By JOHN LESLIE
As Israeli forces continue their merciless assault on Gaza, millions of people have joined protests around the world. On Nov. 4, protest demonstrations were held in a number of U.S. cities. The largest was the National March on Washington, which demanded an end to U.S. aid to Israel, an immediate ceasefire and lifting of the siege of Gaza, and the liberation of Palestine from the grip of the Israeli colonial-settler apartheid state. The event brought over 100,000 people from at least 22 states to the U.S. capital.
The initial rally at Freedom Plaza, located near the White House, overflowed into the surrounding streets. Traffic delays due to the large number of vehicles carrying people to the march and police blocking nearby intersections caused at least 40 buses to be late. Police prohibited buses from dropping off passengers near the rally.
Some capitalist media sources characteristically downplayed the size of the demonstration, merely saying that the turnout was in the “thousands.” The ANSWER Coalition and other organizers estimated the crowd at 300,000 (see Mondoweiss), while other sympathetic sources gave much lower figures. Protests in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City on the same day attracted tens of thousands of demonstrators.
The Washington protest, the largest single Palestine solidarity protest in U.S. history, was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition, Palestinian Youth Movement, American Muslim Alliance, The People’s Forum, National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, the U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR). Almost 500 local and national organizations ranging from socialists to campus groups to Palestine Solidarity groups and faith organizations endorsed and mobilized for the march.
The event reflected the character of many protests around the country since early October, with youths from student organizations and the Palestinian, Middle Eastern, and Muslim communities turning out in large numbers. The march stretched for blocks and spilled over from the street onto the sidewalks. It took more than an hour for the march to arrive at Lafayette Park, across from the White House, and protesters stayed in the park and on Pennsylvania Avenue for hours. A group of protesters smeared red paint on the White House gates, symbolizing the blood on Biden’s hands.
Slogans and chants were aimed at the genocidal actions of the Israeli state and condemned the Biden administration for its full-throated support for Israel’s crimes in Gaza. Homemade signs and banners referred to Biden as “Genocide Joe” and called for him to resign. People chanted, “Biden, Biden, you can’t hide; we charge you with genocide,” alternating with “Netanyahu you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.” It’s clear that the Democrats have disgraced and discredited themselves in the eyes of a new generation of radicalizing anti-imperialist youth.
Nidaa, a Palestinian from Gaza, told Al Jazeera of her concerns for family back home, saying, “Stop the war. Stop the bombing. Stop this genocide in Gaza—that’s the number one message we are sending today, and I hope our government will listen to us. I hope our people in Gaza, in Palestine in general, know that we are here. Hopefully, they will hear our voices to at least to cheer them up a little bit—that they are not alone.”
Recently, the Biden administration, under the pressure of mass protests, has made some tepid calls for restraint and a “humanitarian pause” in the Gaza slaughter. But the Democrats, including so-called progressives and housebroken “socialists,” continue to advocate for Israel’s right to “self-defense” and continue to support arming the apartheid regime. In October, a group of progressive Democrats in Congress introduced a resolution calling for the Biden administration to call for an “immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine” as well as for humanitarian aid to Gaza. But even this very moderate resolution faced harsh criticism from within the Democratic caucus.
Rally Speakers excoriated the Biden administration, the Israeli regime, and imperialism, while demanding freedom and justice for Palestine. Dr. Hatem Bazian, a UC Berkeley faculty member, said, “I want to take a minute to express my deepest gratitude to the youth, to the students, to the young people that have stood against the machine. You are making a difference from the halls and streets of Washington DC to every corner of the world. Today, we are gathered not only in Washington but in Bolivia, Colombia, Brazil, London, and across the world to say unequivocally to the world that we have witnessed the hypocrisy of this world. We say to you that you have tumbled on every aspect of human rights. You have completely disregarded international law.”
Dr. Melanie Yazzi, of the Red Nation, expressed solidarity: “Today, we deliver a devastating blow to colonialism. As indigenous people of Turtle Island, we proclaim that decolonization and land back are the only form of justice for the crimes of settler colonialism. Native people, unfortunately, have been here before. We know the entire history and future of Palestine because we have lived it. We endure the settler colonial project that calls itself the United States.”
Mohammed Nabulsi, of the Palestinian Youth Movement, stated, “We are here at the capital of the U.S. empire to unequivocally demand the end to Israel’s genocide of Gaza, the end to the brutal siege of our people, and to U.S. military aid for Israel. The free people of the world have spoken; we have made ourselves clear: We demand in the end to the U.S.-orchestrated, Israeli-executed, genocide of the Palestinian people. … We gather here to declare to the U.S. government, and to the world as a whole, that the masses of this country and of this globe stand on the side of justice, of dignity, of liberation, and on the side of the Palestinian people.”
Dr. Noura Erakat, currently an associate professor of international studies at Rutgers University, said, “We are united by our humanity. We are united by our absolute commitment to humanity and our absolute refusal to let Western powers and Israel bury it beneath their depraved pursuit of wealth and privilege. We are placing our bodies on the railroad tracks that are trying to forge a future through genocide and annihilation.”
