Montréal Solidarity Demonstration for Gaza, January 10, 2009

SOLIDARITY WITH GAZAMontréal, on a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon, saw at least several thousand protesters turn out in solidarity with the people of Gaza. The crowd was massive, whose size was grossly if not deliberately understated by some of the national media — the length of the march stretched across several city blocks, often 10 people wide, and walking from the very back to the very front took me at least 25 minutes of very hard walking. The march itself moved almost at a snail’s pace, bunching up in places, with multiple small rallies occurring spontaneously within the larger march. A dozen or more political, community and social justice groups came out and helped to spread the word.

There was a “home” contingent as well. A fellow professor from Concordia University, who happens to be a Palestinian with family in Gaza, appeared to be cheered by the massive display of concern, grief, anger, and solidarity. I also met some students from my classes throughout the demonstration, while other Concordia students advertised upcoming films on Palestine to be shown at Concordia on January 19.

It was significant that this took place at the same time as rallies occurred across Canada, and across the world for that matter. Earlier in the day I read live reports via Twitter from Hyde Park in London, and other parts of Europe. After seeing the very low media profile at today’s event in Montreal, with journalists almost entirely absent, and none covering the entire event, I would tend to favour Twitter more for reliability than the press.

The impact? In line with the skeptical reflections of one commenter here, on a related post, it’s not clear that the Israeli state is at all moved by what the rest of the world thinks. For my part, and this is what motivated me to make the video, I wanted to make sure that people in Gaza knew, or would eventually know, that strangers and friends all over the world were thinking about them, mobilizing to support them, and manifesting their disgust with Israel. It’s important for people in Gaza to know that Israel’s “privileged” position as an American partner can be just as much a curse, and the outpouring of indignation across the planet shows that very few take Israel’s claims at face value. At least in terms of international opinion, Israel has gotten itself into a great deal of trouble this time, perhaps even more than it did with its grotesque attacks against Lebanon in 2006 (Israeli children signing cluster bombs that killed and maimed Lebanese children, for example). Eventually Israel will learn the value of positive world opinion, and hopefully not the hard way.


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