The evening was mostly peaceful, but police broke up a few heated disputes between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel supporters Thursday outside the Asper Jewish Community Campus.

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This article was published 8/1/2009 (4441 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

  The evening was mostly peaceful, but police broke up a few heated disputes between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel supporters Thursday outside the Asper Jewish Community Campus.

About 30 pro-Palestinian supporters and activists took part in a vigil outside the centre as hundreds of people arrived for a pro-Israel rally inside the Doncaster Street campus.

"The cold is pretty bad, but it’s not as bad as having your family home bombed," said Daniel Thau-Eleff, one of the organizers of the vigil, put on by the Canada Palestine Support Network and Canadian Muslims for Palestine.

Activists outside the campus clutched white candles and passed out flyers decrying what Thau-Eleff described as the "massacre in Gaza," as an estimated 800 people arrived for the "Stand with Israel" event organized by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.

Federal Treasury Board president Vic Toews received a standing ovation from  the crowd inside the centre when he told them "Defense of Israel is not a political choice for our government, it is a moral imperative."

Jewish Federation of Winnipeg chief executive officer Bob Freedman said the purpose of the event was to show solidarity and support for the state of Israel.

"We see there are people outside with a different view, and that’s fine," he said.

Roughly a dozen police officers were on hand to keep order outside, but only a few verbal skirmishes took place between the two groups. Guests at the pro-Israel rally packed into a crowded gymnasium for the rally.

"What we should be supporting is a truce," said attendee Pam Zentner, who said she hoped to see a peace treaty in Israel.

 Half a dozen provincial and federal politicians came to voice their support and denounce rocket attacks by Hamas, a political and paramilitary organization.

Provincial Justice minister Dave Chomiak, Kildonan-St. Paul MP Joy Smith, Winnipeg South Centre MP Anita Neville, Tuxedo MLA Heather Stefanson, provincial water stewardship minister Christine Melnick, and Toews all attended the "Stand with Israel" event.

lindsey.wiebe@freepress.mb.ca