I don’t think i had ever seen as many Lebanese flags as at yesterday’s rally against Israeli aggression in downtown Montreal.
More than 500 – perhaps as many as a thousand, i can’t be sure because of how the crowd was spread – showed up to protest the ongoing carnage. Men, women and children, mostly Arab, listened to speeches and stood up to show their horror at what is happening in Lebanon today.
It was moving, upsetting, walking through the crowd, taking in that the signs – and also, it seems, the mood – was not so much anger (which i’m sure was there too, and is of course justified) as horror. Horror at what is being done, so quickly, and so brutally, to an entire population.
Some signs, which might normally make me sneer but in this context were all the more moving, read “I Am Ashamed to be a Human Being”, “We All Eat The Same Falafel”, and many many with photos of dead or maimed children, begging that attacks “stop targeting the innocent”.
Not that there was any visible policing of signs – there were one or two more militant placards which i spotted – my take is rather that the people there were simply representative of the mainstream of the Lebanese-Canadian community in Montreal.
There are 150,000 Lebanese-Canadians living in or around Montreal – in fact half of Canada’s Lebanese population lives here – and these people are obviously subject to all the contradictions of being a Third World immigrant community in a western imperialist country. The news reports for the past couple of days have all been highlighting Canadian efforts to rescues Canadians in Lebanon – several cruise ships have been hired for this purpose, and Israel has promised these Canadians safe passage – while yesterday both Conservative and Liberal MPs tried to score cheap racist points by suggesting that “real Canadians” be given priority, as those with dual citizenship caught in the carnage are not mere “accidental” (read: innocent, white) tourists. The whole issue is of course anything but academic as several Montrealers have already been killed in Lebanon.
And yet – as an immigrant community in a country which is lurching to the right – there are whole layers of what i call “protective politics” going on, the feeling that it’s important to prove one’s worth as a “real Canadian” even as the real Canada is complicit in the ongoing imperial slaughter in the Middle East. So of course the demo started with a stirring rendition of the national anthem, and yes you could see the odd maple leaf interspersed with the cedar tree flags. To me this is not so much deplorable as sad, the fact that people feel a need to reassure the butchers that they too are loyal members of the Canadian settler-nation.
Oh yeah, and the sentiment expressed by those signs saying “Harper Has Betrayed Lebanese Canadians”… really? Has he? To betray someone, you have to be on their side initially, you have to switch directions. Hasn’t this fucker always been clear about where he stands? (Oh yeah, and as to the other bourgeois mis-leaders who may be pretending sympathy… if they’re really upset about this there’s an easy solution: stop supporting the Tories. Harper only has a minority, and the moment the NDP, Liberals and Bloc decide it’s worth their while he’ll be out – it ain’t my idea of “how to change the government”, but seeing as these cretins always insist it’s the way their system “works” why don’t we see some action?)
There is a local anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian group which has been trying to build grassroots connections between Montreal and Beirut activist groups. Tadamon! has a regularly updated blog, with reports from members in Lebanon right now.
Actions against Israeli Aggression happening later this week:
1. SOLIDARITY CHAIN (info-picket with images of the atrocities) prior to US fireworks Wednesday, 19 July, gathering at 8pm Place Jacques Cartier, Vieux Montréal
Called by: Association des jeunes libanais musulmans Contact: Youssef Hariri, tel. 514 887-7156, email@example.com
2. FRIDAY VIGIL at ISRAELI CONSULATE Friday, 21 July, 12pm to 1pm NW corner of Peel and René-Levesque Called by: Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU)
**Also, SPHR is planning a rally on this day; details to be confirmed. Contact (PAJU): Daniel Saykaly, tel. 514 961 3928, firstname.lastname@example.org Contact (SPHR): Nasser Abukhdeir, tel 514 991 5146, email@example.com
3. 24-hour VIGIL at ISRAELI CONSULATE Starting after the PAJU vigil, continuing until the rally the following day. Corner of Peel and René-LévèsqueCalled by: Various groups Contact: Aaron Lakoff, tel 514 985 2085, firstname.lastname@example.org
4. INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION in solidarity with people in Lebanon and Gaza Saturday, 22 July, 2pm Gather at corner of Peel and René-Lévèsque
Called by: Canadian Muslim Forum Contact: Mohamed Kamel, tel 514 863 9202, email@example.com
5. RELIEF EFFORT FUND-RAISING As increasing numbers are displaced and wounded and civilian infrastructure is destroyed, there will be a huge need for well-directed funds to provide basic survival to people in Lebanon and Gaza. A crisis working group, Relief Center - Spears, has formed in Beirut to support refugees coming into the city: http://tadamon.resist.ca/index.php/?p=50. We will be fund-raising to help with the relief effort and possibly others (to be confirmed).
Contact: Lara di Tomaso, 514 695 0319, firstname.lastname@example.org
6. CALL-IN DAYS and FLYERS To let the government know that many people are outraged by their support for Israeli war crimes, one or more call-in days will be organised. In addition, flyers will be distributed at all events, urging people to call in to PM Stephan Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay. Contact: Nasser Abukhdeir, tel 514 991 5146, email@example.comAssociation des jeunes libanais musulmans Canadian Muslim Forum Coalition against the Deportation of Palestinian Refugees International Solidarity Movement MontrealMembers of the Lebanese Diaspora Members of the Palestinian Diaspora Palestinian And Jewish Unity (PAJU) Parole Arabe Presence musulmane Montréal (PMM) Solidarity with Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) Tadamon! Montreal Voices of Conscience