Calls to finish air strikes if assaults improve
Thousands of people across the country joined global protests this weekend to show solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza and to call for an end to Israeli air strikes that killed more than 192 civilians.
The protests extended to Los Angeles, to New York on Saturday, the 73rd anniversary of al-Nakba. This means “catastrophe” and was named after the displacement of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homeland in East Jerusalem in 1948.
In Louisville, Kentucky, a student organizer from the local university told The Courier-Journal that this year’s commemoration was particularly important.
“This is not just a Palestinian issue, it is a human rights issue,” said the student, who did not want to be mentioned out of concern for the safety of her Palestinian family. “This is a humanitarian cause and as Americans we have a duty to talk about it because our own tax dollars fund the Israeli military.”
Further west, hundreds gathered in the Capitol at a rally in Phoenix to show solidarity with the Palestinians.
Jamil Naser of the Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance said at the rally that demonstrators had gathered to “reaffirm our commitment to the Palestinian people’s struggle for justice, return and liberation.”
“On this day we have to understand that the Palestinians are not in a conflict, but in a struggle for liberation,” said Naser. “A big reason this struggle seems insurmountable is that outside support is getting Israel from every corner of the world, but ultimately there is no greater culprit than the United States government.”
Naser, repeated by other speakers, said the US is helping and assisting Israel militarily “while looking the other way and providing cover to Israel as it perpetrates myriad human rights abuses against the Palestinian people”.
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On Sunday, a massive rally of 4,000 people marched in the streets of Paterson, New Jersey, chanting “Free Palestine” and “Occupation must go.”
The organizers of one of the largest Arab and Palestinian communities in the United States asked people to call their elected officials to demand that they speak out for the rights of the Palestinians and end unconditional aid to Israel.
US officials should recognize that the root cause of unrest is “inhuman, unjust and oppressive” policies towards Palestinians, said Sayel Kayed, chairman of the New Jersey chapter of American Muslims for Palestine.
In Memphis, Tennessee, chants, “Occupation is a crime from Memphis to Palestine” and “From river to sea, Palestine will be free” rang through the air as a group of 300 people marched to the National Civil Rights Museum.
Sheikh Anwar Arafat spoke to supporters in the Memphis crowd, telling them that his family had to vacate their homes in Gaza and that he had received a text from his aunt that he thought would be the last.
“(Palestinians) know you are here and your presence gives them strength,” said Arafat. “You should be proud.”
Traffic had stalled when nearly two thousand protesters marched in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit.
“This has not only happened in the last two weeks in Jerusalem and Gaza, but since 1948,” said Amer Zahr, President of the New Generation for Palestine at the rally. “You use words like ‘eviction’ and ‘collision’ on television, that’s not true. (They say) it’s a conflict, no it isn’t. It’s an occupation, it’s apartheid, and it’s ethnic cleansing, and it’s 73 years. “
Abroad, French riot police fired tear gas and water cannons in Paris on Saturday as demonstrators supporting Palestinians in the Gaza Strip objected to a marching ban in the French capital.
Also on Saturday, thousands marched into the Israeli embassy in London to protest the attacks by Israel. This included an air strike that demolished a 12-story building in Gaza that housed media outlets such as The Associated Press.
The rallies come as Israelis and Palestinians witnessed the most violent outbreak of conflict since 2014, after tensions escalated over Israeli raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque in the final week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the impending displacement of Palestinians in East Jerusalem by Israeli Settler groups.
According to the Associated Press, Israeli air strikes in Gaza City on Sunday flattened three buildings and killed at least 42 people. This is the deadliest single attack since heavy fighting broke out between Israel and the militant Hamas rulers of the territory almost a week ago.
The attack has displaced around 34,000 Palestinians from their homes, the UN envoy for the Middle East, Tor Wennesland, said at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council where eight foreign ministers discussed the conflict.
Efforts by China, Norway and Tunisia to get the UN body to issue a statement, including a call to cease hostilities, have been blocked by the United States, which diplomats said fears it could affect diplomatic efforts to end the violence .
Contributors: Emma Austin, Louisville Courier-Journal; Audrey Jensen, Republic of Arizona; Hannan Adely, North Jersey; Dima Amro and Katherine Burgess, Memphis Commercial Appeal; Miriam Marini and Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press; The Associated Press