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Month-long Gaza Protests in U.S. were the Largest Ever for Palestinian Rights

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In an unprecedented outpouring of popular opposition to U.S. policy in support of the Israeli invasion of Gaza, a full month of nearly continuous protests brought tens of thousands into the streets. Arab American youths mobilized as never before. Even after Israel’s troop withdrawal, advocates for the human rights of Palestinians in Gaza vowed to continue the campaign until Israel lifts its blockade on the tiny territory.

Protesters marched through the up-scale shopping district, Santana Row, in San Jose, California on Sunday, January 4, 2009.

For over four weeks, nearly continuous protest demonstrations against Israel’s full-scale military assault on Gaza have been unfolding in the streets of cities around the world. The United States, whose government has fully backed the Israeli invasion, was no exception. California witnessed the largest protests ever against against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories: over 3,000 in San Jose on four successive weekends beginning on January 4, 2009, over 10,000 in San Francisco on January 10 and December 28-30, 2008, and thousands more in Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, and elsewhere.

When Israel launched its full-scale aerial bombardment of Gaza on 27 December 2008, killing some 300 Palestinians within the first two days, much of the world reacted with horror and outrage for the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped within the walls of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the tiny territory. In the United States, public protests began the very next day in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Anaheim, and elsewhere, followed by more demonstrations San Jose, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, Washington DC, and scores of other cities nationwide. The early rallies were moderate in attendance relative to past actions on the Israel-Palestine conflict, but strong in determination and words of condemnation.

The Bush administration predictably backed the Israeli invasion, laying all blame on Hamas for continued Qassam rocket attacks into southern Israel. The U.S. Congress once again reaffirmed its nearly unanimous support for Israel. Never did the U.S. government ask why Palestinians continue to resist 61 years of military occupation, or whether the resurgence of Qassam rockets in November and December 2008 was a response of last resort to the ever-tightening Israeli blockade.

In its attempts to starve Hamas, which was elected to power by Palestinian voters in Gaza in January 2006, Israel has directly restricted or blocked all access and movement of goods into and out of Gaza since that election – collective punishment of a civilian population under occupation in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Food, medicines, and supplies were being routinely held up at Karni and Sufa crossings. Fuel trucks were being blocked at Nahal Oz crossing. Essential commodities from Egypt were being arbitrarily restricted from entry at el-Auja crossing for transit through the Negev enroute to Gaza. Even during times when medicines were being admitted, anaesthetics were cruelly being blocked. Along Gaza’s common border with Egypt, Israel has exerted indirect control over the flow of goods and people at the Rafah crossing through remote electronic monitoring and agreements between Israel and Egypt.

In response to this intolerable situation, an increasing number of people in the United States have been coming to recognize that the launchings of Qassam rockets have been acts of last recourse by an otherwise defenseless people. By 30 December 2008, the carnage was sparking outrage and the numbers of protesters began to swell. High school and college students, grandmothers and grandfathers, shopowners and engineers, workers and businesspeople, people who had never participated in street demonstrations before came out to voice their condemnation of Israeli war crimes. People brought out scores of Palestinian flags and hundreds of kafiyehs (the Arab headdress that has become symbolic of the Palestinian resistance to occupation), both black and red, in numbers that have never been seen before in American streets.

Some local Palestinian Americans reported losing relatives in Gaza. Those who were spared the loss of a loved one saw the carnage on al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya television, scenes that were rarely shown on U.S.-based television channels. Those who had been intimidated into the shadows in the fearful aftermath of the 9-11 attacks of 2001, had begun to shed their fears on seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of the Bush administration. For the first time, Palestinian youths felt pride in displaying the Palestinian flag and waving it from their cars. Arab American youths, in particular, mobilized by the thousands to spearhead the street demonstrations. Many such demonstrations rapidly grew beyond the leadership of the initiating peace and justice organizations, developing into spontaneous and unplanned expressions of mass sentiment for an end to Israeli control over Palestinian territories and one-sided U.S. support for Israel.

