Thousands rally downtown calling for a cease-fire in Palestine

Nov 17, 2023 | Campus News, News

Protestors rallied in 50 cities, including more than 10,000 protestors attending a Toronto Rally at Nathan Phillips Square for speeches and a march, called for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip last weekend.

The Nov. 12 protests were organized by Ceasefire Now!, an ad-hoc coalition of 200 Canadian organizations.

The protest was to call for an armistice in the Israeli Defence Force’s attack on the Gaza Strip, which has reportedly killed 11,000 Palestinians as of Nov. 10, including more than 4,600 children, 40 journalists and 100 UN officials as of Nov. 12.

Demonstrators at the Nov. 12 protest in downtown Toronto calling for a ceasefire.

Demonstrators at the Nov. 12 protest in downtown Toronto calling for a ceasefire. Photo credit: Asher Klaver

The IDF’s response came after the Oct. 7 attack by the political and military organization Hamas, which reportedly killed 850 Israeli civilians, and 350 soldiers and police officers. About 200 hostages were taken, including 30 children.

Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk has stated hostages will not be fully released until a ceasefire agreement is reached with Israel.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated a ceasefire would only come after the hostages are released and after the current attack on Gaza will be demilitarized and under the control of Israel.

Suzanne Weiss described the attacks by the IDF on Gaza as a crime against humanity.

Weiss, an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor, activist, author and a member of Independent Jewish Voices, an organization representing Canadian Jews with a commitment to social justice and human rights, attended the demonstration.

She has spent her career speaking about Holocaust history, Romani human rights, Indigenous rights and women’s liberation.

“When Nazism was smashed in 1945, Jewish people cried out never again,” Weiss said. “They meant never again for all of humanity.”

She called for peace and equality for the Palestinian people.

Dania Majid, a Toronto-based lawyer and founding member of the Toronto Palestine Film Festival, spoke about the conditions in Gaza.

“No one, nobody and nothing is protected from this collective punishment,” she said.

Stephen Brown, the CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, described the siege on Gaza as medieval in a speech.

“We need peace, and we need it now,” he said.

Samia Hashi is Unifor’s Ontario Regional Director, Canada’s largest private sector union, and has worked in human rights.

“It’s time to raise our voices against this tragedy and against the tide of hate and division that’s tearing us apart,” she said.

Moe Jabri of Toronto4Palestine took to the stage and called for Israel to reach an agreement with Hamas that includes returning Palestinians in Israeli prisons to Palestine.

The protesters then moved from Nathan Phillips Square to march north along Yonge Street before heading west along College Street to Queen’s Park. They then went south to the United States Consulate.

First Nations people led the march and danced, a historic form of cultural expression.

At Queen’s Park, two politicians representing the Hamilton Centre riding spoke to the demonstraters, MPP Sarah Jama, an independent politician who was expelled from the NDP caucus over comments made about the Israel-Gaza conflict, and NDP MP Matthew Green.

“The state of Israel is committing heinous war crimes against innocent Palestinian civilians,” Jama said.

Jama called for Palestinian independence and liberty throughout her speech.

Green called for a ceasefire before moving to talk about the destruction the attack has caused in Gaza.

“Hospitals and morgues are overwhelmed, necessities are scarce, and vital facilities are under threat,” he said.

Green said he’s also concerned about the rise of antisemitism, Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism.

Lauren Isaacs, a Zionist, an Israeli tour guide and a former director at Herut Toronto, told Humber News she opposes a ceasefire.

“It would be a declaration of losing and giving up to Hamas,” Isaacs said in a telephone interview.

Isaacs said the IDF has only targeted Hamas and is not attacking indiscriminately, that hostages will not be freed if a ceasefire is called because “Hamas’ entire history is lies.” The casualty numbers for Gaza are not verifiable because the Gaza Ministry of Health is controlled by Hamas.

She said Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s statement calling Palestinians human animals during his announcement of collective punishment and siege of Gaza was not the official policy of Israel and that it was just his opinion.

Nathan Radke, a cultural studies professor at Humber College and an author who specializes in logic, conspiracy theory, disinformation and misinformation, said messages could be misconstrued in a conflict.

“In the fog of war, it’s easy for something to get misunderstood and you end up with accidental misinformation,” he said. “There are also people during a war who have an interest in trying to manipulate how we think about something and they will be putting out engineered disinformation, specific lies to try to convince us a position.

“We have to be aware that all of that is out there at once.”