MONTREAL — The Quebec-Israel Committee (QIC) deplored the “moral bankruptcy” of the organizers of the latest major demonstration against Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.
On Jan. 10, thousands – estimates ranged from 3,000 to 10,000 – marched through the downtown streets of Montreal for the second weekend in a row, this time from Dorchester Square, then along Ste. Catherine Street, and ending at Complexe Guy-Favreau, a federal office building.
This demonstration was endorsed by a much broader spectrum of Quebec society than the first one. Among the groups in the organizing coalition were the province’s three big labour federations and other unions, the Fédération des Femmes du Québec, La Ligue des Droits et Libertés, the social action office of the Montreal Roman Catholic Archdiocese, and the Québec Solidaire. That party’s sole MNA Amir Khadir was a speaker at the Jan. 4 demonstration and once again led the protesters last Saturday. Parti Québécois president and MNA Monique Richard was also an organizer.
The QIC issued a statement that it was troubled by their support for “a demonstration characterized by expressions of hate and violence that cleans up the terrorism of Hamas and demonizes Israel.”
Executive director Luciano Del Negro said that he observed, once again, slogans and symbols associated with Islamic extremism. He saw Hezbollah flags that feature the Kalachnikov gun and heard shouts of “Viva intifadah” and “We will sacrifice our blood and our soul for the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
The Israeli flag was set on fire, a photo of Prime Minister Stephen Harper was stomped on, and a group of about 25 pro-Israel supporters were harassed until police separated the groups.
“Not one of these excesses was denounced by the organizers,” Del Negro said, and Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israeli civilians and legacy of terrorism were ignored.
He said he doubts the union leaders’ opinions are representative of the thousands of workers for whom they claim to speak.
“Far from favouring a peaceful outcome to the current conflict, as the organizers claim, this demonstration scorns Quebec’s civic values and contributes to importing onto our streets the Israel-Arab conflict,” he said.
The day before the demonstration, the organizing coalition issued an appeal to the Quebec public to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians against “the murderous aggression of Israel in Gaza.”
The coalition, which claims to represent 100 Quebec groups, refers to Israel’s “massacre of the population of Gaza,” claiming a quarter of the dead are children and that Gaza is a virtual “open-air prison” because of the Israeli blockade. It is demanding an immediate ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal, and a change in the Canadian government’s “unilaterally pro-Israel” stance.
The statement also calls upon Hamas to stop firing rockets on Israeli civilians, but makes no other comment on its responsibility for the current situation.
Claudette Charbonneau, president of the Confédérations des Syndicats Nationaux, told the media: “Israeli aggression is blind and disproportionate in territory that is not theirs. Their right to self-defence cannot degenerate into a war on people who are literally locked in.”
A smaller anti-Israel demonstration was also held in Quebec City, which passed in front of the U.S. consulate.
Compiled by CJN Staff