June 21, 2024

Over 1,000 University of Waterloo students attended a pro-Palestinian protest on campus demanding a ceasefire in Gaza on Tuesday, Nov. 7.  

The protesters condemned a statement released by the university regarding the violence in Middle East. “The number of innocent Palestinian citizens who have been lost in this conflict is unacceptable. I reiterate my condemnation of the terrorist attack perpetrated by Hamas on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of many Israelis and the taking of hostages,” read the University of Waterloo statement. 

The protestors criticized what they called the “neutrality” of the statement. 

“President Vivek Goel, this is not as you frame it in your email- a humanitarian crisis. This is genocide,” said an organizer of the student march in a speech to demonstrators.

Goel restated his assertion that academic institutions should not take positions on matters outside of their scope. He backed up his stance by quoting a report on academic institutions that says, “The neutrality of the university arises not from a lack of courage nor out of indifference and insensitivity. It arises out of respect for free inquiry and the obligation to cherish a diversity of viewpoints.” 

Attacks by Hamas-led militants in Israel on Oct. 7 are estimated to have claimed 1,200 lives. In response, Israel launched a military campaign killing more than 11,100 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry of Gaza.  

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict, pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli demonstrations have expanded across Canada.  

Pro-Palestinian students holding posters (Photo by Gursimran Kaur) 

The student walkout started in front of the Dana Porter Library in the University of Waterloo. The protesters marched through the campus wearing keffiyehs and carrying pro-Palestinian posters and flags. They chanted slogans including:

  • By the millions, by the billions, we are all Palestinians. 
  • How many Palestinians have to die before you hear the freedom cry? 
  • Palestine will never die. 

The demands of the march were released on social media by the organizers, one of which was for the university to do the “bare minimum” and recognize and denounce the “genocide happening in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli state.” 

“When hospitals, schools, ambulances are being bombed, when 4,000 children are murdered and when you terrorize a population of 2.3 million living in an open-air prison with nowhere to go, that is genocide,” said the organizers. 

Pro-Israel groups reject that sentiment. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), a Canadian advocacy group, states that Hamas advances its genocidal goal by using the civilian population of Palestine as human shields and that it is responsible for the Israeli and Palestinian babies that have died. 

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