Content warning: This article discusses death, and recent and ongoing violence in Gaza and Israel.
Since October 7 attacks from the militant group Hamas, which currently controls the Gaza Strip, strikes from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have killed more than 11,000 people in Gaza. The Israeli government’s siege in Gaza has also caused widespread shortages of basic resources.
In response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis, U of T student groups have organized several fundraising initiatives across campuses to support Palestinians in Gaza.
Humanitarian crisis in Gaza
Soon after Hamas launched surprise attacks against Israel on October 7 that killed around 1,200 people, the Israeli government began bombing Gaza — a densely populated region where more than two million Palestinians live.
The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) began imposing a siege on Gaza on October 9, reducing resources available to Gazans. Even before the siege, many resources were already limited by the Israeli government’s 16-year blockade. Many Gazans currently lack food and water, and The New York Times reports that some have resorted to drinking salty or contaminated water.
The Israeli government continues to obstruct access to water in Gaza and has refused to allow fuel — which Gazans need to power hospital generators, ambulances, and water pumps — onto aid trucks. The Israeli government has kept an electricity line from Israel closed since the siege began, and Gaza’s power plant — its only other source of power — cannot run given the lack of fuel.
As of October 27, the Israeli government has also imposed a communications blackout on Gaza, severing phone connections and internet services. Along with the blackout, the government also announced it was intensifying its bombing.
The same day, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly held an emergency meeting to call for an “immediate and sustained humanitarian truce leading to cessation of hostilities” — which includes unhindered humanitarian aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far rejected calls for a ceasefire.
IDF strikes have also damaged hospitals in Gaza, and over the last week, Gazan health officials have accused the IDF of deploying snipers around hospitals. At the moment, many civilians in Gaza are sheltering in hospitals, but many of Gaza’s hospitals lack basic supplies such as anesthetics. The hospitals that remain open are far above capacity as they care for Gazans injured by the Israeli military’s strikes, and according to a briefing given by the World Health Organization (WHO) Chief to the UN Security Council on November 10, half of Gaza’s hospitals have ceased functioning, many of them due to a lack of fuel.
Egypt, the only other country that borders Gaza, has generally closed its border with Gaza. However, the Egyptian government has recently allowed aid trucks into Gaza through Rafah — a crossing that does not border Israel.
The UN has warned that current aid to Gaza is insufficient. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that 981 trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered Gaza between October 21 and November 12. According to the WHO Chief’s November 10 briefing, before the recent violence began, an average of 500 trucks entered Gaza each day.
From October 23–29, on the St. George campus, the U of T Muslim Students’ Association (UofT MSA) and Islamic Relief UTSG partnered with Islamic Relief Toronto Metropolitan University and Islamic Relief Canada to participate in Charity Week.
Charity Week is an annual event promoted by Islamic Relief Worldwide — an organization that provides aid following disasters. Islamic Relief Worldwide pledged to donate one million euros from Charity Week to its Palestine emergency appeal, which aims to provide humanitarian aid in Gaza.
Throughout the week, the student groups sold baked goods, Palestine-related clothing, and food for Jumu’ah — Friday prayer for practicing Muslims — to raise money.
As of November 1, the UofT MSA raised over $2,225. Part of these funds will be allocated toward orphans and children worldwide, while a “generous portion” of the proceeds will support aid in Gaza.
UTSC student groups — including the Islamic Relief Chapter, Muslim Student Association, Thaqalayn Muslim Association, Pakistani Students’ Association, and Afghan Students’ Association — also participated in the Charity Week campaign. As part of Charity Week, UTSC student groups organized a hike, social, soccer tournament, and Palestine Awareness event to raise funds for Islamic Relief.
The Association of Palestinian Students at UTM held a “Make Your Own Shirt 4 Palestine” event on October 25. It donated all funds to Islamic Relief Canada to provide emergency medical assistance to Gaza hospitals and food and clean water to Palestinian communities.
If you or someone you know has experienced harassment or discrimination based on race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship and/or creed at U of T, report the incident to the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity office: https://antiracism.utoronto.ca/help/.
You can report incidents of anti-Muslim racism through the National Council of Canadian Muslims’ Hate Crime Reporting form at https://www.nccm.ca/programs/incident-report-form/, and antisemitic incidents at U of T to Hillel U of T at https://hillelontario.org/uoft/report-incident/.
If you or someone you know is in distress, you can call:
- Canada Suicide Prevention Service phone available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566
- Good 2 Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454
- Connex Ontario Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600
- Gerstein Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200
- U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030
If you or someone you know has experienced anti-Muslim racism or is in distress, you can contact:
- Canadian Muslim Counselling at 437-886-6309 or [email protected]
- Islamophobia Support Line at 416-613-8729
- Nisa Helpline at 1-888-315-6472 or [email protected]
- Naseeha Mental Health at 1-866-627-3342
- Khalil Center at 1-855-554-2545 or [email protected]
- Muslim Women Support Line at 647-622-2221 or [email protected]
If you or someone you know has experienced antisemitism or is in distress, you can contact:
- Hillel Ontario at [email protected]
- Chai Lifeline Canada’s Crisis Intervention Team at 1 (800) 556-6238 or [email protected]
- Jewish Family and Child Services of Greater Toronto at 416 638-7800 x 6234
The Hamilton Jewish Family Services at [email protected]