Crowd calls for liberation of Palestine at Kingston rally

October 19, 2023

By Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News

A large group gathered in Kingston's Springer Market Square on Wednesday afternoon, coming together to call for the liberation of Palestine and promising that it won't be the end of activism as violence continues to rampage Gaza.

A crowd of over 100 was on hand to listen to speakers and march around City Hall on Wednesday afternoon, with the return of students from reading week resulting in a larger attendance than that seen at last week's rally.

Tensions are as high as ever as over 500 people at al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza were killed in a missile strike on Tuesday night, however Israel has to this point denied bombing the hospital and has blamed the explosion on a misfired rocket by Islamic Jihad.

Regardless of blame, the continued loss of innocent lives in Gaza has further ignited the desire for Palestinian supporters in Canada and other countries to see a ceasefire and an end to all Israeli occupation.

Yara Hussein from Queen’s Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) said those fighting for Palestinian liberation have been motivated for years and don't need anymore reason to remain engaged, but the continued barrage of news about death and destruction is providing it.

"We do get swamped by the news and that's exactly what provokes our emotion," Hussein said.

"Every single child that dies is prolonging this cause... we will not stop until the siege on Gaza ends and Israel stops dropping bombs on the people. People are motivated, we've been motivated for years."

One of Wednesday's speakers was Wolfe Erlichman, a Jewish man from Kingston who is part of a group called Independent Jewish Voices and says his views on relations between Israel and Palestine put him in the minority among Jews around the world.

Independent Jewish Voices is an organization with chapters in many cities, with a vision for a just peace in Israel-Palestine based on principles of equality and human rights, supporting movements like Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

Erlichman says he's not and has never been happy with the way Israel treats Palestinians, and that the conflation of criticizing Israel with anti-semitism is a sentiment that has "worn thin" for him and many other Jewish people.

He says that western governments, including Canada, need to stop adopting the stance that any criticism of Israel is inherently anti-semitic.

"They talk about rising rates of anti-semitism," Erlichman said.

"What they mean by that is more and more people are saying 'Free Palestine', that's their idea of rising rates of anti-semitism."

Wednesday's demonstration also included the circulating of a QR code to send the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister letters that include a statement from the people of Gaza with their demands for opening a humanitarian corridor for electricity, food, water, and medical supplies.

SPHR's Hussein says the voices of the resistance are being heard slowly but surely by local, provincial and federal governments, and that they will continue pushing for change.

"This is not our last demonstration, we're going to keep going until Palestine is liberated," Hussein said.

"Until the siege on Gaza ends and until our Canadian government listens."