They repeatedly shouted, “Stop bombing Gaza!” “Free, free Palestine!” “Stop killing children!” “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” Passing motorists honked in support.

A young woman who had family trapped in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza spoke eloquently at an interfaith candlelight vigil at San Jose City Hall on January 15, 2009 about why so many Palestinian Americans and supporters are now speaking out. Palestinians in Gaza “have not been able to live a life,” she said. It was not always this way because “Palestine was the land of Christians, Muslims, and Jews – always.” She went on to explain why Americans have a vital responsibility for what is happening in Palestine: “Our tax dollars are funding this atrocity 100 per cent.”

As hundreds marched through Santana Row, an upscale shopping district in San Jose, they chanted, “While you’re shopping, bombs are dropping!” Shoppers stopped to watch in amazement at a sight they have never before seen in front of the classy shops. Many took photos with their mobile telephones. While a few were reluctant to be bothered, many accepted flyers from the protesters explaining why Gaza and U.S. policy towards Israel and Palestine are important concerns for U.S. taxpayers.

In San Francisco and San Jose there were much smaller pro-Israel counter-demonstrations. Among them, the majority of the Jewish participants genuinely want a lasting peace, but apparently fail to understand the Palestinian need for justice and freedom. A very small minority make no secret of their desire to see the elimination or removal of all Palestinians. One man in San Francisco held a sign saying, “Until all of Gaza is destroyed, the job is not done.” Another in San Jose held a sign that read, “No country for Palestinians.” Most Israel supporters would not agree, yet they apparently did little to distance themselves from this type of bigotry and hatred.

Other Jews played a prominent and welcome role in reassuring the world that many among their community do not support Israel’s occupation, aggression, and war crimes. Jewish Voice for Peace, Bay Area Women in Black, and other Jewish groups repeatedly made it clear that they condemn Israeli war crimes, the siege of Gaza, and the entire occupation.

Finally, different communities in struggle began making connections and finding common cause. The juxtaposition of Martin Luther King’s birth anniversary on January 19th and the inauguration of Barack Obama as the first African American president on January 20th was an historic moment of moving from a dream of equality to the enabling of that dream. The euphoria of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel mobilized millions of people into a new sense of civic involvement and of communities coming together as communities. One aspect of this political opening was the further partial breakdown of identity-based politics.

When the police killing of Oscar Grant was captured on mobile telephone videos, the people of Oakland of all races, ethnic groups, and religions came together to demand justice from reluctant city, county, and transit administrations. From the beginning, the community embraced the struggle of Palestinians in Gaza with hundreds of posters saying, “Justice for Oscar Grant! Justice for Gaza!” For African Americans in particular, the notion of Israeli apartheid is a painful echo of the long struggles for racial equality in the U.S. and in South Africa.

Latino immigrants marched in San Jose on the day after Barack Obama’s inauguration to remind the new president of the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform that provides a rational pathway to legalization of immigration status for 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. At the same time, they embraced justice for Gaza. Palestinians, Mexicans, and other Latin Americans marched side-by-side to demand equal rights and the right to live where they can make a living.

But it is perhaps Native Americans who can best empathize with the plight of Palestinians, having had their former lands carved up into isolated reservations (like the West Bank bantustans) within whose boundaries underemployment, poverty, and inadequate healthcare are prevalent. Meanwhile, the best lands were seized for development by European Americans. Members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) gave expression to their common cause with Palestinians at the rally in San Francisco on January 10.

Israel may have won the battle for Gaza with a kill ratio of 100 Palestinians for each Israeli killed, but it has decisively lost the battle to break the Palestinian people’s will to resist. It has also lost the contest for world sympathy and support. While President Obama disappointingly promises only incremental change in U.S. policy towards Israel and Palestine, American public opinion is shifting under his feet. People are mobilizing into civic action in escalating numbers, and making their voices heard. Obama has promised to listen. Now is the time for him to prove it, for the solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict lies not so much in Tel Aviv or Ramallah or Gaza City, but rather in Washington, DC.

