The annual Al-Quds Day protest in Toronto, Canada drew large crowds to the streets of the city on 2 July, demanding freedom and liberation for Palestine. Part of actions around the world including millions of people, the Al-Quds Day protest also faced threats by extreme-right Zionist organization, the Jewish Defense League, involved in violent attacks on Palestinian and pro-Palestinian organizations and individuals in the US, France and elsewhere.
Despite a large police presence, the huge Al-Quds Day crowd massively outnumbered the extreme right counterprotesters. Speakers addressed the crowd, calling for justice for Palestine, including Moulana Abbas Abedi, Sakina, Ken Stone, Wael Ghuneim, Amin El-Moued, Ali Mallah, Husein Mojtahedy, and representatives of Neturei Karta.
Nadia Shoufani of Actions4Palestine – an endorser of the call to action for freedom for Bilal Kayed – spoke on behalf of the broad Palestine solidarity movement in Toronto at the rally in a powerful speech, urging participation in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, support for the Palestinian resistance, and freedom for Palestinian political prisoners, focusing on the case of Bilal Kayed, on hunger strike since 15 June for freedom from administrative detention. Kayed was ordered to administrative detention upon the completion of his 14.5 year sentence in Israeli prison on 13 June; his case threatens a dangerous precedent of indefinite detention of Palestinian prisoners following the expiration of their sentences.
Kayed is one of 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and 750 held under administrative detention, indefinitely renewable by military order without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence.
Shoufani quoted Ghassan Kanafani, “The Palestinian cause is not a cause for Palestinians only, but a cause for every revolutionary…a cause of the exploited and oppressed masses in our era.”
She denounced international silence “on Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people….including street executions taking place daily by Israeli occupation soldiers and Zionist settlers, youth arrest raids, home demolitions, takeover of lands and homes….We are here to tell the world that Palestinians are not alone. No to the so-called peace with the occupier!”
Shoufani highlighted the Israeli military attacks on Al-Khalil, saying that “Yesterday, Israelis placed Al-Khalil city under blockade, a racist siege, a selective siege, exclusively just for Palestinians,” as the crowd shouted “Shame! Shame!”
“On this day…we need to salute and acknowledge, stand in solidarity and demand the release of prisoners, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons,” said Shoufani. “We salute and demand the freedom of Bilal Kayed…who was scheduled to be released on June 13th after 14 and one-half years of imprisonment. Instead of being released, he was ordered to six extra months of adminsitratioe detention without charge or trial…Bilal Kayed has launched an open hunger strike demanding his freedom. This illegal Israeli order of administrative detention is seen as an attempt to set a precedent of the future indefinite detention of Palestinian prisoners after the completion of their sentence.”
She linked the attack on Kayed and fellow Palestinian prisoners to the imprisonment of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, Lebanese Arab struggler for Palestine, imprisoned in French jails for 32 years, demanding the immediate release of Abdallah.
“I urge you to speak up, to resist this occupation, and support the steadfastness of Palestinians, support their resistance, in any form that is possible. I urge you to support BDS – boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. This is the least we can do here in Canada,” said Shoufani, closing with a rousing chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”
Photos via Al-Quds Day Photo Gallery