‘Emergency Rally for Palestine’ in Oakland calls for the end of Israeli occupation and violence


Nathan Fitchett | Senior Staff Writer

The crowd of over 100 protestors gathered at Flagstaff Hill on Saturday afternoon carrying “Free Palestine” signs and Palestinian flags as they marched to Schenley Plaza. The protest was organized in reaction to the recent escalation in violence in Israel and Gaza over the past two weeks.

By Nathan Fitchett, Senior Staff Writer

“We must not watch the news, we must make the news,” Jude Taha said to the crowd of protestors gathered at Flagstaff Hill, reading from a poem she wrote. “To be Palestinian is passed down to us through triumph and pride, yet our existence is struggle but I am proud.”

Taha said she wrote the poem to express her thoughts after seeing the recent violence unfolding in Gaza, where one of her close friends resides.

“Seeing the violence, and the horror that people have to go through, the only way I could formulate my thoughts was into that poem,” Taha said. “The violence that’s being incited against Palestinians is nothing new, it’s been happening for the last 73 years.”

The crowd of over 100 protestors gathered at Flagstaff Hill on Saturday afternoon to protest Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories. Protestors carried “Free Palestine” signs and Palestinian flags as they marched to Schenley Plaza. The protest was organized in reaction to the recent escalation in violence against Palestinians by Israelis over the past two weeks.

Tension between the Israeli government and Palestinians has increased significantly since Israel’s inconclusive elections in March, the fourth in two years, which critics of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say has led him to apply military pressure in Gaza to gain more support from his right-wing rivals. In retaliation to the attack on the Al-Aqsa mosque, Hamas, a militant group in Gaza, fired rockets into Israel, resulting in constant fighting between Hamas and Israeli forces. In an attempt to target supposed Hamas militants in Gaza, Israeli airstrikes destroyed a building which housed members of Al Jazeera and The Associated Press. The Israeli government and Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire that began last Friday and has held so far.

The situation began in 1948 with the Nakba, or “catastrophe” in Arabic, which refers to the displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and the destruction of about 400 Palestinian villages, which occurred as a result of the Arab-Israeli War and formation of the state of Israel. The tension and violence between Israel and Palestine has increased over decades, creating a severe refugee crisis. Most of what used to be Palestine is now acknowledged as Israel, and the remaining Palestinian land includes Gaza, the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem.

The Saturday protest was organized through grassroots efforts over Facebook by Malak Shuman, a recent graduate of Carlow University, with help from organizations like the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the Thomas Merton Society. Shuman said since it was her first time organizing a protest, she wasn’t expecting such a large turnout.

Some protestors wore shirts featuring QR codes that lead to an online form calling for the support of H.R.2590, the Palestinian Children and Families Act. If passed, this act will block all U.S. funding of Israeli annexation of Palestinian land or imprisonment of Palestinian children. The form is a streamlined way to contact local U.S. representatives to call for them to support the proposed legislation.

The protest featured several different speakers calling out injustices Palestinians face from Israel. Protestors shouted chants of “Free, free Palestine,” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Shuman said the group hoped to spread the message of freeing Palestine from constant violence with their rally and others like it.

“We just want to free Palestine. It’s been 73 years, 1948 till now of nonstop genocide,” Shuman said. “We have bombings every other week. They drop 200 bombs in 10 minutes on us and we just want it to end. That’s our main goal.”

Some speakers focused on how some media outlets skew their coverage of the violence against Palestinians. Taylor Goel, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, said the way the violence is covered in the news is similar to what Americans sometimes see in their news with police violence against Black people.

“When they start the narration without giving you the initial, original roots of why there is this tension, they frame the Palestinians, essentially the victims here, as the party that’s violent. It’s a similar analogy as when the police kill a Black person,” Goel said. “The first thing the media does is try to pull all the dirt out, they try to portray that person as a sort of violent criminal, and then that sets the tone so they can justify that murder. It’s a similar logic at play here.”

Taha said part of the message they are trying to send with the rally is to bring Americans’ attention to how their tax dollars are contributing to violence against Palestinians.

“Part of the message we’re also sending is that a lot of our American tax dollars are being used in ways that I don’t think the mass majority of people are aware of,” Taha said. “I believe 3.8 billion goes every year to Israeli funds, which that funds the active act of genocide and ethnic cleansing that happens in Palestine.”

The U.S. sent $3.8 billion in defense funding to Israel in 2020, with most of the funding going towards missiles in Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. Israel has been the number one recipient of U.S. foreign aid since WWII.

Taha argued that the Israeli government is solely responsible for inciting the violence against Palestinians and the only way to defend against being “ethnically cleansed” is to fight back.

“It’s a genocide, it’s an act of war, it’s terrible,” Taha said. “I know people there, my family is from there, we have history there. There is no right way to fight back when you’re being ethnically cleansed. Violence that is happening is incited by the Israeli government, it is motivated by it and it happens because of the Israeli government. If we’re talking about violence it needs to be addressed from its root cause.”