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Israel national day: Israeli flag raised at Ottawa City Hall with little fanfare

Israel’s flag was flying at Ottawa City Hall early Tuesday morning in honour of the country’s national day, but there was no public ceremony to mark the occasion.

Instead, the city said the Jewish Federation of Ottawa organized a private event, but officials refused to say when or where it was happening.

City officials said they had information suggesting that holding a public event posed a risk to public safety, but they gave no details.

The decision to forgo a flag-raising ceremony sparked backlash from the Jewish community, including federal politicians such as Liberal MP Anthony Housefather and Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman, who urged the city to go ahead with the event.

Last Friday, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe posted on social media that he had asked police and the city to come up with a way to hold the event safely, but city officials said Monday that would not happen.

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Pro-Palestinian demonstrators who gathered outside city hall on Tuesday claimed victory, saying they had forced the cancellation of what they called a “genocidal flag-raising” ceremony. A masked woman leading the group of about 50 people told the crowd “the shameful Zionists have gone home.”

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She called Sutcliffe’s stance “disgraceful” but praised Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow for her decision not to participate in a flag-raising in that city.

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Chow’s office released a statement Tuesday, saying the mayor would not attend the ceremony because “she believes raising (the flag) is divisive at this time, and understands the deep pain and anguish felt by many in the community.”

Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford released a statement celebrating 76 years since the establishment of Israel as an “independent and democratic state.”

“Today, we also recognize the many challenges Israel has faced through its existence, including the attacks of Oct. 7, 2023,” Ford said. “I continue to pray for the safe return of the hostages who were taken in the attacks and condemn hatred and antisemitism in all its forms, wherever it is found.”

On Oct. 7, Hamas fighters from the Gaza Strip broke into southern Israel and killed 1,200 people, mostly Israelis, sparking the conflict. Israel responded by bombarding and invading Gaza, killing more than 35,000 Palestinians from the enclave, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. More than 600 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the conflict erupted.

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— With files from The Associated Press

&© 2024 The Canadian Press

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