Protestors in several Canadian cities waved placards and Palestinian flags denouncing the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza. In Ottawa, more than 500 demonstrators marched on the steps of Parliament Hill, eventually walking to the Israeli and U.S. embassies. A gathering of several thousand people in Toronto followed suit. Events also took place in Montreal and Vancouver.

Many of those in Ottawa were self-identified Palestinian-Canadians, as well as a few Jewish-Canadians opposed to Israel’s policies in Gaza and the West Bank. Pro-Israel counter-protesters, most of whom were organized by the Jewish Defence League (JDL) in Toronto, sought to bring Israel’s reasons for the attack to the fore.

In Toronto, a protest became particularly tense, as pro-Palestinian protesters of all ages gathered downtown and stood across approximately 200 pro-Israel demonstrators. Dozens of police on foot, horseback and bicycles monitored the two groups as they hurled insults at each other. Barriers set up down the middle of central Yonge street kept them apart. Traffic came to a standstill as the pro-Palestinian demonstrators, chanting “Free Palestine” from loudspeakers on the back of a pickup truck, marched two kilometres to the Israeli consulate on Bloor St. The pro-Israel group took a parallel route up a parallel street to the same destination.

At the same time, national Jewish organizations sounded alarm bells this week about what they consider hateful or discriminatory action carried out in Canada by those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. The Canadian Jewish Congress on Monday condemned “heinous slogans, placards and chants calling for the murder of Jews” at a pro-Palestinian rally in Montreal last weekend.

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