Anti-Israel protests surge after Iranian drone attack

Protesters at anti-Israel demonstrations across Canada ratcheted up their rhetoric after Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles aimed at military targets in Israel.

In Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa, and Montreal some protesters gathered in celebration of the attack, while others seized the opportunity to show support for the totalitarian regimes in Gaza and Iran.

A pro-Palestine protest in Toronto was interrupted by the news that “the Islamic Republic of Iran has just sent tens of drones towards Israel.” The crowd, who had gathered to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, cheered at the news.

At a rally outside Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek’s office, a man gave a Nazi salute while holding an image of the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In Ottawa, a group of protesters chant to the tune of Yankee Doodle, the American patriot song, “they (Jews) say that they’re indigenous but they all came from Europe. Leave Palestine alone…and then go back to Europe.”

Montreal protesters sang too, but in this instance it was to swear allegiance to Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas and the orchestrator of the Oct. 7 terrorist attack in which, Hamas killed over 1,200 people and abducted 240 more.

Richard Robertson, the director of research and advocacy at B’nai Brith, a Jewish rights organization in Canada, spoke with True North on the rise of antisemitism in Canada.

“It was incredibly disheartening to see praise for the ayatollah in celebration of the Iranian attacks…(and) some of the chanting for Jews to go back to Europe in the immediate wake of the Iranian attack on Israel this weekend,” Robertson said.

Though disheartened, Robertson doesn’t think any of this is new or surprising.

“This is what happens from the exacerbation and the continuation of months of incitement and the emboldening of vitriolic protests by the inaction on the part of our municipal, provincial and federal leaders,” Robertson said “This is the result of months of incitement that has (been) allowed to continue unabated.”

He said the protests are inciting and emboldening hatred, and some Canadians participating in the rallies might not fully realize they are helping to promote antisemitism.

“Many individuals partaking in the protests may not even appreciate the sayings and the chants that are being utilized, many of which are calling for the erasure or the destruction of the state of Israel, that’s genocidal,” Robertson said. “They are calling for the destruction of the Jewish homeland, the only Jewish nation state on earth, and oftentimes, are denying Jews of their indigeneity. This is all very harmful. It’s caustic, and it’s an affront to Canadian morals and values.”

B’nai Brith advocates for the government to enforce existing laws and to proactively stop the fomenting of hate at these protests.

“B’nai Brith has been clear from the outset, there is no place for days of hate like, Al-Qud’s Day and like what some of these rallies have devolved into in Canada,” Robertson said. “We’ve asked, government not to ban protest, but to prevent the escalation of protests into environments that are conclusive of the proliferating of antisemitism and the fomenting of hate.”

B’nai Brith is also looking to expand protections for Jewish people under the Criminal Code, which prohibits Holocaust denial and distortion but Robertson feels should be expanded to “all forms” of antisemitic hate speech.

“The longer these protests are allowed to continue without a stern response from our authorities, the more emboldened those who participate in them get.”

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