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A protester's sign during the rally for Palestine in Downtown Peterborough on November 4th, 2023. Photo: Louane Morin.

Peterborough Mobilizes Against the Genocide of the Palestinian People

Written by
Louane Morin
and
and
November 7, 2023
Peterborough Mobilizes Against the Genocide of the Palestinian People
A protester's sign during the rally for Palestine in Downtown Peterborough on November 4th, 2023. Photo: Louane Morin.

On November 4th, the Peterborough chapter of the International Socialists hosted a demonstration at King Edward park, protesting Israel’s ongoing genocide on the Palestinian people. 

The event’s organizers and participants shared some important insights and calls to action with Arthur, before and after they marched along Lansdowne street, calling out various agents actively supporting the Netanyahu regime’s genocide. 

These cries were specifically directed at a McDonald’s and a Burger King , clamoring them to “stop feeding genocide”. The events ended with a return to King Edward park, where the protestors discussed this genocide, and the vitality of opposing the state of Israel as well as the various propaganda techniques it employs to justify its atrocities.

International Socialists (IS) of Peterborough—Nogojiwanong organizer, Peter Votsch, spoke to Arthur before the beginning of the protest.

Votsch explained the involvement of socialists in this movement, stating that “we as revolutionary socialists believe in human liberation—particularly liberation from colonialism”. 

He noted that Israel is “a colonial state in its inception” and that he and his movement sought to build “a movement here in Peterborough,” through “mass mobilization”. 

According to Votsch, “to make these actions as big as possible” is the only way we can “make real change in Palestine”. 

On Canada’s and Peterborough’s role in the perpetuation of colonialism, Votsch said that “[Peterborough and Canada as a whole are] standing with the status quo around Israel”, a stance that “extends to other forms of violence against people who suffer from oppression” particularly referring to the repression and violence against unhoused persons enforced locally, and all over Canada.

International Social Ptbo-Nogo organizer Peter Votsch poses for a photo at the November 4th demonstration. Votsch, a CUPE retiree and lifelong trade unionist, helped organize the demonstration in support of the people of Palestine. Photo: Evan Robins.

The IS ethos of synchronicity between Socialist and anti-colonial struggles was echoed by the other socialist group present—Fightback, a youth division of the International Marxist Tendency. 

Arthur spoke to Fightback organizers Malhar and Alexis about their group, and the reasons behind its presence at this event. 

When asked about the significance of Socialist allyship to the Palestinian struggle, Alexis noted that they “wouldn’t even call this allyship”, explaining that they “don’t think we’re simply allies”, that “it is the same struggle, just in different aspects”. 

Alexis asserted that decolonial struggles on Turtle Island and Palestine “can not be treated as separate”, emphasizing the value of “strength in unity”. 

Malhar added that British imperialists had “ravaged” their country of origin, Pakistan. The tactic of the British Imperialists in Pakistan was one of “divide and rule”, one necessarily countered by a united Socialist struggle. 

Fightback’s presence was also motivated by Alexis and Malhar’s convictions on the role of Capitalism’s profit-driven model in creating genocides. 

Alexis explained that “as soon as [Palestinians’] existence becomes a problem for the profits of the ruling class, then it becomes really easy to no longer treat them as human beings, and to treat them as collateral”, comparing this situation to Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where in the deaths of thousands of people were treated as a “necessary sacrifice for the continuation of the economy”.

The third organization present at this event was the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG)’s Peterborough chapter, represented by activist Katherine Langley. 

Langley spoke about OPIRG’s involvement in the fight for Palestinian liberation, noting that OPIRG is interested in “everything that affects people,” adding that “everything is political.” 

She explained that OPIRG Peterborough originated from Trent University, explaining that past OPIRG leader Matt Davidson had been “hammered” by Trent for taking a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions ( BDS) approach to activism. 

Langley also noted that she had “cautioned people” that signs relaying left-wing messages were “disappearing from Trent” and that Trent was a “very conservative place.”

She then stated the importance of intergenerationality in left-wing activism.

“I see people who are twenty, thirty, forty years older than I am and that makes me hopeful,” Langley said. If genocide is being inflicted unto Palestinians of all ages, she agreed that anti-colonial struggle must include peoples of all ages.

Among those present with no affiliation to any organization, many protestors were Palestinian-Canadians, speaking from a personal history with this genocide. 

Arthur spoke with three Palestinian protestors, Adham Abusalah as well as two people seeking to remain anonymous. 

