Hundreds of Edmontonians showed up to a Free Palestine rally on October 18 to stand in solidarity with those under lockdown in the Gaza Strip, which Israel has bombarded since declaring war on Hamas on October 8.
“I’m Canadian-Palestinian and I wanted to stand with my country. I wanted to show the support. Even though we can’t do it back home we have to do it here,” said Rahmeel-Khatib, a participant at the rally.
The declaration was made in response to a large-scale attack on October 7 in which Hamas gunmen broke through a border and into Israeli territory. More than 1400 deaths and 200 hostages, many of which were civilians, have been reported on CNN.
Israeli forces have been bombing the densely populated Gaza Strip since shortly after the attack, doling out evacuation notices and restricting the entire population’s access to food, fuel, and water.
Since the official declaration of war, more than 6500 people have been killed in Gaza, with 2704 of them being children, The Washington Post reported.
“The exact reason why I came was to hope to force the hand of Western governments to play their part to condemn Israel and its actions finally. For the most part, we’ve seen the opposite reaction. They’ve instead supported Israel,” said Moustafa Chkair, another member of the rally.
The media has called Hamas’s attack “unprecedented,” but this framing ignores the historical context in the region and makes it seem as though it occurred in a vacuum.
According to Amnesty International, Israeli forces have been occupying Palestine since 1967, causing movement and resource restrictions on millions of Palestinians, and the physical displacement of many others.
“We’re Lebanese, and our family has also been struggling with Israeli occupation,” said Chkair. “This is all one struggle for our people.”
Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi shared a statement to X, formerly known as Twitter, that showed support for civilians on both sides of the conflict, and received both criticism and support for his balanced approach, according to Global News.
When events unfold across the globe, they can have a deep impact on people who live in our city. The attacks taking place in Israel and Gaza targeting innocent civilians are horrific.
I know that many Edmontonians have friends and family in these areas, and I am extending my…
— Amarjeet Sohi (@AmarjeetSohiYEG) October 8, 2023
Many national leaders, including Justin Trudeau, have made statements in support of Israel and its “right to defend itself, in accordance with international law,” as Trudeau’s statement says.
“Essentially the western governments are saying it’s alright to respond to terror with more terror. Let’s hope this ends well, simply put,” Chkair said.
The ongoing conflict has been a sensitive topic, with divisive language and demands that people choose a side, taking attention away from the real humanitarian issues happening right now and causing a rise in hate crimes and bigotry in the U.S. and Canada.
Actress and public figure Jameela Jamil shared a post on Instagram reminding people to be critical and not conflate Hamas with Islam or the majority of Palestinians, nor the Israeli government with the Jewish population, as this just fans the flames of hate and division.
“You don’t gotta be Palestinian to support, you just gotta be human,” Rahmeel-Khatib said.