Pedestrians and motorists traveling down Fayetteville Street toward the North Carolina State Capitol in the hot hours of the early afternoon Saturday would have a hard time ignoring the crowd of about 200 demonstrators displaying posters and chanting to protest ongoing violence in the Gaza strip and the billions of dollars in United States military aid given to Israel annually.
The protest consisted of a coalition of different Triangle-based organizations, such as Jewish Voice for Peace and the Coalition of Peace for Justice,as well as non-affiliated members of the publicadvocating for an end to the $3.15 billion a year in aid Israel receives from the U.S., claiming money is being used to fund violent crimes against humanity in Gaza.
Rania Masri, an N.C. State alumna and spokeswoman for the coalition of different organizations involved in the protest, said the goal of the demonstrations was to raise awareness about the violence and human rights violations that are continuing to unfold throughout Gaza and the West Bank.
Gaza suffered its bloodiest day in the more than two-week conflict between Hamas and Israel Sunday after an Israeli assault resulted in at least 87 dead Palestinians and 13 dead Israeli soldiers, most of the victims coming from an eastern neighborhood of Gaza City called Shejaiya, The New York Times reported.
Last month, Fatah and Hamas, the two major political parties in Palestine, formed a unified government that Israel opposes and is trying to dismember, according to information sheets provided by protest leaders who claim Israel has no right to choose Palestinian leadership.
On Wednesday, the death toll reached more than 680, with about 4,250 injured, according to the Middle East Eye.
Masri said the media has been presenting an inaccurate depiction of what has been happening in Gaza, and are portraying the violence as Israel’s attempt to defend themselves against Hamas rockets.
“The reality of the situation is, one, Israel attacked Gaza without provocation,” Masri said.
Israel occupied Gaza in 2005 after an illegal military siege and has been present in the area ever since, according to Masri.
“We are having literally hundreds of Palestinians being killed in their neighborhoods with no place to them to go for shelter to evacuate,” Masri said. “And there are no decent hospitals for them to seek proper medical treatment.”
“These events are occurring while the U.S. government continues to supply billions of dollars in federal military aid to Israel every year,” Masri said.
‘Not war and occupation, money for jobs and education!’
U.S. military aid to Israel was $2.775 billion in 2011, $3 billion in 2011, $3.07 billion in 2012 and is $3.15 billion per year from 2013 to 2018. The U.S. signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Israel in 2007, pledging to provide $10 billion in aid between the years 2009 and 2018.
This money, Masri said, could instead be spent on jobs, affordable housing, education and healthcare instead of on funding the devastation in Gaza.
Miriam Thompson, a speaker at the protest, read a letter to the activists written by her daughter Maggid Kohenet, an ordained Jewish rabbi.
“As a Jew and lover of peace, I am mourning for Israel’s inhumanity in Gaza and all its occupied colonized territories,” Thompson read. “An injustice born of hatred, fear and the tortured and propagandized belief that Israel can actually build a safe homeland for the Jewish people on top of the dead bodies of children and the rubble of bombed Palestinian hospitals and homes.”
The speech Thompson read empathized the duty of those who claim to be religious as well as that of American citizen to care about the safety of their fellow humans and the brutal treatment of other human beings brought about through U.S. funds.
“As an American, I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the current carnage because, without my tax dollars funding Israel’s military machine, it would be forced to make peace,” Thompson said.
‘Free, free Palestine!’
Thompson encouraged activists to attend the International Day of Al-Quds protest on Friday in Durham at the corner of Gregston and Main Street at 4:30 p.m. to rally for peace and justice in Palestine and to show support for all those who are oppressed worldwide.
International Day of Al-Quids protests will be held throughout the country and all over the world on Friday July 25. An event poster bears the slogan “You don’t have to be Muslim to stand up for Palestine. You just have to be human.”
On August 2, activists from across the U.S. will gather in front of the White House for the National March on the White House to protest U.S. aid to Israel and to call for an end to the ongoing violence in Gaza.
Protesters the march are planning to carry symbolic coffins draped in Palestinian flags to the White House. Thousands are expected to attend the national demonstration.