Emergency protest at Israeli Consulate, December 30, 2008. Some 1500 people mobilized on two days’ notice to an evening protest at the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco. The crowd became so large that it eventually spilled into the street, blocking traffic, forcing organizers to call for a march without a permit in order to let traffic through.

1200 people protest in San José, January 11. Palestine supporters jammed the busy road intersection for hours.

10,000 march in San Francisco, January 10. In one of the largest demonstrations ever exclusively on the Israel-Palestine issue in the United States, people condemned the Israeli aggression and blockade of Gaza by rallying at Civic Center Plaza, then marching down Market Street.

Youths demonstrate in midst of traffic in San José, January 4, 2009. Palestinian youths and their friends came out in unprecedented numbers to express their outrage at the massacres of civilians. Standing in mid-traffic, they occupied every available space of elevated pavement at this intersection.

Jews stand with Palestinians. Jewish Americans condemned Israeli war crimes. San Francisco, January 10.

Jews, Muslims, and Christians unite in San José. Wendy Greenfield of Jewish Voice for Peace called for an end to Israeli aggression and occupation at a candlelight vigil in front of San José City Hall on January 15.

Israel supporter refuses to recognize Palestinian state. “No country for Palestinians,” reads a sign in San José on January 18. Not all Israel supporters agree, but few came forth to denounce it.

Native Americans support Palestine. With a common legacy of bantustans – Indian reservations and encircled Palestinian territories – Native Americans understand well the situation of Palestinians. Tony Gonzales of the American Indian Movement (AIM) spoke in San Francisco on January 10.




Re: NY Neo-Nazi Croaks

good riddance to such garbage

Re: Re: Racist for not raping Arab women???

The researcher is mind sick

Only 2,000 showed up in San Francisco

Pro-Israel protesters in San Francisco

Anti-Semitic protesters in San Francisco

I participated in the San Francisco protests- only about 2,000 people showed up- not 10,000- not by a long shot. And there was a very significant counterprotest

The main difference with this protest was the egregious amout of anti-semitism visible.



A friend in Washington reported the same phenonenon- a sparcely attended protest (2-3,000, bused in from as far away as Boston), with teh protest promoters claiming it was the largest protest ever held.

Look at the Helicopter shots and the crowd shots from both protests.... very sparsely attended.
In the USA, only 6% of people say they support the Palestinians. They haven't forgotten the Palestinians celebrating 9/11

Re: Month-long Gaza Protests in U.S. were the Largest Ever for Palestinian Rights

This article doesn't mention the hundreds of thousands that showed up all over the world to support tiny Israel's right to defend herself.
Tens of Thousands in New York, in London, in Los angeles, alone....

pro-Israel, pro-Peace

One man in San Francisco held a sign saying, “Until all of Gaza is destroyed, the job is not done.” Most Israel supporters would not agree,yet they apparently did little to distance themselves from this type of bigotry and hatred.


And you'd be wrong.

The organizers of the pro-Israel pro-peace asked this individual to leave because we did not approve of his message. He left willing, and stood outside the security barrier. Eventually, because of repeated threats of violence and intididation from the pro-terror rally across the way, the police moved him back within the barrier.

Re: New Medical Breakthrough - Cure found for Anarchism!

Now that abuses me! I live in Israel and I am an anarchist. I know that the universe is not created 5768 years ago by elohim; the sun had never stopped into the skyes; the women are not the same as, but equal to men; the other nations and nationalities are not the same as, but equal to our jewish nation. I also know that there is no other democracy without constitution except the israeli fake one; the not jewish people have not the same rights as israeli citizens as the jewish ones; the attacks on civilians over occupied teritories can be called anything else, but not "self defence"!

Hopkins, first drink the pills your doc gave to you and afterward write sentence or two in the net. This should be the order - not the opposite!

Oh, and Hopkins, you are an idiot! FUCK YOU!

"No country for Palestinians" guy

"No country for Palestinians" guy was a plant by the anti-Israel people for a photo op.

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