A large group of demonstrators rallying in support of Palestinians filled Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square Saturday October 28th, calling for a ceasefire even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his nation it will not surrender or withdraw from Gaza until its goal of eliminating Hamas is complete.
The demonstrators joined hundreds of thousands of others across the globe who rallied in support of Palestinians on Saturday.
Why No Ceasefire
Last week the United States clearly rejected growing calls to support a cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas because such a move would only benefit Hamas, a White House spokesman said.
The spokesman, John F. Kirby, explained the Biden administration supported pauses in the conflict to allow the flow of humanitarian aid. However he acknowledged civilian casualties were all but inevitable as Israel tries to obliterate Hamas in Gaza.
“We’re going to continue to make sure Israel has the tools and the capabilities that they need to defend themselves,” Mr. Kirby indicated. “We’re going to continue to try to get that humanitarian assistance in, and we’re going to continue to try to get hostages and people out of Gaza appropriately.”
Mr. Kirby added, “A cease-fire, right now, really only benefits Hamas.”
“It is ugly and it’s going to be messy, and innocent civilians are going to be hurt going forward,” he stated.
U.S. and Israeli officials have consistently rejected calls for a cease-fire, insisting that Israel must be given time to eradicate Hamas. However the calls for an end to the fighting are growing louder.
Last Tuesday, the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, called for a humanitarian cease-fire in an address to the U.N. Security Council. Mr. Guterres concluded it was integral to recognize that the attacks by Hamas “did not happen in a vacuum” and that Palestinians had been subjected to 56 years of “suffocating occupation.”
“The grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas,” he said. “And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”
In recent weeks, President Biden has faced pressure from members of his own party in Congress, as well as progressive Jewish groups, who staged a protest against the war on Capitol Hill.
A Humanitarian Pause
US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken informed the Security Council that humanitarian pauses “must be considered” to allow food, water and other necessities to reach Gaza and for civilians to get out of harm’s way.
“There is no hierarchy when it comes to protecting a civilian’s life,” he said. “Civilians are civilians.” On CBS’s “Face The Nation” last Sunday Mr. Blinkin reminded viewers, “Israel has to do everything it can to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Freezing things in place where they are now would allow Hamas to remain where it is and to repeat what it’s done sometime in the future. No country could accept that.”
The U.N. agency that aids Palestinians, UNRWA, has warned that the region is running low on fuel, which would particularly affect hospitals that are operating generators. Mr. Kirby responded that the United States would continue to work to get fuel into Gaza, but added that Israel had a legitimate concern that Hamas would use it for military purposes.
Are Jews Safe Anywhere
A mob in Russia’s mostly Muslim region of Dagestan on October 29 stormed the airport in Makhachkala in search of Jewish passengers arriving from Israel.
Over the past few days, local people have besieged a hotel in search of Jewish guests and literally invaded the airport after reports emerged that a flight from Tel Aviv was arriving in the city. Passengers were coerced to find refuge in planes or hide in the airport for fear of being attacked. Local health authorities assessed that 20 people had been injured, including two who were critical.
Video posted to social media showed hundreds of young men, some carrying Palestinian flags or placards denouncing Israel, running onto the tarmac of the Makhachkala international airport and climbing on to idling planes, attempting to break through the windows.
Airline employees were shown hustling passengers back inside planes as the crowds approached the aircraft. Russia closed the Makhachkala airport on Sunday evening due to “intruders”.
“This is your captain,” one announcement said. “There’s an angry mob outside that doesn’t know where we’ve come from and why [we are here]. It’s possible we’ll also come under attack.”
The riots appear to have been inspired by a number of posts on the social media platform Telegram, where followers were told that a flight from Tel Aviv would be arriving that evening with refugees from Israel.
Some of the signs held by the rioters read, “We are against Jewish refugees”. Police stood by as hundreds of protesters surged into the airport’s main terminal, entering restricted areas and demanding that customs officials direct them toward the arriving passengers.
Followers of Utro Dagestan, one of the Telegram accounts that regularly carries news mixed with conspiracy theories, were told to besiege the local airport, interrogate arriving passengers and demand that they denounce the Israeli government. The account also called on local people to follow any arriving Israelis, take pictures of their vehicles and write down the addresses where they were staying.
Other videos from the airport showed people accosting airline passengers, including those who appeared to have just arrived on the flight from Israel.
The head of Dagestan, Sergei Melikov, blamed external actors for the riots, saying they occurred “because of fakes spread by our enemies”.
Russia’s aviation authority commented that all “unauthorized citizens” had been removed from the airport and video clips circulating online appeared to show police arresting some protesters.
Local religious authorities have suggested that they may need to evacuate an estimated 800 Jewish families from across Dagestan, many of them in the southern city of Derbent.
“The situation is very difficult in Dagestan. People from the community are afraid, they call, and I do not know what to advise,” Ovadya Isakov, a government representative of the local Jewish community, told the Podyom news outlet. “Is it worth leaving? Because Russia is not our salvation. There were pogroms in Russia too. It is unclear where to run.”
Khabib Nurmagomedov, a former mixed-martial arts champion and possibly the most famous figure in Dagestan, posted to more than 35 million followers on Instagram earlier this month that Israel was engaged in “genocide” in Gaza.
Reports of anti-Jewish acts were not confined to Makhachkala. In Nalchik, another city in the neighboring Kabardino-Balkaria region, a Jewish center was set on fire. Protesters also besieged a hotel in the Dagestani city of Khasavyurt, searching rooms for “Jewish refugees”.
“We are receiving reports from 4 different cities in Dagestan … of mobs demanding to kill the Jews,” tweeted Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, a former chief rabbi of Moscow who left in 2022 after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. “A direct result of the Russian government’s siding with Hamas in this conflict and lack of condemnation of the massacre of 7/10.”
