Worldwide protest against Israeli violence in Gaza

By David Walsh
7 January 2009

Widespread revulsion against the murderous Israeli assault on the population of the Gaza Strip has sparked protest on every continent. Hundreds of demonstrations have taken place in cities large and small, from Bogota to Manila, Sofia to Ottawa, Dublin to New Delhi, in addition to dozens of cities in the US and major urban centers in Israel itself.

It would be impossible to provide details on every protest, but the following is intended to convey the depth and global character of the response.

Following the mass demonstrations held January 3 (see “Ground assault sparks worldwide protests—Civilian casualties mount as Israeli army slices through Gaza”), including in every major European and North American city, protests have continued in all parts of the globe. Thousands, for example, demonstrated in Beirut Sunday outside the United Nations building while others marched on the US embassy. Lebanese police used water hoses to keep the protesters away from the embassy. Hundreds marched in Amman, Jordan, on Sunday in two separate marches.

More than 5,000 marched in Istanbul Sunday, waving Palestinian flags and burning effigies of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President George W. Bush. Protesters also threw eggs at the Israeli consulate in the Turkish city.

According to the Associated Press, tens of thousands rallied in Rabat, the Moroccan capital, for a protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza. “Police estimated the turnout at 50,000.… Organizers said the number was bigger, but did not give a precise figure.”

Thousands of Afghans rallied against Israel’s offensive last Friday in Kabul. More than 1,000 protesters rallied outside a mosque, waving Hamas flags and chanting, “Death to America, Israel and Britain!” About 1,000 people demonstrated in the Afghan city of Herat on Friday as well, shouting, “Down with Israel!”

Demonstrations have taken place across Egypt, in defiance of the Mubarak regime, since the Israeli attack began December 27. Protesters have been met with clubs and beatings from police. Hundreds of arrests have been made. Despite this, some 3,500 Muslim Brotherhood members took to the streets Monday in Assiut, some 200 miles south of Cairo.

In Kashmir, Indian police used tear gas and batons to disperse hundreds of protesters in Srinagar, Indian Kashmir’s major city. The crowd chanted, “We’re with the Palestinians” and “Down with Israel!” Thirty people were injured in the police crackdown and 50 detained.

Some 70 students from universities in New Delhi threw shoes at the Israeli embassy on Monday. A student leader explained, “We are protesting against the terror attack of Israel on the citizens of Palestine. First it was Bush who got the shoes and now it is the time for Israel.” The protesters threw some 200 shoes at the embassy before police arrested them.

One hundred members of the left-nationalist Bayan Muna in Manila staged a rally at the Israeli embassy Monday. The group condemned the Israeli attacks that have left hundreds dead. Rep. Satur Ocampo told the media, “We add our voices to the growing international condemnation of Israel’s invasion of Gaza. As a former colony, we Filipinos should sympathize with the Palestinian people who are the aggrieved party in this war.”

Saudi police arrested two activists attempting to stage a demonstration in Riyadh last Thursday. The AFP reports, “The arrests came a day after the interior ministry denied organizers permission to hold the rally on the grounds that demonstrations are banned in Saudi Arabia.” Earlier, police fired rubber bullets to break up “rare protests involving hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Qatif and Safwa in the eastern part of the country.”

Hundreds of people from the Palestinian community in Bogota, the Colombian capital, protested outside the Israeli embassy last Friday. The protesters marched from Bolivar Square to the embassy, demanding peace for the Palestinian people. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, several hundred people gathered outside the Sao Paulo Art Museum to protest the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Several demonstrators carried Palestinian flags, according to news reports, and banners reading, “End the Genocide in Gaza.” Demonstrations have also been held in Buenos Aires.

In addition to the large protests held in various Australian cities (see “Australian demonstrations show solidarity with Palestinian people”), sizable rallies have also been organized in New Zealand against the Israeli incursion in Gaza. Approximately 1,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched in central Wellington Tuesday. They delivered a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs attacking the Israeli offensive and denouncing the New Zealand government’s “neutral stance.”

Father Gerald Burns, a Catholic priest, sprinkled red paint, mixed with his own blood, on a memorial to former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, “to mark the killing of hundreds of Palestinians and the seizure of their land.”

Palestinian Ihab Almawajah, 19, told a reporter that “his cousin was killed in the first of the Israeli strikes in Gaza. ‘It’s not fair on innocent people.... We hope the world understands that all Palestine wants is peace’ ” (Xinhua).

Large demonstrations took place in London, Paris, Rome, Athens and other European cities last weekend. Demonstrations continued in London on Sunday and Monday, with police making 10 arrests on Sunday. Many other British cities witnessed protests, including Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.

Several hundred protesters assembled in Huddersfield in West Yorkshire Monday night calling for an end to violence in the Middle East.

Local councillor Mehboob Kahn commented: “I was in Gaza two years ago to monitor the first ever local elections that the Palestinians had in Gaza and at the time there was a ceasefire and the elections were an important part of the peace.

“The Israelis broke the ceasefire in Gaza and the team were bombed from the air by Israeli airplanes—it was horrific for that to happen and to witness it first hand.”

Safiya Abdullah, 22, according to the local press, has taken the lead in organizing a protest scheduled for next weekend in Gloucester in southwest England. She commented: “A group of us decided to hold the march after seeing the news reports—we couldn’t stand seeing so many people killed. We thought somebody should do something about it. It is an atrocity and a massacre.

“In my opinion it has gone beyond religion and beyond nationality. It is human suffering. We just want to express how we feel.”

In response to the news of the bombing of two UN schools in Gaza, several hundred rallied in Dublin Tuesday at the Israeli embassy. Politicians, academics, union leaders and members of the Palestinian-Irish and Lebanese-Irish communities addressed the gathering, which also marched on the US and Egyptian embassies.