The Nakba continues
Al Jazeera reports that more than 10,000 have been killed in Gaza by Israeli military attacks since Oct. 7. Additionally, 152 Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed by the Israeli military and settler gangs armed by the Israeli state, which issued more than 10,000 rifles to settlers after the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on the Zionist entity. As Israeli fascist politicians openly call for ethnic cleansing and the expulsion or death of Palestinians, the imperialist countries stand silent. Indeed, U.S. politicians of both parties have been whipping up an Islamophobic, anti-Palestinian climate in an attempt to discredit and marginalize the movement against Israel’s genocidal war.
In September, Netanyahu addressed the UN General Assembly and displayed a map of the “New Middle East” that excludes Palestine. There are indications that the far-right Netanyahu regime intends to undertake the annexation of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights, a plan that excludes Palestinians and would require what can only be called Nakba 2.
The founding of the Zionist state in 1948 was marked by violence and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, an ongoing event that Palestinians refer to as the Nakba (i.e., the Catastrophe). During the original Nakba, more than 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes. Hundreds of villages were either razed to the ground or taken over by settlers.
After a few months, only 138,000 Palestinians remained in the Zionist state. The vast majority of Palestinians were forcibly removed, killed, or forced to flee in panic. The few Palestinians remaining inside the Israeli state, the so-called “Arab Israelis” exist as second-class citizens. Palestinians who were born in Palestine are unable to return to their own homes.
Since the 1967 war, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have lived under a brutal military dictatorship characterized by collective punishment, theft of land, detention without trial, ex-judicial murder by the occupying army, the construction of illegal settlements, the destruction of crops and olive trees, and destruction of homes. Settlers dump toxic waste in streams upstream from Palestinian villages.
For almost 20 years, Gaza has existed as an open-air prison. Even before the current Israeli attack, the United Nations estimated that 125,967 children under five years of age (35 percent) in Gaza would not achieve their full developmental potential due to poverty, poor nutrition, lack of access to basic services, and high levels of family and environmental stress and exposure to violence.
Since Oct. 7, settler gangs have been conducting a pogrom in the West Bank that is clearly intended to drive remaining Palestinians from the land. The collaborationist Palestinian Authority has lost all legitimacy and has failed to protect the people from settler violence. Israelis who have dared to stand up against this horror have been attacked, threatened, and arrested.
Labor action is crucial
Palestinian trade unions issued the following call: “Palestinian trade unions call on our counterparts internationally and all people of conscience to end all forms of complicity with Israel’s crimes—most urgently halting the arms trade with Israel, as well as all funding and military research. The time for action is now—Palestinian lives hang in the balance.”
Belgian and Italian trade unionists have refused to load arms intended for shipment to Israel. In Britain, Workers for a Free Palestine blockaded an arms factory in Kent owned by Instro Precision, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems, an Israeli arms manufacturer. In South Africa, dockers refused to offload cargo from an Israeli ship.
In the U.S., the labor bureaucracy has stymied attempts by unions to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. AFL-CIO tops invalidated a solidarity statement from the Olympia, Wash.-based Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council (TLM CLC). Some union bodies in higher education—including Graduate Employee Organization, UAW local 2322, and Student Workers of Columbia, UAW— have issued solidarity statements.
The Oakland Education Association released a statement on Oct. 27 that says, “We unequivocally condemn the 75-year-long illegal military occupation of Palestine. The Israeli government created an apartheid state, and the Israeli government leaders have espoused genocidal rhetoric and policies against the people of Palestine.”
In a statement, National Nurses United said, “We stand with Palestinian nurses, doctors, and other health care workers and their unions who have valiantly worked to save human lives during this recent escalation of violence. We call for an end to military aggression, to occupation, and an end to the illegal blockade of Gaza.”
Just the beginning
The wave of protests over the last month and the huge march in Washington are only the beginning of a mass movement against the colonial regime in Israel and against the U.S. imperialist war machine. Tens of thousands of radicalizing youth and communities around the world have answered the call of the Palestinian people for solidarity in their hour of need. Boycotts of corporations that do business in Israel and of Israeli products have gained new vigor. In places around the world, protests have been sustained even under threat of state repression.
It is time to redouble our efforts to stop the slaughter in Gaza and to win the struggle for Palestinian freedom and self-determination. Ultimately, the end to this violence can only through justice and an end to the apartheid system that plagues the lives of the Palestinian people.
- End all U.S. aid to Israel!
- Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israeli apartheid!
- Lift the siege of Gaza!
- Self-determination for the Palestinian people!
- Stop the confiscation of Palestinian land! End all settlement building!
- Support the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland!
- For a free, democratic, secular Palestine with equal rights for all!
- For a socialist federation of the Middle East!
Photo: View of the Nov. 4 March on Washington (Jose Luis Magana / AP)