Across Winnipeg, Jewish and Palestinian communities are hurting as violence between militant group Hamas and Israel continues to unfold.
In the days since the Hamas attack against Israel over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, Winnipeg rallies in support of both Israel and the Palestinian community have sprung up.
The impact has been polarizing, which local Rabbi Matt Liebl said can, in part, be tagged to social media.
“You get people who can hide behind faceless situations and then just throw fuel on the fire, and take an already emotionally charged situation with visceral, human, honest reactions on both sides, and then just make the whole thing just terrible.”
Liebl said one way to defuse polarization is to go beyond the politics. “Wherever you’re gathering,” he said, “make the message one of hope.” Regardless of politics, he said, “everyone can try and find a common ground.
“Who out there would stand for terror? Who out there would stand for children being caught in the fray and their lives being something so much more terrible than they should be?” he asked.
The history between Israelis and Palestinians is complicated and saturated with war, Liebl said. “As long as Israel’s existed as a country, it’s been war.”
The president of the Canadian Palestinian Association of Manitoba (CPAM), Ramsey Zeid, agrees.
“I don’t think it’s unexpected,” he said. “This has been going on for years.”
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Harold Shuster with Independent Jewish Voices, Winnipeg, an organization that attended a rally on Monday in solidarity with and support of Palestinians, said one-sidedness is not an option.
Shuster addressed politicians and said: “It’s important to show sympathy for Winnipeg’s Jewish community who have family there. It’s just as important to show sympathy for the Palestinian community who also have family there.”
On Tuesday afternoon, premier-designate Wab Kinew spoke about the conflict, and said it was horrifying.
“The targeting of civilians should never happen and the state of Israel has a right to exist and defend itself,” he said.
Shuster called for a ceasefire.
“There is a desperate need now, not for escalation,” Shuster said. “We know that in war, there are no victors. There are only victims.”
Zeid said he has lots of loved ones overseas who he is concerned about, and hopes the conflict can be brought to an end.
“Hopefully this doesn’t go on for very long,” he said. “Hopefully there’s some type of resolution that can be good for both sides, so that we can limit the number of casualties.”
As rallies continue, Liebl said as long as they “send a message of standing together, and of peace, and of progress and trying to move forward, and a message of hope as opposed to messages of destruction or anything aggressive or hostile, I’m all for it.”
“I think everybody should feel proud to express their culture, their religion, their feelings, their beliefs. But we’re trying to work together here. We’re trying to find a common ground and move forward. And as long as that’s the underlying message, I’m for it.”
Both the Jewish and Palestinian communities encourage people to reach out if they need support during this tragic time.
— with files from Global’s Teagan Rasche
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