On Saturday, police used teargas to disperse a protest outside the Israeli embassy in Oslo. Several hundred protesters took part. They threw fireworks, eggs and stones at the police and the embassy building. “Shoes were also thrown at police officers,” Norwegian television reported.

The Associated Press reported that some 800 marchers “in the Swiss capital Bern carried banners accusing Israel of terrorism Friday [January 3] as demonstrators demanded an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.…

“Several held signs equating the Jewish state with Nazi Germany, while others accused Israel and its ally, the United States, of being ‘terrorists.’ ” Further rallies were planned in major Swiss cities for Sunday.

Wire services reported that protests were staged in several Balkan countries January 2 and 3 to protest the violence in Gaza. Several hundred people demonstrated in Belgrade’s main Republic Square on Monday against the military assault.

The Sofia Echo reports that in the Bulgarian mining town of Madan, with a predominantly Muslim community of 7,000, some 1,000 marched in a peaceful protest January 2 against the developments in Gaza. Shefket Hadji, “a spiritual guide at the local mosque,” told the media that the protest was “provoked by the inhumane way in which people treated one another in that part of the world.” Hadji “underlined the fact that people in Madan expressed their feelings as citizens and human beings, and not only as Muslims.” Protesters from several nearby villages participated in the protest.

A largely peaceful protest in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia on Saturday turned violent, according to press accounts, when some protesters tried to break through police lines blocking the road to the Israeli embassy. And on Monday, the Muslim community and supporters on the island of Malta held a protest against Israeli aggression. The protest took place in Valletta, Malta’s capital, in Freedom Square.

Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Ottawa have all witnessed protests against the Israeli military attacks.

Some 5,000 people marched through downtown Montreal Sunday in a three-hour rally. The Ottawa Citizen reported that the size of the crowd made Ahmed Benhamade “very, very happy.” Benhamade was “accompanied by his wife, Halima Salahiddin, their 18-month-old daughter, Safina, tightly bundled in winter gear and seated wide-eyed in a stroller. ‘It shows that this cause is just,’ Benhamade declared. ‘We are here for justice and we are here for peace.’ ” Five thousand people attended a rally in downtown Toronto on Saturday as well.

Protests have been organized in many US cities. There have been demonstrations, of course, in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco, but many smaller communities have also hosted rallies against Israeli aggression.

In Greenville, South Carolina, for example, 150 Arab-Americans and others marched through the streets Sunday. The Greenville News reports: “Several carried Palestinian flags and pictures of bloodied children while the crowd chanted ‘stop the occupation’ and ‘free, free Palestine.’ They said the incursion was killing women, children and the elderly and that the United States should end its aid to Israel.

“ ‘We feel like our brothers and sisters are being killed,’ said one of the protesters, Haroon Raja, 22, of Greenville.”

Several hundred people rallied in downtown Atlanta Monday evening outside the building that houses the Israeli consulate. One protester held a homemade sign that read, “Who killed us? Israel did.”

Another 250 people gathered in Portland, Oregon, Sunday in a protest. The demonstrators chanted, “Occupation is a crime, from Iraq to Palestine” and “Stop killing the children!” Arab-American youth chanted slogans in Arabic and English. One homemade sign read, “Massacre in Gaza: Made in USA!”

Hundreds of demonstrators in Minneapolis and Muslims living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, marched last Friday to protest the Israeli offensive. In Sioux Falls, protester John Koch told the local media, “We want to get the message out that a lot of Americans disagree with our government’s unquestioning support of the state of Israel’s actions.”

Some 200 people protested outside the Oklahoma state capitol in Oklahoma City on Monday, chanting, “Stop the killing, free, free Gaza!” Jillian Holzbauer of Stillwater, Oklahoma, a student at Oklahoma State University, carried a sign saying, “This Jew supports peace in Palestine.”

Holzbauer spent the past three summers working for a Palestinian nonprofit group in the West Bank. She told a local newspaper, “I saw that this isn’t really a religious issue, this is an issue about people who are living under military occupation for 40 years and they’re in a very desperate situation.”

Approximately 2,000 people rallied in San Jose, California, January 4 in a protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza. According to one participant, posting on the Indybay.org web site, “At one point during the protest, a Valley Transportation Authority bus stopped at the light and the driver yelled out, ‘Free Palestine.’ Many passing motorists honked in support of the protest.”

Hundreds rallied in Toledo, Dayton and Cleveland last Friday against the Zionist onslaught. Protests were held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Tucson, Arizona. Opponents of the Israeli action protested in Binghamton, New York, Raleigh, North Carolina, Des Moines, Iowa, Bloomington, Indiana, and various towns in South Florida and Michigan.

Israel itself has been the scene of numerous protests, the largest by Israeli Arabs in the town of Sakhnin, where up to 150,000 people rallied. Tel Aviv and Haifa have also witnessed sizable protests.

Ynetnews reported Tuesday that “Hundreds of Jews and Arabs protested against the Israeli operation in Gaza” in Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv. In Jerusalem, 150 Arab students protested the attack on Gaza near Hebrew University.

Also on Tuesday, Israeli police arrested 10 students, out of some 500 protesting the military’s actions at the University of Haifa.

Ynet reports, “Wael Soued, one of the protesting students, claimed that the demonstration started as a quiet protest until provocations came from the Jewish students.

“ ‘The objective was to have a quiet protest with signs and posters. They started making derogatory statements towards us, and we answered back. Within a few minutes, a big tumult broke out. The police got involved with batons and people got hurt,’ Soued recounted.”