On Feb. 18, protesters gathered at Norman Bethune Square to condemn the ongoing incarceration of 17-year-old Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi. After a video of Tamimi slapping an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier circulated on social media, she was arrested at her home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on Dec. 19, 2017. Several members of her family have also since been arrested. Tamimi is one of over 300 Palestinian children currently under the Israeli military’s detention.
Following a Facebook event calling for a worldwide show of solidarity for Tamimi, Montreal was one of several cities to witness protests on Feb. 18. Tadamon!, a Montreal-based collective that works for self-determination, equality, and justice in the Middle East, jointly organized the protest with chapters of Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), including the one at McGill.
Chantelle Schultz, U3 Arts and SPHR McGill member, helped organize the protest as a way of expressing her personal support for Tamimi.
“I felt it was my obligation to do something,” Schultz said. “To show people that we care. Showing Ahed and all Palestinians that we stand in solidarity with them, and showing the Israeli state that we are watching, we are listening, and we refuse to accept what they’re doing.”
The Israeli occupation was presented at the protest as a political rather than religious issue by organizations like Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) McGill, a Jewish group whose mandate is to support a just, humanitarian, and legal resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. A member of the group present at the rally, who chose to remain anonymous, felt it was important that Jewish students in particular speak out against the Israeli government’s actions.
“I think it’s very important that Jews, especially Jews living in the diaspora, show that they do not condone what the State of Israel is doing,” the member said. “As a Jew, I am entirely and completely opposed to the Israeli state’s policies, actions, and colonial project.”
Overall, the protest drew people from different backgrounds. Montreal resident Ines El Jhadab does not belong to any movement or activist group, but was nonetheless compelled to join the event for humanitarian reasons.
“We cannot stand by and be spectators and observers,” El Jhadab said. “In 20 years, 30 years, when the next generation asks us, ‘what did you do?’ and we say ‘nothing,’ it will be impossible to live with.”
Protesters rallied behind Dolores Chew, a regular attendee of protests for Palestinian liberation, as she delivered a speech about the injustices of colonialism.
“Even when Palestine drops out of the news for us over here, Palestinian people need to live the daily indignities of occupation,” Chew said. “Palestinian children and teenagers, along with their families, have to suffer humiliation at the hands of Israeli soldiers, most of the soldiers themselves being close in age to Ahed, but with the crucial difference [being] that the soldiers have complete power of life and death over Palestinian children.”
Chew conveyed her disgust with the IDF’s ability to invade Palestinian homes, terrorize children, and shoot civilians.
“This is the Israeli state declaring ‘we can do this to you, and we can get away with it,’ but Ahed and her generation have said ‘no you cannot, and you will not,’” Chew said. “This is no childhood for Palestinian children. It is the occupation that makes fierce warriors like Ahed Tamimi. The children of Palestine declare to the world that the struggle will continue. Their generation will keep the flame of justice alive.”
Referencing the Israeli police force’s recent recommendation to indict Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Chew said she expects change. However, she warned the audience that Netanyahu will likely strike out against Palestine in retaliation.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu is facing the greatest crisis of his career and will stop at nothing to divert attention from himself, to make himself appear the saviour of the people of Israel,” Chew said. “But time is running out for you, Mr. Netanyahu, as it is running out for the occupation.”
Chew ended her speech with an expression of love and solidarity for Ahed and anti-occupation movements at large.
“The Zionist state is desperate and the illegal detention and trial of Ahed is testimony to that,” Chew said. “Ahed, we send you our love and deepest solidarity. You will be free. Palestine will be free.”