Hundreds of students walked out of classes at John McCrae Secondary School and Longfields Davidson Heights Secondary School Wed., Nov. 15 in a pro-Palestinian march.
“We want a ceasefire,” said Sara Farajallah, one of the rally organizers, in an interview with CTV Ottawa. “We want peace. We want people to stop dying. We just want our people to live in peace and harmony in Palestine. I have a lot of family in Gaza that have been affected, that have been killed.”
The pro-Palestinian rallies started happening throughout the country immediately after the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel that killed 1400 Israelis. Many of the pro-Palestinian rallies have celebrated the attack on Israel, and one of the controversial hot buttons has been the chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Historically, that chant has been a call for genocide against the Jews and the eradication of Israel. According to Ottawa lawyer Lawrence Greenspon, that chant qualifies as a hate crime in Canada. Greenspon spoke in a Zoom webinar with Sergeant Ali Toghrol, who heads the Hate and Bias Crime Unit of the Ottawa Police Service.
“I don’t think that (chant) is anything short of advocating genocide of Jews from the river to the sea,” said Greenspon. “That’s what’s in the charter of Hamas. They are sworn to eliminate Jews period. That’s it.”
Protest organizers reached out to the Ottawa Police Service ahead of time to assure them that there would be no anti-Semitic messages or messages of hate. They also assured the police that there would be no messages of hate or antisemitism.
“The first step is to call for a ceasefire” Oussama Marai, one of the rally organizers, told CTV Ottawa. “They have announced daily four-hour humanitarian pauses, but this is not enough. I believe it can happen if enough pressure is applied by the international community. Not just Canada, but also the U.S. This is a message to Joe Biden as well. This is a message to France, this is a message to the U.K. It’s not just Canada that’s involved. This is an international problem.”
The Jewish community in Barrhaven has been faced with a sharp rise in antisemitism in the community. The problem has worsened since Oct. 7, but it is not new. In the summer of 2019, the Barrhaven Independent published a feature on the growing antisemitism problem in the community.
“No one here is mentioning anything about hate. We do not want any of that. All we want is to be free,” Laian Farhoud told CTV Ottawa.
Students from John McCrae and Longfield Davidson Heights Secondary Schools gathered in the shopping plaza parking lot at Greenbank and Berrigan for a pro-Palestine rally. (CTV Ottawa screenshot)