By Nazeefa Ahmed, November 1 2023—
On Oct. 30 and Nov. 10, hundreds of students gathered in front of MacEwan Hall to protest the current conflicts in Israel. The protests were organized by the Palestine Advocacy Club and the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) at the University of Calgary. The two groups called for the university to release another statement condemning Israel’s actions.
“We call on the university to make a statement on the massacre of civilians in Gaza, growing Islamophobia, the need for an immediate ceasefire and the continued illegal occupation for 75+ years,” read a statement from a co-published instagram post.
Pamphlets and brochures that summarized the conflict were distributed to people passing by. The students chanted for the freedom of the Palestinian people as well as an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, criticizing the recent bombings in civilian-dense areas.
“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free. Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry. Palestine will never die. Free free Palestine. Netanyahu, what do you say? How many kids did you kill today?” the students called in unison.
On Nov. 10, the students directly called on Ed McCauley, criticizing his email to the U of C community sent on Oct. 10.
“Hey McCauley, where are you hiding? Your email has hypocrisy, stop denying,” said the students.
Protester Siraaj Shah described how the event aimed to show the collective disapproval of U of C students after the initial statement released by the U of C on Oct. 10.
“This is a show of solidarity with the Palestinian movement. It is a showcase of student voices on how we are disappointed not only with the university but the university’s response after the statement. We are hoping the voices here are heard overall,” said Shah.
Protester Arhaam Mukati spoke about how the email did not adequately represent the history of the Palestinian people.
“We believe that the university has to stay consistent with its political and moral messaging,” said Mukati. “When you see more than 75 years of a nation being occupied illegally under international law, something even Canada recognizes, it’s sad that they choose to make one side of the political statement and ignore the other side.”
Observer Matej Harsany criticized the protest, stating that it can be seen as people justifying the killing of Jewish people.
“I think everyone has the freedom to respectfully express the way they feel. I think with an issue like this it seems a little bit counter-intuitive to me at times that there are people protesting for what could be seen as the killing of innocent people on either side in relation to the Palestinian protest that we are at right now,” said Harsany.
“I think this could be very easily misconstrued as people seeing the killing of Jews as being something that should be supported or something that’s justified,” Harsany continued.
On Nov. 10, in a response to statements regarding whether or not protesting for the Palestinians were categorized as hate speech or killing of Jewish people, protestor Albaraa Atmeh stated that standing for the Palestinians killed by the Israeli government does not fall under that category.
“Our speech is not hate speech. Advocating for justice, for humanity and for the freedom of the Palestinian people is not hate speech,” said Atmeh.
Atmeh mentioned how those who attempt to deflect the history of the Palestinians, by accusing protestors of anti-semitism, are not accurately contextualizing the conflict, rather relying on Hama’s attack on Oct. 7 as an absolute representation of the decade-long struggle.
“That’s why they don’t speak the truth,” said Atmeh. “They want to side with oppression and they don’t have any justification for it. That’s why they don’t bring up the past because if they do, they will prove themselves wrong.”
Tania Villalobos joined the crowd of students to increase her knowledge about the issue beyond what she was observing online. As someone without a direct connection to the Israel-Palestine conflict, she still finds it difficult to process.
“I know that there is a lot of information, but I came here to learn more, to hear from direct voices,” said Villalobos. “It is so sad what is happening and I sometimes feel like donating money is not enough and posting on social media is not enough.”
Aiden Rempel also joined the protest to hear what students were saying about the conflict. His exposure has been mainly through online mediums as well.
“I have seen a lot of stuff on TikTok about what is going on in Israel and Palestine and have had a couple of debates about what is going on. I came to see what people were talking about,” said Rempel. “It’s really sad and awful to see what is happening to the Palestinian people.”
Police and campus security were present at the demonstration but there were no reports of violence.
More information can be found on the Palestine Advocacy Club’s Instagram page.
Article updated on Nov. 15 2023