Under cloudy skies and a police escort, some 200 people, young and old, marched from Parliament Hill to the Qatar Embassy on Sunday to show support for Israel and urge the freedom of the remaining 136 hostages believed held by Hamas in Gaza.
The marchers — including grandchildren of Holocaust survivors — stood outside the embassy and read out the names of the hostages, demanding their immediate release. Qatar, along with the United States and Egypt, is trying to negotiate a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war in order to free the hostages and provide aid to the Palestinians inside Gaza.
Some organizers, who said they are afraid to publicly identify as Jewish because of the current rise in antisemitism, showed up at the march and prayer vigil just the same.
Lisa Levitan, the first grandchild of a Holocaust survivor, told this newspaper: “Never in my lifetime did I think we’d be here again.
“People often ask me why I continue speaking up. I think the more important question is: How can I not?’”
The march and vigil for Israel began at noon, some two hours before a pro-Palestinian demonstration at the human rights monument on Elgin Street. Palestinian supporters have been holding weekly demonstrations in Ottawa.
The events didn’t intersect and Ottawa police reported that, by 3 p.m., there had been no trouble. Ottawa police and bylaw enforcement sent several messages over social media over the last week, cautioning that, while protest is a right, “safety is paramount.”
“Understanding the bylaws that govern public demonstrations can help ensure that everyone — participants, bystanders, and law enforcement — can engage safely and peacefully,” Ottawa Bylaw posted.
The “Shut It Down For Palestine” demonstration was held to amplify calls for a permanent ceasefire and support for Palestinian refugees. It was organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement Ottawa, which says it “will rise from every corner of the world until all our demands are met.”
The war in Gaza began with Hamas’s Oct. 7 raid into southern Israel. Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped around 250 that day. Israel responded with an air and ground campaign that has reportedly so far killed about 27,000 Palestinians.
Israel has launched daily attacks, stepping up bombardments over the past week and triggering growing global alarm about the lack of food, fuel and other basic supplies for Gaza’s roughly 2.3 million residents. Canada is sending another $40 million in aid to organizations that are helping people in Gaza, after pausing funding to the UN’s relief agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, amid allegations that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees played a role in the Hamas attack in Israel on Oct. 7.
— With files from Citizen news services
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