ATLANTA: A coalition of US civil rights and community groups held a rally on Tuesday outside the State Department to protest Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, and to press Secretary of State Antony Blinken to pressure Tel Aviv to end its ongoing airstrikes against Gaza and its efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
The coalition leadership delivered a petition signed online by more than 200,000 people and organizations demanding that the US government hold Israel accountable for its actions against the Palestinians in Jerusalem and Gaza.
“What we’re witnessing in Sheikh Jarrah is Israel’s attempt to erase the Palestinian presence from our native city in real time,” said Mohammed El-Kurd, whose family is among those set to be forcefully evicted in May.
“This fate of dispossession looms over much of my neighborhood. Our lives are consumed by the anxiety of living on the brink of homelessness.”
Israeli courts had ruled in favor of Jewish settlers giving four Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah until the end of May to leave their homes that they have lived in for several decades.
And in Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, 21 families are facing home demolitions to make way for an Israeli tourist site.
Israeli airstrikes against Gaza have killed at least 30 people, including nine children, wounded scores more and destroyed several large apartment buildings, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza.
The US rally was organized by a broad group of organizations representing different political, religious and ethnic groups.
They included Arab-American, African-American, Hispanic, Muslim, Jewish and Christian groups.
At the rally, Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Congressman Andre Carson of Indiana spoke about the need to continue to support the Palestinians.
Tlaib spoke about her own experience as a Palestinian woman supporting the struggle of her people to achieve their freedom and statehood.
Carson urged the protesters to continue to come out in support of the Palestinians, and said it is important for people and members of Congress to show solidarity.
Jinan Shbat, national organizer for the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), told Arab News that the rally showed how different communities in the US can come together and link the struggle of Palestinians with their own.
She said the US government’s massive financial and military aid to Israel enables it “to violate Palestinian human rights and sustain its occupation of Palestine.”
Representing ADC at the rally, Shbat spoke about the impact of such rallies and community activism in terms of forcing the US government to recognize their demands.
“As a result of pressure from communities across the US, the State Department changed its language to recognize the killing of Palestinian children by Israeli strikes, when the day before it refused to do so,” she said.
While recognizing that such change is “incremental,” Shbat urged the Arab-American community and others across the US to press their representatives in Congress to acknowledge the right of Palestinians to have their own freedom.
Dr. Osama Abuirshaid, executive director of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), one of the organizers of the rally, told Arab News that the goal of the protest is not just to have the US stop Israel from escalating its aggression, but also to urge Washington to take a firm policy stand against such behavior.
Abuirshaid, who spoke at the rally, said President Joe Biden’s administration has resorted to “blaming the victims, the Palestinians, while exonerating the criminals, Israel.”
He added that the Biden administration speaks about including human rights values in its foreign policy yet goes on to “equate Palestinian victims with Israeli criminals.”
Lara Kiswani, executive director of the California-based Arab Resource and Organizing Center, which participated in the rally, told Arab News: “Despite ongoing US support for apartheid Israel, we’re witnessing mass grassroots resistance — from the US and across the international community — to Israeli colonial violence in Jerusalem and Gaza today.”