Dozens gathered to condemn the ties between Canadian universities and Israel

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Amany Mohanna-Montreal

Dozens of protestors gathered in front of
Roddick Gate on Nov. 12 to advocate for Palestinian rights. The protest -called Student-Speak Out for Palestine- was hosted by organizations Solidarity for Human Rights (SPHR) Concordia, SPHR McGill, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU), and Palestinian Youth movement (PYM). 

According to Sarah Abdelshamy, an organiser with PYM Montreal, the main goal of the protest is raising awareness of McGill and Concordia students and urging them to put pressure on their universities administrations to divest from Israeli companies that contribute to the apartheid. 

The Speak Out gathering comes at the end of the downs for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions BDS week. This week is an annual event that SPHRs Concordia and McGill have organized since 2000. It provides many activities to promote the Palestinian cause and culture.

For about 90 minutes, the protesters circled the speakers who called for justice for the Palestinian people. Specifically, they demanded the immediate liberation of prisoners, especially kids, held under administrative detentions. It is a procedure committed by Israeli authorities to arrest individuals with no cases against them for an unlimited time.

They also condemned the ties between Canadian universities and Israel. "They are involved at the same time now with the Israeli apartheid regime, and it's not only your money that goes to Israel because of McGill but also your research there. Some of the research that you conduct is being sent to Israel, including their close ties to Ibis systems, which is a weapons manufacturer," said Chadi Marouf, the co-president of Palestinian Jewish unity and a SPHR founder. 

Besides the Palestinian voices, the Jewish activists had significant participation, “The mainstream institutional Jewish organisations would like to pretend that there is a monolithic block of Jewish narrative in Israel and that is simply not true” said Tamara Filyavich, membership engagement coordinator at IJV. “It’s important for us to show that there isn’t just one voice speaking for all Jews in this narrative,” Filyavich said. 

The protesters chanted slogans in English, French, and Arabic along with Palestinian Zzghrouta (a high-pitched vocal sound representing joy or salutation), and the organizers distributed stickers and held banners urged to boycott Israeli apartheid. 

"We are asking for respect for the rights of Palestinians, the right to their country, their language, their way of life. They are more and more restricted in Israel because that the occupied territories," said Emily Drysdale, a member of PAJU who was engaged in distributing brochures showing the decrease of Palestinian territories during the last seven decades because of the Israeli colonization. 

The attendees were diverse, including Canadian and non-Canadian protesters. "This is a human rights violation; I don't think you have to be Palestinian to be fighting for this cause; we see massive injustice everywhere in this world. There’s colonization here in Canada, there's colonization there in Israel, and Australia as well” said Emily Hardie, a McGill student. “I think we have to fight against these massive injustices and oppression of communities and peoples constantly around the world for everyone," Hardie said. 

Karim Farekh is an international student from Dubai whose ancestors belong originally to Jaffa and suffered from Palestinian diaspora "I thought I'd come to show my solidarity for the Palestinian people on a cause that I care so deeply about something that my grandparents went through their exile in 1948," said Farekh. 

In addition to event organizers, some attendees were given the opportunity to share their words. Zeina Jhaish is an education student and poet who chanted a poem called  Martini Bloodcloud. 

 Jhaish emphasized the need for representing Palestine’s rich cultural legacy. "I'm just here to continue their legacy (of Palestinian poets) and be a part of the diaspora community in Montreal. I’m hoping to spread love about our cause." Said Jhaish.