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From the Streets of NYC: Palestine Will Be Free!

Solidarity rallies were held in New York City last week as hundreds showed their support for the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation and violence. The rallies were a response to the slaughter of Palestinian protesters at the fence marking the border of Gaza.

Francesca Gomes

May 22, 2018
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Photo Credit: Michele Alves

Several hundred protesters demonstrated Friday in New York City’s Times Square against the recent massacres of unarmed Palestinians at the border between Gaza and Israel in the past few weeks. Organized by the NY4Palestine coalition, the rally was also a condemnation of the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Trump’s announcement that he would be moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem prompted reactions from disapproval to outright condemnation on the part of international governments, including those of U.S. allies. The announcement was a particularly provocative assault on the rights of Palestine due to Jerusalem’s importance for Muslims in addition to the brutal violence enacted by Israel against Palestinian residents of Jerusalem following the Six Days War. What resulted from the then-upcoming inauguration of the embassy was an intensification in Israeli military oppression of Palestinians, specifically in Gaza. It was as if the increase in the U.S. government’s public support was read by the Israeli military as encouragement to step up its attacks on unarmed protesters.

The Great March of Return

March 30 of this year marked the annual commemoration of Land Day in 1976, when a general strike and marches erupted in Palestine as a result of the announcement of the Israeli state’s seizure of thousands of acres of Palestinian land.

Beginning on Land Day this year, in part as a result of the impending relocation of the U.S. embassy, Palestinian protesters engaged in the “Great March of Return,” demanding the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, who have been living under Israeli military occupation in Gaza for over 50 years.

In this latest manifestation of the continuation of Al Nakba — meaning “the catastrophe,” which began in 1948 when Israel announced Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, signalling the violent expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes — Palestinian resistance in Gaza was met with armed force against unarmed protesters. 17 Palestinians were killed and 1,400 were injured by Israeli forces.

IDF steps up murders of civilians

As the assaults on the protesters intensified, photographer Yasser Murtaja was shot by the Israeli Defense Forces, despite the fact that he was wearing body armor with highly-visible marks identifying him as press. He died of his wounds on April 6, a week after the Land Day commemorations. The last footage he ever filmed includes injured people being carried on stretchers to makeshift medical facilities and Israeli soldiers pointing guns at masses of civilians.

As the new embassy was inaugurated on Monday, the IDF marked the occasion by shooting thousands of Palestinians. At least 60 people were killed, including at least six children under the age of 18 (one as young as 14), and an estimated 2,700 were injured by Israeli snipers. This raised the death toll since the beginning of the Great March of Return to 113 (including 15 children) and the number of wounded to 12,000.

Zionist media response

Predictably, the media has made sure to reflect the views of Zionist politicians who insist that the fault for these killings lies with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement that claims governance over Palestine. One particularly egregious Washington Post editorial claimed that all of the violence at the Gaza border was orchestrated by Hamas, insisting that they had been “assembling thousands of nominal civilians to march on and attempt to breach the border fence, in the calculation that many would be killed,” as if the fault for the Israeli military’s slaughter of unarmed people somehow lies with the people themselves. Additionally, the designation of Palestinians as only “nominal” civilians is reflected in countless other news pieces which maintain that, even given Gaza’s occupied status, all people in Palestine are deserving recipients of violence based on their very identity.

In an episode of the podcast Deconstructed with Mehdi Hasan, Linda Sarsour states, “unfortunately, the Israeli government has been so far pretty successful around creating a narrative that Palestinian equals terrorist, and there is no such thing as an unarmed protester in the eyes of the Israeli government. So, right now, the narrative is shifting and no one can deny the brutality and the violence and the very calculated massacres of unarmed protesters in the Gaza Strip. There is no way that your eyes can deny you what you see.”

Protests in New York

Despite the Zionist narrative of the recent killings, Palestinian liberation groups in the U.S., especially in NYC, have rallied to show their solidarity in recent demonstrations. Over the past week, the NY4Palestine coalition held protests in Bay Ridge (a neighborhood of Brooklyn which has historically been the home of a large Arab community) and in Times Square. In a show of solidarity with the Palestinians at the Gaza fence, NY4Palestine described the protest as a commemoration of the “70 years since the establishment of the state of Israel and the widespread expulsion of Palestinians from their homelands.”

Al Jazeera reported that: “A dozen speakers, community leaders, activists and academics, roused a boisterous crowd by linking the Palestinian struggle to the global fight against capitalism, racism, inequality and injustice.”

As is usually the case with pro-Palestine rallies, a group of counter-protesters amassed across the street from the Times Square rally, shouting epithets at the protesters, cursing Palestine, calling the protesters “anti-Semites,” and calling the attacks on unarmed civilians “self-defense.” These were clear echoes of the statements made by the Israeli Defense Forces (reported by CNN) that “accused the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, of ‘leading a terrorist operation’ and inciting around 35,000 protesters who had assembled in numerous locations along the border fence to conduct what Israel described as terror attacks.” Among the Israeli national flags was the flag of Kach and Kahane Chai, two now-disbanded Israeli fascist political parties which were the political wing of the JDL (Jewish Defense League). It has been operating as a violent, far-right paramilitary group in both the U.S. and Israel since 1970, bombing Soviet and various Arab cultural centers and embassies as well as mosques in the U.S. and committing mass shootings in Israel.

In the face of these far-right threats both here and in Israel, socialists must show solidarity with the people of Palestine in their struggle against continued Israeli colonization and oppression financed by the imperialist U.S. government.

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Francesca Gomes

Francesca is a teacher from Brooklyn.

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