Toronto – Outside of the Israeli Consulate in downtown Toronto Sunday, both Israeli and Palestinian supporters held protests on Nakba Day, or Day of Catastrophe – a commemoration of the displacement of the Palestinian people in 1948.
Nearly one year ago, protests were held around the globe condemning the Israeli raid against an aid convoy that was headed towards Gaza. Both Israeli and Palestinian demonstrations took place in front of numerous Embassies and Consulates, including the Israeli Consulate in Toronto.
A year later, it was déjà vu all over again, except this time the protests marked Nakba Day, an annual event held to commemorate the 1948 displacement of the Palestinian people during the creation of Israel, which has led to turmoil and suffering ever since.
In 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians fled the nation and hundreds of Palestinian villages were destroyed in the process. It has been noted that many Palestinian nationals were not allowed to return to their homes or reclaim their property.
The Israeli Ministry of Education has banned the word Nakba from its textbooks. Following that ban, the Israeli government voted in favor of reducing funding for non-governmental organizations that observe May 15.
Pro-Israel organizations hold rallies in opposition to this day and organizers state that “Nakba is a myth.”
Standing in front of the Royal Ontario Museum on a chilly, rainy day, dozens of Palestinian supporters carried Palestine flags and keys made out of cardboard – the key symbolizes lost villages, homes and a nation.
The chants of “Free free Palestine,” “No justice, no peace” and “Palestine will be free” echoed throughout the area. Protestors also carried signs condemning Israel’s actions and urged freedom for Palestine.
One young lady held an elaborate poster that stated: “I am not anti-Semitic… I am anti-apartheid, anti-collective punishment, anti-state terrorism, anti-illegal weapon, anti-illegal blockade.” On the back of the sign, she disparaged Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority government of giving money to Israel.
“Yo [dear scratched out] Harper, Thanks for donating my tax money to the country that has more UN human rights violations than the rest of the countries combined,” she wrote on the poster.
On the opposite side of the street, the Jewish Defence League held a counter protest. Dozens of supporters of Israel waved Canadian and Israeli flags and chanted in unison that “Nakba is a myth.”
In front of the group was a large signpost stating that they “remember the ethnic cleansing of the Jews from Arab countries.”
Meanwhile, one activist, standing in front of plastic missiles covered in the flag of Palestine, held up a sign that wrote: “Stick the Nakba up your wazoo.” Another person had a sign calling Nakba “just another Arab myth.”
In a news release, the organization stated: “All these anti Israel groups pass the third test of anti-Semitism; demonization, double standards and deligitimization.” It added that many of these organizations tries to identify Israel as an “apartheid state.”
“Nakba is possibly one of the most important days because of its historical significance in the Middle East and it’s a sad story of how the Palestinians are continuing to struggle,” said a female activist who preferred to speak on the condition of anonymity in an interview with Helium. “Although I strongly disagree with them [the Israeli protests], I am glad they are here because we show the world what their country is doing to my people.”
She added that these Israeli groups who defend their government continually attempt to label them as anti-Semites. “It’s pitiful that whenever you criticize Israel, you are labelled as anti-Semitic. I think it’s rather sad on their part. We’re trying to have a civilized, peaceful discussion and they just throw ad hominem attacks at those who want justice.”
The activist concluded that she remains optimistic and realizes that the people of Palestine will eventually reclaim their land, but will always work with neighbouring countries and “not persecute.”
When the Israeli side yelled: “There is no Palestine,” the other side immediately retorted: “There is a Palestine.”
In the Middle East, according to Agence-France Presse, Israeli security forces shot and killed at least 12 people and wounded hundreds more. Palestinians marched along the Israeli borders of Gaza, Lebanon and Syria to commemorate Destruction Day.