Adham Abusalah explained that his Palestinian origin made his speaking for his country and people something “obvious”, that he “needs to do”. Abusalah shared that he still had family in Palestine, initially making him want to remain anonymous, for fear of repercussions against his family in the West Bank. 

He emphasized the role of Western media in promoting the genocide of Palestinian people, from social media sites banning and dispromoting displays of Palestinian reality to “completely [controlling] the story of what is going on [in Palestine]”.

This media control led to a massive dehumanization of Palestinians. Abusalah invoked the now-infamous tweet from Benjamin Nentanyahu’s X account calling Palestinians “children of darkness” following the “law of the jungle”. 

He related this to the case of 6-year old Wadea Al-Fayoume, stabbed twenty-six times by his family’s landlord, an Islamophobic hate crime fueled by the landlord’s consumption of anti-Palestinian media.

Abusalah commented on this demonstration, as well as the Palestinian liberation movement as a whole, “[wanting] people to be more aware of what is really going on,” “to understand that we are human as well”, that “it’s not about antisemitism, it’s not about Hamas using people as human shields, all these terms that [Zionists] came up with that are just there to justify what they’re doing”. 

He also noted that “it’s not a war between religions”, reminding that “who they’re killing right now are not just Muslims, but also Christians” and that “Jews are out there [...] protesting, and they’re still getting a lot of hate”. 

Arthur also spoke with two anonymous sources who are also Palestinian-Canadians standing up against Israel’s genocide. 

The first source explained their background, history as a Palestinian. They were originally from Gaza, but now believe they could “never” go back to their country. When the war started, this source’s family left Gaza, and now they believe that they will never be able to return to their homeland due to Israel’s draconian laws on entry into Palestine.

This protestor explained the fundamental hypocrisy they saw in Zionist propaganda – all Palestinians are being told to leave the country while Israel conducts its “war with Hamas” but once Palestinians have crossed the border, they can never come back. They explained “they want to clear Palestine – it’s not about Hamas anymore”. 

Another protester explained their desire for anonymity, stating that “I’m scared to show my name because I’m Palestinian. If I say my name and where I am, and wherever I work, I could be suspended, I could be kicked out from the country [...] but if I was Israeli, I could speak and be so proud, and I would [be] supported from everywhere around the world”. 

The conflation of any defense of Palestinian rights with terrorism puts Palestinian-Canadians in situations of fear, feeling as though speaking against genocide will get them “kicked out” of the country. 

When asked about the Western media and its production of Islamophobic propaganda, this source explained that “it’s not about Islamophobia,” “there’s some [Jewish people] who are with us, the Christians they’re killing…It’s not about religion.” 

This source asserted that Zionists use Judaism “as an excuse so they can take all of our land and kill the people there.” “it’s not about Jews, Jews are very kind people,” they continued before commending Jewish allyship to the Palestinian cause: “who did today’s protest? It is Jews.” 

The second protester explains their anonymity, echoing their colleague’s concerns in explaining “a lot of people that I know have lost their jobs, and there’s a website on the internet called Canary.org.”

“What they do is they dox people, they get their names, they contact their companies and they call [them] antisemitic,” they told Arthur

This source spoke about the context of those fighting for Hamas, explaining that the vast majority of them are “orphans” whose parents were killed by the IDF. 

The protester commended Arthur for speaking to the Palestinian people directly, asserting that “the media will never cover this” because “they don’t want you to feel bad for us and stand with us”. 

Fightback’s Malhar added that “since October seventh, since the attack on Israel, the five [largest defense companies in the world], the largest ones owned by the USA, their stock prices have gone up. This is war for profit, war is the biggest industry.”

Fightback’s Malhar as well as many other protestors brought up the divergent responses given to Ukraine and Palestine’s violent anti-colonial struggles with Alexis adding that “Ukrainians defending themselves is treated as the right to self-determination, whereas in Palestine, it is treated as terrorism.” 

One protestor explained that they were from Gaza, and that much of their family could not leave Palestine as they did. This protestor explained their opposition to the popular designation of Gaza as an ‘open air prison’, explaining that “when you get put in prison, you did a crime. They did not, they’re simply Palestinians.” 

Multiple people proposed the designation “open air concentration camp” – a more accurate portrayal of the genocidal intentions behind Palestinian mass imprisonment.

One of these protestors gave a chilling account of their experience growing up in Gaza, remembering their best friend being shot down while walking home when they were eight years old. They said “as long as I lived I never breathed normal air, it was all tear gas. When I came to Canada I was like ‘what is this air? this is new to me’” prompting general applause for their bravery.

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