United States: Protests spread against US-backed Israeli war on Palestine

October 26, 2023
Jewish Voice for Peace
Jewish Voice for Peace protest in Washington DC. Photo: Jewish Voice for Peace

Pro-Palestine protests and rallies have spread across the United States in opposition to the escalation of the US-backed Israeli war against the Palestinian people.

In response to the October 7 Gaza breakout and surprise attacks by Hamas militants in Israel, which resulted in 1400 deaths (according to Israeli officials), Israel has bombed Gaza continuously, killing 5800 people as at October 23.

The death toll in Gaza is growing by hundreds each day. Nearly half of those slaughtered are children. Gaza City has been largely flattened.

The tightening of Israel’s blockade of Gaza will soon result in mass starvation and the shutting down of hospitals and other essential services.

US President Joe Biden’s response has been, in his words, “100 percent support to Israel”.

The US was the only country on the United Nations Security Council to vote against a motion calling for a ceasefire. Biden also dismissed calls for a ceasefire to allow for humanitarian aid in, telling journalists, “We should have those hostages released and then we can talk."

Palestinian blood is now on Biden’s hands.

Palestinians, progressive Jews leading protests

Protests in the US are widespread and reminiscent of the Black Lives Matter movement against police violence in 2020, following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Rallies are calling for solidarity with people living in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, recognition of Palestine’s right to live and exist, and are demanding an immediate cease fire, and for borders to open so that humanitarian aid can be let in.

In Washington, DC, 5000 people massed on the National Mall for the Jews Against Genocide rally on October 18, organised by two progressive Jewish groups: Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and If Not Now.

Following the rally, almost 500 of their members, led by 25 rabbis, assembled inside the rotunda of the House Office Building, where they read testimonials from Palestinians in Gaza and recited prayers. Outside, hundreds more chanted, “Ceasefire now” and sang in Hebrew and English.

Police arrested 300 protesters.

JVP was formed in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1996. It is the largest pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist Jewish organisation in the country.

It helps lead the country’s Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement launched by Palestinians to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestine.

In Brooklyn, New York — where there are large Arab and Palestinian populations as well as Jewish and Israeli communities — tensions are high.

Pro-Palestinian protests have been the largest and thousands marched in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighbourhood on October 21 in solidarity with the Palestinian people. According to police, about 12 people were arrested.

In northern California, thousands rallied in Santa Rosa to call for a ceasefire.

Crowds gathered across Chicago, Illinois on October 21 — the fifth protest called by the Coalition for Justice in Palestine since October 7.

More than 2000 people protested in Raleigh, North Carolina, on October 22, for the second time, in support of Palestine. Speakers denounced Israel’s bombing of Gaza, expressed anger over the government’s plan to provide Israel with more than US$14 billion in additional military assistance, and demanded an immediate ceasefire. The protest attracted people of all ages, including many who came to the rally with their families.

More protests occurred across the South.

Campus actions

University students and staff are speaking up for Palestine and many are facing reprimands from their University presidents – and worse –  as a result.

Some graduating students have lost corporate job offers for their pro-Palestinian views. A new kind of McCarthyism is being used by employers to silence pro-Palestinian voices, while support for Israel is viewed as legitimate.

The University of Arizona’s president labelled a statement by Students for Justice in Palestine “antithetical” to the institution’s values.

At Columbia University in New York City, two groups of 100 students faced off in dueling pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations, while university officials blocked public access to the campus as a “safety” measure. Palestine supporters, many wearing face masks to hide their identities, held signs that read "Free Palestine" and "To Exist is to Resist".

There have been ongoing solidarity rallies for Palestine on University of California and California State University campuses.

In San Francisco, high school students walked out of school in support of Palestine on October 19. More than 1500 joined a protest despite objections from school officials.

Tensions rise, clashes follow

There have been other clashes between pro-Israel groups and pro-Palestine supporters, including in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, where someone shot at a pro-Palestine gathering. The protest was being held as a counter protest to a pro-Israel event. No one was injured. A protester was also struck in a hit and run, according to Chicago police, but was not seriously injured.

There has been a rise of Islamophobia since October 7. A six-year-old Palestinian-American Muslim boy was killed in another Chicago suburb, on October 16, by a white, 71-year-old landlord. The boy’s mother was stabbed 31 times but survived. The man allegedly told his wife the Muslim family was a threat to them.

Pro-Israel propagandists

While the corporate media repeats the State Department and Pentagon’s lie that the war is between Hamas and Israel, in fact, it is a US-backed Israeli war against the Palestinian people.

Palestinians’ struggle for freedom and self-determination began in 1948, and there have been periodic upsurges of defiance and resistance.

Palestinians are not even considered second-class citizens by Israel, but are seen as “not human” or as “animals”.

The public is beginning to challenge the US ruling class’s big lie. Younger Americans, especially, are becoming more skeptical of the unconditional support for Israel.

More than 55% of Americans disapprove of Bidens handling of the conflict thus far, according to an October 19 CBS/YouGov poll — although 62% of Democrats say Biden is showing the right amount of support for Israel.

Most notably, about 53% of Democrats believe the government should not send more weapons and supplies to Israel. If the numbers are accurate, this is a significant shift in public opinion.

Meanwhile, another poll said 66% “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that the US should support a ceasefire. The poll — conducted on October 18‒19 by Data for Progress — included a majority of Republicans.

While Washington has always pretended to be a fair player in the Israel and Palestine conflict, Biden has shattered that illusion. His administration is openly backing Israel’s destruction of Gaza. He has sent two US aircraft carriers to the region to fight for Israel if necessary.

This exposes the hypocrisy of the so-called US “rules-based order”.

Senior State Department official, Adam Ramer, resigned from his position on October 19, and morale is extremely low” at the State Department, according to Huffington Post.

A letter signed by more than 400 Jewish and Muslim staff on Capitol Hill, calling for a ceasefire, was released the same day.

About 18 Democratic members of Congress led by Palestinian-American Congress member, Rashida Tlaib, have spoken out about Israel’s attack on Gaza. In response, Fox News and the right wing have labelled Tlaib “un-American” and a supporter of Hamas terrorism.

Tlaib responded, calling Israel an Apartheid state, and responsible for the current violence.

It is clear that there is more pushback against a uniformly pro-Israel position than in previous decades.

Jeffrey St Clair, writing in CounterPunch on October 20 said: “Having greenlit Israels annihilation of Gaza and then gone to Tel Aviv to sanctify its war crimes, Biden is now, like Macbeth, ‘in blood, stepped in so far, that, should [he] wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er’.”

Across the Middle East, Arab regimes friendly to Israel have been forced to express support for the Palestinian people, as the street rises up.

The growing solidarity movement for justice for Palestine is important and can prevent a second Nakba (catastrophe).

As historian Rashid Khalidi wrote in the conclusion to his 2020 book, The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: “Overcoming the resistance of those who benefit from the status quo, in order to ensure equal rights for all in this small country between the Jordan River and the sea — this is a test of the political ingenuity of all concerned.”

Standing up to Israel and the US today is possible and urgent.

Defiance. Resistance.

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