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Montrealers pay tribute to the over 100 journalists killed by Israeli strikes on Gaza

On Jan. 11, about two hundred people gathered in the streets of Old Port to pay tribute to journalists who died in Gaza in a vigil organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) Montreal. According to Al Jazeera on Dec. 23, authorities in Gaza have stated that at least 100 journalists have been killed by Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct. 7.

The vigil started at 6:30 p.m. with a speech from Haya, a representative from PYM. Haya welcomed the crowd with a few words recognizing the importance of journalists reporting in Gaza, while simultaneously condemning several major Canadian media outlets for their coverage of the conflict.

“Palestinian journalists offer a window into a world that is otherwise isolated from us, both metaphorically and literally [….] While Palestinian journalists have been risking their lives every single day to showcase [to] the world the brutality of Israel’s genocidal campaign, Canadian news networks have been shamefully complicit,” Haya said. “The language that Canadian media uses grossly minimizes the war crimes committed by Israel, which in the end, further dehumanizes Palestinians.”

She finished her speech by encouraging the crowd to continue fighting for Palestine, and to take inspiration from the killed journalists to “continue to carry the torch in their honour.”

Ellen Gabriel, a Mohawk activist from the Kanien:keha’ka nation, then took the floor to express support of Indigenous communities in Canada for the Palestinian cause.

“I think of the parallels of what has been done to Indigenous peoples in Canada and the lies that have been said about us [….] I say to Justin Trudeau and to Mark Miller […], Canada has a long history of genocide against Indigenous peoples. It’s time for Canada to stop being complicit in genocide, and actually be on the right side, and actually stop a genocide,” Gabriel said.

Gabriel’s speech was followed by a moment of silence to honour the journalists killed in Gaza, while their names, stories, and pictures scrolled on the projection. 

“This is the only time we should be silent when it comes to Gaza,” Gabriel concluded.

A representative from PYM then encouraged the crowd to repeat the names of journalists who were killed in Gaza, such as Hamza Dahdouh, son of Al Jazeera’s journalist Wael Dahdouh.

Among the speakers, Inès Pahaut, a journalism student at Université de Montréal, shared her concerns about the media coverage of the Palestinian cause with The Tribune.

“I’ve been extremely disappointed by my classes, my classmates, my teachers because the way they were covering what’s happening in Gaza was far away from what I was actually imagining in journalism,” Pahaut said to The Tribune. “For weeks, I kept having arguments with my teachers, because I was like, why aren’t you talking about it? Or why are you using this narrative? Why are you even encouraging this choice of vocabulary? Because they don’t see their biases. And I tried to explain it, so many times. And it was super frustrating.”

In a conversation with The Tribune, Alex*, a McGill student, drew a parallel between media coverage and McGill’s communications with the student body.

“Both as just regular people, but especially as students at McGill, the rhetoric that has been pumped out in the [administration’s] emails that are sent out to the campus, there’s been a real recklessness with how the emails are written,” Alex said.

As the vigil reached its end after around two hours, PYM offered warm drinks to participants who braved the cold and invited attendees to leave a prayer or a message on poster boards. The organizers concluded with some final words encouraging everyone to keep mobilizing.

“As we prepare to mark the 100th day of the relentless aggression on Gaza on Sunday [Jan. 14], let us carry this moment with us. We will mourn and we will shed tears for people, but to honour them is to rise and to keep fighting for them,” Sarah Shamy, an organizer with PYM, said. 

*Alex’s name has been changed to preserve their confidentiality.

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