Hundreds gather at Washington's Israeli embassy in solidarity with Palestinians

Mostly Arab and Palestinian-led demonstration attracts protesters of all ages and backgrounds

Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington on Tuesday in solidarity with the Palestinians' nationwide strike.

The mainly Arab and Palestinian-led demonstration attracted protesters from all ages and backgrounds.

For the long-time activists there, the solidarity shown by non-Palestinians was a refreshing change.

“Seeing this also makes me cry tears of relief because, to see more than just Palestinians, more than just Muslims, more than just Arabs care about Palestine brings me ... faith in humanity,” said Mariam Abou-Ghazala, an activist of Palestinian and Syrian descent who led the crowd in a round of chants.

Ms Abou-Ghazala spoke to The National just after a moment of silence and a reading of some of the names of civilians killed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza over the past week.

“I’m very emotional today," she said. "Every time I come out, I regain hope in humanity, I regain faith in the people behind me.”

There were many moments of raw emotion at the demonstration.

In between chants in Arabic and English of “Save Sheikh Jarrah”, and “Gaza Gaza don’t you fear, we are here, we are here”, organisers read poetry about Palestinians returning to their homeland and verses from the Quran.

Solidarity protests, primarily organised by the Palestinain Youth Movement and other grassroots organisations, took place across the US in cities including San Diego, Houston and Cleveland.

The general strike comes after Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said his military had “thousands more attack targets”.

Gaza Health Ministry officials say 213 people have been killed so far, including dozens of civilians, as the Israeli bombardment shows no sign of letting up.

At least 12 people in Israel have been killed by Hamas rocket fire.

US President Joe Biden expressed support for a ceasefire in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week.

The primarily Arab and Palestinian-led demonstration attracted protesters from all ages and backgrounds. Ellie Sennett / The National
The primarily Arab and Palestinian-led demonstration attracted protesters from all ages and backgrounds. Ellie Sennett / The National

The US provided the Israeli military with about $3.8 billion in support in 2020, the Congressional Research Service says.

But even with some corners of his Democratic party calling for more US condemnation of what rights groups have described as apartheid in Israel, and for more transparency in US aid to Israel, the White House has been slow to criticise its historic ally.

For Ms Abou-Ghazala, hope comes from what she sees as increased grass-roots support.

“I’ve never, ever seen, scrolling down my feed, so many people caring about Palestine," she said.

"So I believe it’s the solidarity and alliance of [communities like] our black brothers and sisters, Central American brothers and sisters, and again all of the different backgrounds, that is what’s going to push for change.”

Updated: May 19, 2021 05:01 AM

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