Nearly 35,000 pro-Palestinian protesters marched through the streets of Madrid, calling “Freedom for Palestine.” Tens of thousands of Moroccans marched through Casablanca in a show of solidarity with Palestinians, AFP reported. There were also large demonstrations in Greece and Pakistan.
On Wednesday, Jewish students at New York’s Cooper Union College were locked in their school’s library for 20 minutes, as pro-Palestinian demonstrators pounded on the doors and shouted anti-Israel slogans.
The incident moved the White House to issue a statement against college campus antisemitism, which has risen dramatically since October 7.
“There is an extremely disturbing pattern of antisemitic messages being conveyed on college campuses,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told The Times of Israel.
“Just over the past week, we’ve seen protests and statements on college campuses that call for the annihilation of the State of Israel; for genocide against the Jewish people. Jewish students have even had to barricade themselves inside buildings,” he said.
In Pakistan, thousands of supporters of the country’s main politico-religious party rallied in the capital city of Islamabad on Sunday, chanting anti-American slogans and accusing the US of “backing the aggressor.”
The extreme right party, Jamaat-e-Islami, had announced a march from Islamabad’s famous Abpara intersection to the US embassy in the high security diplomatic enclave.
However, stern action by the authorities the previous night forced the religious party to modify its program and hold the rally in a major street well away from the protected area. Police pulled down the party’s encampments on Saturday night, detaining the local leadership and dozens of supporters.
Because of the plan announced by Jamaat-e-Islami and the risk of violence, the US embassy issued an advisory for American citizens living in Islamabad and the surrounding area to “limit unnecessary travel on Sunday.”
The Jamaat-e-Islami supporters, including women and children, marched for a couple of kilometres to reach the agreed venue. They held banners and posters with slogans opposing Israel and the United States and in support of the Palestinians.
“Just sending medicines and relief goods is neither sufficient, nor is it the sole duty of the world, particularly of Muslim rulers, but to stay the hand of the aggressor is the real task of the world,” said Haq. He urged the leaders of the Muslim world to rise up for Gaza, and to rely on Allah instead of remaining the slave of America.
Jamaat-e-Islami will continue to raise its collective voice for the Palestinians until they free their land, he exclaimed.
Another religious party, Jamiat Ulema Islam, held a massive rally in the southwestern city of Quetta, where its leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman expressed solidarity and support for Gazans.c
The Right To Protest
In front of Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate, 10,000 people rallied in solidarity with Israel. Major political parties backed the event. In a rousing speech, Germany’s president heralded a national responsibility to “protect Jewish life.”
A few blocks away, officers in riot gear moved in on a much smaller gathering, where demonstrators defying a protest ban waved Palestinian flags. Some attendees were led away, their hands bound. Others scattered, venting in rage.
“Everyone has the right to grieve,” said Rabea, a 28-year-old woman with family in the Gaza Strip who agreed to be identified only by her first name as the banned protest dispersed on Sunday. “Everyone has the right to tell their story.”
National and local governments in major European countries have blocked pro-Palestinian protests and detained hundreds of protesters, citing an overriding interest in public order and safety. In the city of Berlin, schools have been given permission to ban traditional keffiyeh scarves, maps of Israel in the colors of the Palestinian flag and stickers that say “Free Palestine.”
Critical voices, though, question whether the protest restrictions are grounded in valid safety concerns or reflect government overreach and bias — sustained even as universal revulsion of the horrific Hamas attack on Oct. 7 gives way to alarm over the soaring body count from Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
Regardless, Germany, France, Italy and Britain, along with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, have offered overwhelming support for Israel.
That diplomatic backing has been accompanied by nods to an unpayable debt still owed to Judaism. The government of hard right Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, for instance, backed funding for a new Holocaust museum, potentially in the Rome villa once used by the country’s fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini.
“It’s our duty to make it so that the evil of the criminal Nazi-Fascist design, and the shameful racial laws, aren’t forgotten,” Italy’s culture minister, Gennaro Sangiuliano, said in a statement. “That is even more relevant today … as we witness Hamas’ massacres in Israel.”
In Vienna, police banned a pro-Palestinian protest only hours before its official start because organizers used the “from the River to Sea” slogan in online invitations.
Perhaps nowhere is the issue of slogans and demonstrations more sensitive than in Germany, home to Europe’s largest Palestinian population, but also where the shadow of the Holocaust continues to inform so much thinking.
Freedom of expression, opinion and assembly are protected in Germany’s constitution. Authorities in the country’s 16 federal states have the power to limit assembly. In Berlin, officials have rejected most pro-Palestinian protests this month. When banning last Sunday’s “Peace in the Middle East” demonstration, police said it posed an immediate danger of “seditious, antisemitic exclamations, glorification of violence, conveying a willingness to use violence and thereby intimidation, as well violent activities.”
Hamburg, Germany’s second-largest city, has imposed a blanket, if temporary, ban. In some cities, attempts to flout the restrictions have led to clashes between riot police and protesters.
As in other European countries, the bans coincide with dramatic increases in antisemitic acts that have put authorities on high alert. Stars of David have been painted on the homes of Jewish residents and unknown assailants targeted a Jewish community center and synagogue with molotov cocktails.
In an address to the German parliament on Oct. 12, Chancellor Olaf Scholz delcared the pro-Palestinian group Samidoun would be outlawed after its supporters were seen celebrating in Berlin’s Neukölln district following the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.
In the end, the question remains should pro-Palestinean protests be allowed demanding a ceasefire for the people of Gaza to receive humanitarian aid? At the same time if those same protests become a launching pad for violence and calls for a global jihad, must they be stopped?