Free Free Palestine! Democratic Palestine!

I’ve put a gallery of photos from today’s rally and march below the text.- click on an image to see full sized.

The incredible horrific slaughter of more than 700 people, mostly civilians, in Gaza, follows on a siege that imprisons nearly two million people in a small crowded territory without control over borders, without adequate water and food, without free import/export capabilities; without building materials to recover from the last assault and the one before that; without medicine to treat the sick and wounded.  It amounts to ethnic cleansing. The United States is culpable for these crimes.  We give more than three billion dollars a year to Israel in aide.   Most of Israel’s weapons, the F16s and the Apache helicopters, the missiles and bombs are made in the U.S.A.   Our government has actually raised Israel’s aid by nearly a billion dollars to cover the current ‘crisis’.

Earlier this evening, about 200 people came out here in Rochester, New York to protest the Israeli war crimes in Gaza. It may be the biggest rally here since the height of the Iraq war 5 or 7 years ago.   More than 100 Palestinians had the courage to come and stand for their homeland and those who remain there.  Yes, it takes courage to demonstrate on the street when you are Palestinian.   They are newcomers in this country.  They come from one of the most oppressed places on earth.  The Palestinians have reason to be cautious but still they come out to tell their truth.  

The occupation of Palestine is crime under international law, and the siege of Gaza is a violation of human rights.  The ongoing murderous assault on the civilian population of Gaza, and the ones that preceded it are a form of ethnic cleansing and a violation of human rights  in it’s most egregious form.   By aiding and arming Israel, we are complicit in these crimes.   And yet, the press doesn’t show when we want to talk about it.   Three weeks of well publicized rallies and press releases all around have gone unreported and still they don’t show.  And our representatives don’t come out to see what’s up either.  They don’t want to carry that message and they don’t want to know.

Yes, the Palestinians who come out are brave.   No, They aren’t doing anything wrong.   But the people in Gaza haven’t done anything wrong either.  They are surviving.   Many families have been displaced, i.e. forced to move by Israeli pogroms, more than once since 1947.  And still they are not secure.   They live behind a great wall with armed guards and doors that remain locked.   Everyone here has family there.   People didn’t leave Palestine in any numbers until the 40s, when Israeli zionists first drove them out of their homes and away from their cities and villages, and expelled them from their homeland.   The Palestinians in Gaza are mostly descended from families from other parts of ancient Palestine, now Israel, who were forced from their homes and took refuge there.

Today, we met in front of the Federal Building at 5pm, for the third time in three weeks.  We wanted to stand before the government with our complaint.   We wanted to be seen by the public, which has not heard the Palestinian voice, has not heard their truth, will not look at their evidence.  There was no press in sight.   We lined the road, chanting and holding up our signs and placards and Palestinian flags for passers by to see.  Many of those present raised peace signs, and waved to passing cars.  The children, and there were many, held signs and flags along side their parents. Young girls had their faces painted in the colors of the Palestinian flag.    Over the course of an hour and a quarter, we walked a block up to Main Street and then another block to the offices of the Democrat and Chronicle, the local daily newspaper, where we stood chanting for at least 15 minutes, then back to the Federal building.

We chanted “Free Free Palestine.”  “Democratic Palestine.”   Why ‘democratic’?  Perhaps because, Hamas, much maligned in the American and Israeli press, is the last party that won a democratic election in Palestine.   Unhappy with that result, the U.S. and Israeli governments trained a Fatah militia to remove them.  The insurrection failed but left Hamas sequestered in Gaza, while Fatah took power in the West Bank.   Divided against themselves, the Palestinians in Palestine have been weakened.  Perhaps that was always the intended result.  Certainly the democratic choice of the Palestinian people was not respected.   Recently, Fatah and Hamas decided to form a unity government which could speak for all Palestinians and all of Palestine. Perhaps that is the reason for the present pogrom.   Democracy is dangerous.  Unity is powerful.

This was our third Friday in the streets in solidarity with the people of Gaza, of Palestine.   Two weeks ago, we were about 100, and there were some representatives of local TV stations present.  They interviewed me, and some of the Palestinians present.  But the interviews never aired.   Last week only about 30 people came out, very few Palestinians and no press.   But the violence in Gaza had clearly escalated and the forces for a ground invasion were building outside the Israeli wall, so we agreed to come back this week.    And so we did come out in force.

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle did run stories about this event on Saturday morning..   A video posted on the Democrat and Chronicle website clearly stated that we had a concern that the story was not being fully covered and presented Palestinian concerns about the ongoing violence in Gaza.  We are grateful for their coverage.

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