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Thousands March in Largest Mobilization for Palestine in Detroit History

A rally and march last weekend drew thousands of people to Detroit’s Hart Plaza, making it the largest protest for Palestine in the city’s history. Democrat-affiliated NGO leaders and politicians struggled to make the case that voting is the only available response to the apartheid. But the signs and chants of the people had a different message for “Genocide Joe.”

Brian H. Silverstein

November 1, 2023
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Thousands march in Detroit for Palestinian rights, waving flags. October 2023.
Image: Viola Klocko

On October 28, thousands of people gathered in Hart Plaza in Detroit to call for a ceasefire and liberation for Palestine. The rally was a broad coalition of Palestinian, Jewish, Arab, and Black liberation activist groups, community organizations, and local politicians. People came from all over the metro area, bringing their entire families to join the fight. The diverse, multigenerational crowd marched through downtown Detroit, without a counterprotestor in sight. Signs denouncing Netanyahu could be seen alongside slogans denouncing anti-semitism and reminders that Zionism is not Judaism. 

A United Front of Arabs and Jews Oppose Zionism

Speakers from New Generation for Palestine (NGP), Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Jewish Voices for Peace, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE), Moratorium Now, and other groups gave tearful, passionate speeches denouncing the actions of the State of Israel and calling for solidarity between oppressed groups to fight the common enemy. The rally helped hammer home the absolute falsehood that anti-Zionism and support for Palestine is antisemitic, while collaboration between Arab and Jewish organizers rejected the notion that the conflict between Jews and Palestinians is “ancient and intractable.” The truth is that this conflict originated with the establishment of the State of Israel, a project of British and U.S. imperialism on the basis of forced, violent displacement of Palestinians from their homes and lands. The conflict therefore has a solution: the right of Palestinians to return to their homes, the dismantling of the ethno-nationalist State of Israel, and the establishment of a unified, democratic, socialist Palestine with equal rights for all people living there.

No Future for Palestine with the Parties of Capitalism

The speeches by NGO leaders and politicians were passionate but also revealed the limits of the solutions they could provide. They began with a fiery and justified denouncement of the genocide being carried out by the Zionist state and a denouncement of Joe Biden and every politician that has supported Israel. Yet, the speeches inevitably ended with calls rallying people to vote. But vote for whom? One of the two capitalist parties that already run the U.S., both of which support the genocide?

As the march got underway, there were indications the crowd understood this contradiction better than the speakers. “Genocide Joe” could be seen on many signs and the popular chant “There is only one solution: intifada, revolution,” could be heard echoing down the blocks. 

A protester at a pro-Palestine protest in Detroit in October 2023, wearing a hijab, holding a sign that reads "Funding Genocide" with a picture of Joe Biden.
Image: Viola Klocko

The growing backlash presents a real problem for the Democratic Party and Joe Biden as the election approaches. The conflict puts in stark relief that, push come to shove, the Democrats will put the class interests of the capitalists above even their own party, risking the 2024 elections, and even an internal revolt, before they consider withdrawing unequivocal support for the Zionist apartheid slaughter. The commitment of the capitalists to the State of Israel comes not from concerns about antisemitism, but because the State of Israel is a keystone for American global hegemony, acting as a fulcrum for American imperial interests in the Middle East, the most oil-rich corner of the globe. In fact, just this week, the State of Israel granted 12 new licenses for natural gas exploration off its coast, potentially adding significant natural gas production at a time when Western Europe is looking to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

As people begin to break with the Democratic Party over their support for this atrocity, the left must be prepared to offer an alternative – a working class party that fights for socialism. It must be a party independent of capitalists and accountable only to the interests of the working class, one that recognizes that the enemy of the American working class is not the working class or oppressed of other countries, but the international capitalist class.

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