Jewish federations in Canada need to condemn protests such as these and stop pretending that anti-Israel is anything different than anti-Semitism. It is time to speak out and to stop being afraid of offending people who support terror, who use their fists to oppose our freedom of speech and who commit hate-fuelled crimes that go against every value we stand for as Canadians.
Cara Lebenzon has a BA in international relations from the University of Calgary where she led Israel advocacy campaigns. She moved to Israel three years ago to complete her master's degree in political science and now lives in Tel Aviv.