Gaza killings: New Yorkers call for justice in Nakba protest

About 300 activists demand Israel be brought to justice for rights violations after scores were killed in Gaza Strip.

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    Organisers said they had assembled to demand an end to the Israeli occupation and the right of Palestinians to return home [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]
    Organisers said they had assembled to demand an end to the Israeli occupation and the right of Palestinians to return home [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]

    New York City, United States - Chanting slogans, holding up placards and singing resistance songs, about 300 people marched through Brooklyn in New York on Monday to commemorate the 70th year since the Nakba, or "Catastrophe", when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes to make way for the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

    Monday's protest coincided with fierce violence in the Gaza Strip, where at least 58 Palestinians, including six children, were killed by Israeli army snipers in several rallies along the fence with Israel. 

    Addressing the crowd gathered on the sidewalks of Bay Ridge, a Brooklyn neighbourhood known for its sizeable Palestinian population, Nerdeen Kiswani, one of the organisers of the rally, said they had assembled to demand an end to the Israeli occupation and the right of Palestinians to return home.

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    "We are saying that we are part of the Great March of Return. It has been 70 years too long," Kiswani said to the gathered crowd.

    Another Palestinian activist, Nancy Mansour, said they had gathered to demand that Israel be brought to justice for all its human rights violations over the past 70 years.

    "Every Palestinian [here] has to wake up every morning and check the news to see if our families [back home] are still alive. Who does that?

    "It's a shame on the international community, especially the Palestinian Authority and the Arab leaders of the world, who are silent about this," Mansour said.

    On Monday, rallies commemorating the Nakba coincided with the unveiling of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.

    Scores killed in Gaza

    In addition to the 58 victims in Gaza, another 2,700 people were wounded by the Israeli army, which fired live ammunition and tear gas canisters, in what is being described as the deadliest day in the Palestinian enclave since 2014.

    Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the actions of the army, arguing that Israel had a right to defend its border.

    Israel's actions have been condemned by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

    Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, called its actions "shocking".  

    Both Turkey and South Africa have recalled their ambassadors to Israel.

    Protesters waved Palestinian flags and carried a variety of colourful placards and banners [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]

    In New York, protesters waved Palestinian flags and carried a variety of colourful placards and banners. US President Trump was especially berated for his role in moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

    Protesters made little effort to hide their derision for what they see as the pivotal role played by the US in Israeli aggressions in Gaza.

    "End all aid to racist state of Israel" some posters read while others accused Israel of being a "racist tool of US imperialism". There were other placards that declared that Jerusalem is "the capital of Palestine".

    Other protesters held up posters with the image of Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja who was shot dead by Israeli army snipers in April.

    Many protesters said they had come to show their support following the "catastrophic murder of Palestinians in Gaza". 

    'Solidarity with the people'

    At least 107 people have been killed and 12,000 others injured since March 30 when the weekly Great March of Return protests began.

    According to British charity Save the Children, at least 500 children have been injured, about half of whom were hit with live rounds of ammunition fired by Israel soldiers.

    "I was following the news all day today, and the death toll was just rising. The idea that the [Israeli army] are using snipers to pick out protesters is just not right. I came to show my solidarity with the people of Palestine," John Dennie, a retired man in his seventies who joined the protest, said.

    "It pains me that so much of our tax dollars goes to these murderers," Dennie told Al Jazeera, referring to the $3bn in aid the US gives Israel annually.

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    Raffaelo Perfetto, who described himself as a senior citizen and an activist, said he was ashamed that so many Christians and Americans were silent about the situation in Gaza.

    "Let the world decide how this crisis is resolved. I hope Americans wake up to what is going on there," Perfetto told Al Jazeera.

    A group of rabbis and Jews with Neturei Karta International, an organisation made up of ultra-Orthodox Jews who reject the Israeli state, were also in attendance. Their placards read: "Judaism condemns the state of Israel and its atrocities".

    Rabbi Dovid Feldman of Neturei Karta International told Al Jazeera that "Zionists have tried to transform Judaism into a form of nationalism". This, he argued, has uprooted Judaism from the masses.

    "I feel we need to speak out, to make it clear that the actions of Israel is not supported by all Jews," Feldman said.

    As the crowd of protesters made their way down 5th Avenue, some onlookers stopped to watch; others cheered the protesters on. Others driving by in their cars honked in support.

    Following the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza on Monday, solidarity groups across the US say that more rallies and protests will take place in the coming days.

    Follow Azad Essa on Twitter: @AzadEssa

    Protesters made little attempt to hide their derision for what they see as the pivotal role played by the US in Israeli aggressions in Gaza [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]


    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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