On a beautiful Monday night, an emergency demonstration was called by Vancouver residents to protest a talk by the notoriously right-wing Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, at a Jewish Community Centre on 41st Street. The protestors were not there because of their opposition to free speech; rather, they were there to raise awareness to some of the racist and outlandish remarks and positions of Avigdor Lieberman. The demonstrators seemed to be baffled as to why such an individual would even be allowed into Canada.
“His presence here is an outrage.” Exclaimed Sid Shniad of the group Independent Jewish Voices. “He is in Canada to meet with Stephen Harper because Canada is one of the Israeli government’s staunchest allies internationally. The fact that he is an international figure that’s been welcomed to Canada is a shame. We are here to protest that and try and raise awareness of it.”
Dozens of signs, held by the crowd of well over one hundred, drew attention to some of Lieberman’s more belligerent assertions; namely, the protestors alleged that Lieberman advocated for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, called for Palestinian prisoners to be drowned in the Dead Sea, and called for the execution of Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.
“Avigdor Lieberman is a notorious racist, a known illegal settler, and probably one of the most noxious representatives of the war criminal government of Israel in the world today.” Said Charlotte Kates, one of the ad hock organizers of this last minute rally. “The fact that he is coming to Canada to meet with Stephen Harper...he is welcomed into Canada at a time when immigrants and refugees are facing a harder time than ever before and are facing even more and more restrictions on their ability to enter this country and yet a war criminal is welcomed...it’s imperative that people in Canada and people in Vancouver stand up to say we don’t welcome Lieberman; we say we don’t welcome representatives of this war criminal government and this regime; and we say no to Lieberman and to racism and we say yes to a free Palestine.”
The timing of Lieberman’s visit corresponds with the upcoming United Nations General Assembly this week, where Palestine will bid for UN recognition--a move bitterly opposed by the government of Israel and its supporters.
“The U.S. has pledged to use it’s veto to shut down any attempt for Palestine to seek statehood and Lieberman is here to meet with his admirers and his friends and his colleagues and his comrades, here in Canada Stephen Harper and the Obama administration in the U.S., to plan their strategy to try to silence the Palestinians.” Kates declared. “But of course that is going to fail.”