While the nation of Israel and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) lobbed bombs and missiles at each other on May 15, hundreds of protesters gathered at the corner of 43rd and Central Avenue in Columbia Heights to commemorate Al Nakba (“The Catastrophe”), the day in 1948 when Israel pushed more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes.
The protest was organized by the Minnesota Anti-War Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, Veterans for Peace, Minnesota Peace Action Coalition and Women Against Military Madness. It was a follow-up to a march earlier in the week to Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office that involved more than 1,000 people. Many in the crowd seemed to be old hands at demonstrating. When asked for a show of hands, most were not Palestinians or of Palestinian descent.
Nevertheless, they enthusiastically listened to short speeches by organizers and lustily proclaimed their purpose. “Free, free Palestine!” they chanted. Several green, black, white and red Palestinian flags fluttered in the wind.
One of the speakers was Sanaa Khalil, who condemned the United States’ backing of Israel for 73 years and the hardship it’s caused for Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. “Unemployment in Gaza is 43%,” she said. “That’s double the rate the U.S. had during the Great Depression.” (According to an article published May 19 by the New York Times, it’s closer to 50%.)
She also called for a boycott of Pillsbury products. Pillsbury manufactures bakery products in Gaza. Last year, the United Nations cited General Mills, which owns Pillsbury, for violating the human rights of Palestinians by operating in Israeli settlements in land Palestinians claim for a future state. A worldwide movement called Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS), has been organized by the Palestinian BDS National Committee. A young man held aloft a sign reading, “Young American Jews support BDS.” The other side of the sign had the same saying written in Hebrew.
Khalil was followed by her uncle, Sabry Wazwaz, a committee member, who said, “Peace be upon him, Jesus was a Palestinian Jew.” He continued, “This fight is not just for Arabs. It’s for everyone who cares for human rights and all mankind.”
One man held a sign that read, “As a Jew, I oppose the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem.”
Protest leaders also called upon President Joe Biden to condemn Israel’s actions. One man held a sign that said, “Biden do better.” [The President called for a cease-fire, but has not indicated that the U.S. will stand down from its support of Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a badly beaten Hamas have since initiated an uneasy cessation of war.]
As the crowd lined up to march, some shouted, “Allahu Akbar! (God is great!).” And as the column began to march south down Central Avenue, they chanted, “Israel, you will learn. By the millions we will return!”
Below: One man urged President Joe Biden to “do better.” Sanaa Khalil speaks to protesters. Palestinians received support from people from other nations, including Tunisia. Protesters marched down Central Avenue in opposition to Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip.