About 250 protesters took part in a peaceful march and rally in Sackville today to call for an immediate ceasefire as Israel continued its war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Sarah Kardash, one of rally’s main organizers, called on Canada to end its support for the Israeli assault on the besieged Palestinian enclave.
“Israel is committing genocide in Gaza and ramping up violence against Palestinians in the West Bank,” she told people who had gathered in Bill Johnstone park.
“We oppose and condemn the war crimes committed by Israel with impunity and in clear violation of international law in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. There is no justification for what Israel is doing or for the Canadian government’s support for it.”
Kardash went on to list the dead and injured in the war that Israel launched after Palestinian gunmen killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel on October 7th and took more than 240 hostages:
Mohamed Ali, founder of the Moncton group Citizens for Peace, thanked people for attending the rally to “stand for peace, for justice and for humanity.”
As he began to read his speech from his cellphone, he said it hadn’t been an easy one to write.
“I feel a lot of pain and a lot of sorrow in my heart,” he said.
“My heart is burning watching all these images of suffering,” he added as he called for people to join hands in a moment of silence for “all of the victims in Gaza.”
After 20 seconds of silence, Ali said the powerful Israeli army was continuing its merciless massacre in Gaza.
“They have continued to commit war crimes for 40 days now,” he said, “with the discreet but real support of our government and history will remember this shameful, this shameful, position of our country.”
Ali said that although “the path of peace and justice is much harder than the path of war,” people will never give up on it.
“We will continue to fight for a better and peaceful future, for our children, for Palestinian children, for Israeli children, for all children around the world.”
He ended with chants that the rally goers echoed back to him:
“We want peace, we want justice, we want freedom for Palestine, free, free, Palestine.”
Later, the protesters began what organizers called a “march of complicity” with their first stop at Mount Allison University’s Convocation Hall on York Street where they heard Politics and International Relations Professor Lara Khattab speak about Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation.
“Despite the fact that Palestinians are dispossessed violently from their land [and] they’re brutally killed with impunity, Palestinians continue to resist by various means and they continue to inspire us with their commitment to tell their stories, to document Israel’s war crimes and to claim their land back and their right to return to their homeland,” she said.
Khattab added that one form of resistance includes the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) and she quoted words from its website:
“The call for boycott is a call to put pressure on Israel to comply with international law, to end the illegal occupation of Palestine, to end all forms of racial discrimination and to stop denying the right to return for Palestinian refugees. It’s a movement for justice, for equality and for freedom.”
Khattab praised her union, the Mount Allison Faculty Association, for its recent statement demanding that the federal government call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, end all forms of Canadian military and financial aid, including arms sales to Israel, and pressure Israel to end its illegal blockade of Gaza.
She noted, however, that the university administration did not condemn Israel’s massive violence and had not called for a ceasefire.
An e-mail from Mt. A. Acting President Robert MacKinnon to students, faculty and staff on October 11 said: “Our thoughts are with all of those affected by the ongoing violence and loss of life in Israel and Palestine” before it referred to counselling support available to anyone “impacted by this news.”
(A rally organizer pointed out that, in contrast, the university had issued a strong statement last year praising the Ukrainian people for their resistance to Russia’s invasion.)
“I’m a Scotiabank member, I’ll admit it right out of the gate,” said Glenn Barrington after the protesters had marched from the Mt. A. campus to the bank’s branch on Bridge Street.
“It’s a complicated world,” he added.
“But I can say that Scotiabank is one of, is the biggest bank contributor to Israeli arms production and Israeli real estate and organizations and corporations that will profit directly off of the genocide of the Palestinian people,” he said before going on to explain that the bank has a large investment in Elbit Systems, a weapons manufacturer that supplies the Israeli military.
“If you’re a member of Scotiabank, maybe it’s now the time to get your bank card out of Scotiabank,” he said.
Barrington led the protesters in the chant, “Free, Free Palestine,” before they headed up to Main Street for a rally outside Jean Coutu where organizers pointed out that the pharmacy sells SodaStream, the home fizzy water machine manufactured in Israel.
The company is on the BDS list of companies to boycott partly because of its treatment of Palestinian workers.
Next, the marchers headed to Sackville’s Town Hall where poet Marilyn Lerch promised to organize a resolution for Tantramar Council to pass calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.