Heavy police presence as thousands of Israel supporters rally in downtown Montreal

Under grey skies and drizzle, thousands of joyful celebrants took part in a pro-Israel rally on Tuesday, with recorded drumming and upbeat music heard for blocks around Place du Canada.There was a heavy police presence, with members of the Montreal police tactical squad on standby near the square at René-Lévesque Blvd. and Peel St.As supporters of Israel waved flags, danced to festive music and posed for family selfies, police kept pro-Palestinian protesters behind orange tape across the street, at Dorchester Square.“It’s joyous because Israel has been able to survive and thrive for 76 years,” said Renna B., a rally attendee who declined to give her last name.“And we are a country that loves life. We do not worship death and we feel very badly for every death that occurs, whether it’s an Israeli or a Palestinian. We just want peace.”

The pro-Israel event comes as a war rages between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and as pro-Palestinian protesters occupy encampments at McGill University and the Université du Québec à Montréal.Speakers at the rally praised the crowd for standing together in support of Israel.On a large screen mounted beside the stage, videos of celebrities and dignitaries, including Israeli President Isaac Herzog, were played for the crowd.Herzog noted that Israel’s 76th year was marked by tragedy, an apparent reference to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that sparked the war, but “it reminds us of our core qualities and the power of our people to stand up against hatred.”Speakers included Consul General for Israel Paul Hirschson and Hampstead Mayor Jeremy Levi.

Conservative Member of Parliament Melissa Lantsman told the crowd Israel has the right to defend itself in its homeland. She said that if elected, the Conservatives would put Canada-Israel relations at the top of the agenda. She called pro-Palestinian encampments at Montreal campuses “outrageous.”Tribute was paid to Liberal MP Anthony Housefather for his continued support for Israel and Canadian Jewish communities.Via Twitter, Housefather, who helped initiate a parliamentary committee study about antisemitism on campuses, said he attended “to celebrate the state of Israel, the people of Israel.”


Speakers thanked a long list of politicians from various parties and levels of government, as well as leaders from a dozen different ethnic community groups in attendance.Among the pro-Israel supporters was a contingent of Filipino Montrealers carrying the flags of Canada, Israel and the Philippines.The annual event commemorates Israel’s Independence Day — May 14, 1948.

“This year marks 76 years since the Jewish people rose as a phoenix from the ashes of the Holocaust just three years earlier and created not only the Middle East’s single democracy but a vibrant, thriving society that has contributed so greatly to the family of free nations,” the Jewish Unity Partnership, which organized the event, said in a statement.Organizers told The Gazette about 150 private security personnel, including privately hired guards and volunteers, were to be on hand.Montreal4Palestine, a pro-Palestinian group, had urged its 35,000 followers on Instagram to stage a protest to denounce Israel at Place du Canada.

It said Israel’s “‘independence’ is our Nakba, our catastrophe — and has no right to be celebrated,” accusing Israel of being a “genocidal apartheid state” that “slaughtered countless Palestinians.” The group urged supporters not to engage with those celebrating Israel, “as our goal is to disrupt, not confront.”Nakba refers to the mass displacement of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

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