More than 300,000 people demonstrated against Israel’s genocidal onslaught against Gaza in the United States capital, Washington DC, and thousands more took action across the country, on November 4.
Protesters demanded Israel cease its bombing and invasion of Gaza, which has killed more than 10,000 people, including 4000 children, and injured tens of thousands. The death toll is rising by hundreds each day and thousands are missing under the rubble.
Demonstrators pointed out that Israel is stopping food, water and generator fuel needed for hospitals from entering Gaza — an intensified siege of its existing blockade. The objective is starvation and dehydration. The lack of medical care is already evident.
Demonstrations also took place across the world that day, from London, Paris and Milan to Dhakar, Santiago and Caracas. Protests are ongoing in Arab and Muslim countries.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Israel after the war started to express “100 percent” support for Israel, and went on to Arab states where he was uniformly humiliated.
Shibley Telhami, professor of peace and development at the University of Maryland, and a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy, told Democracy Now after the November 4 demonstrations that those “who think this is just another cycle in [Israel’s] violence are really not capturing the moment”.
“This is a moment that’s likely to shift the way people in the region think about the United States, because of its role,” said Telhami.
The US demonstrations also indicate important domestic trends. The November 4 protests came a week after huge protests in Asia and Europe and a day after the Israeli government rebuffed calls from the US and elsewhere for a “humanitarian pause” in its bombardment of Gaza.
According to the New York Times, while the November 4 protests “extended and amplified demands for a cease fire and an end to the siege in Gaza”, they also “demanded far more than that, their chants thundering along Pennsylvanian Avenue [where the White House is located], their protest signs filled with messages like ‘Mourn the dead, fight like hell for the living’ and ‘Let Gaza live!’” Protesters also demanded an end to US aid to Israel.
“Some of their chants, most especially ‘From the river to the sea’ have been condemned as an anti-Semitic call for Israel’s destruction,” said the NYT, “though many protesters have defended the slogan as a cry for freedom”.
Democrat Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American member of Congress and one of two Muslim women members, tweeted: “From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction or hate…”
Tlaib has emerged as an outspoken critic of President Joe Biden’s support for Israel’s war on Gaza, asserting that he is supporting the “genocide” of Palestinians. As a result she is also being smeared as antisemitic.
Far-right Congress member Majorie Taylor Greene also tried to censure Tlaib for her opposition to motions supporting Israel’s war and condemning Hamas’ breakthrough into Israel on October 7. This attempt failed, likely due to the rising antiwar movement.
In Washington, DC, the streets “swelled with demonstrators, and the crowd was dense”, reported the NYT. “[T]heir message to President Biden was clear. ‘Stop the military aid to Israel’ and ‘You lost my vote,’ their signs read.
The protests brought together participants and groups from across the country, notably Black activists, said the NYT. “The link between Black activists and Palestinians stretches back decades, but was reinvigorated in the wake of the 2014 Ferguson protests and the rise of Black Lives Matter. Many Palestinian activists connected the police killing of unarmed Black people to the situation in Gaza and the West Bank. During the George Floyd protests of 2020, it was common to see ‘Free Palestine’ signs.
Blacks for Palestine member Ashon Crawley, told the NYT he wanted to return the support. “It’s important to be here to stand in solidarity with Palestinians, as they stood in solidarity with Black folks in the United States and globally,” he said. “They are another group that sufferers under the violent power of occupation.”
In San Francisco, thousands of protesters, including teachers and health care workers, filled the plaza in front of City Hall, reported the NYT.
The Oakland Education Association — a local teachers union — posted a statement on social media, in October, accusing Israeli government leaders of using “genocidal rhetoric and policies” against Palestinians.
“Some teachers and parents in the school district strongly objected to the statement,” Oakland teacher Becca Rozo-Marsh told the NYT, but she said she is half Jewish and that it was important for Jewish people to condemn what she views as Israel’s “war crimes” in Gaza.
The pro-Palestinian Jewish Voice for Peace helped organise many of the demonstrations, and is growing since the war began. It organised an action by 5000 “Jews against genocide” in the National Mall in Washington, and an occupation calling for ceasefire in the Capitol rotunda.
The NYT reported on two other actions, to further illustrate the broad support that the nationwide demonstrations reflected. One in Provo, Utah, involved “more than 200 demonstrators” who gathered in front of the City Library. The action included Muslims, Arab Americans and immigrants and many protesters dressed in green, white and red — colours of the Palestinian flag.
Mormons are prominent in the town, and many took part in the protest, despite the church not taking a position on the war and its history of white racism.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, the NYT reported, there were “several hundred marchers clogging roads, shutting down intersections and chanting pro-Palestinian slogans under the watchful eye of a heavy police presence.
“The rally and march brought together a disparate group of people. The event was organised by the Cincinnati Socialists, but it was heavily attended by Muslims, Black activists, college students and peace activists.”
Polling indicates that there is a generational divide regarding attitudes to Israel and Palestine, with younger people less inclined to back US military support to Israel. This is also the generation that looks more and more to social media for news and information.
The Senate passed an unanimous bipartisan resolution on October 27, calling for a crackdown on campus pro-Palestinian groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace, labelling them supporters of “terrorists” and antisemitic.
Antisemitism is a problem in the US and deeply rooted in white Christian nationalism. It is rampant in former president Donald Trump’s base in the Republican Party.
While polls show a big majority of Republican voters (75%) support Israel’s war on Gaza, only one-third of Democratic voters do. Consequently, Biden’s support in polls has dropped since the war began.
Aside from the NATO countries (with the notable exception of Ireland), and a few other of Washington’s imperialist allies, most nations do not support Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Washington’s hope for “peace” in the Middle East under US and Israeli domination looks less and less feasible, as Arab nations’ rulers feel the heat from their own streets to support Gaza and oppose Israel’s war.
The recent Israeli government policy statement underlines the issues. It plans to force the two million Palestinians in Gaza across the border with Egypt into the Sinai desert as refugees. Netanyahu has said the plan is “on hold” for now, while the war on Gaza continues.
Prominent Israeli government figures advocate the same for the West Bank, and Israel is using its illegal settlements — backed up by Israeli troops — to step up its harassment, arrests and killings of Palestinians since the war began, to force them off their land. (Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have jumped from 5000‒10,000.)
Israel’s objective is the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. While it may yet prove politically impossible to drive them out — as so far, Egypt has rejected the Sinai plan — Israel continues its mass killing of Palestinians in a genocidal war. Protesters throughout the world recognise this.
The growing pro-Palestinian movement in the US and around the world is already having an impact and continuing protests can stop Israel’s “final solution” to its “Palestinian problem”.