By TAYLOR PACE
A group of University of Waterloo students staged multiple peaceful protest in Waterloo Town Square last month to show their support for Palestine.
Around 50 people huddled in the cold on Dec. 17, waving the Palestinian flag, holding hand-made signs and chanting phrases like “From Palestine to Mexico, all the borders have to go,” and “From Turtle Island to Palestine, occupation is a crime.” Turtle Island is North America’s pre-colonial name.
The group, University of Waterloo Students for Palestinian Rights (SFPR), held the protest in light of U.S. President Donald Trump’s order to move the U.S. Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which he has deemed the capital of Israel. They also protested the recent Israeli bombing of Gaza and constant violence against Palestinian people.
Trump’s decision is controversial because both Israel and Palestine – which have been in a territorial conflict for decades – claim the city as their own. According to CNN, Palestinian leaders are insistent that the move “would be a violation of international law, and a huge setback to peace hopes.”
Before the Trump administration, it was U.S. policy that Palestine would be involved in any negotiations for the city. The other 86 embassies in Israel are also stationed in Tel Aviv, but, during the United Nations’ vote to condemn Trump’s decision on Dec. 21, several countries voted with the U.S., and will be moving their embassies. These include Togo, Palau, Guatemala and Marshall Islands. Canada abstained from the vote, keeping their embassy in Tel Aviv.
With the public speakers and chanting, the group emphasized the conflict in Palestine is not a religious one, but one of human rights; and one we should all concern ourselves with.
“Silence is complicity,” said Rachel Thevnard, one of the group’s organizers. “It’s important for anybody who’s human to be aware of colonial histories of places. This is one that’s happening right now, and we can raise our voices and help put a stop to it,” she said.
The SFPR formed to educate their fellow students and the community on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and to motivate the community to voice their concerns by participating in peaceful protests and petitioning the government, as well as creating a fair and balanced representation of Palestinian people.
During the protest, members of the crowd were invited to share what was on their mind about Palestine.
“Everybody knows this is just going to derail the whole peace process,” said Rania Lawendy, who also spoke to the crowd about her time visiting Palestine. “I think as Canadians we should stand against any country that’s committing international law violations.”
Lawendy said, “The same way I want to live in peace here, where I’m an equal citizen to you, we all have the same rights, we all have the same opportunities; this is something we should want for other people around the world.”