Washington, D.C. – Palestinians and Jews demonstrated with supporters at the White House Saturday, decrying escalating violence against Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories. They called for an end to U.S. aid to Israel, claiming it funds military equipment used in the violent clashes and repression there. Palestinians and Jews stood shoulder to shoulder, calling the latest response by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to the uprising “disproportionate” and “barbaric”.
The protest marked a three-day BDS solidarity wave with sister protests held at Israeli embassies in cities across Europe and South America.
At one point, Secret Service moved protesters across Pennsylvania Avenue, far back from the iron fence of White House grounds, when several counter-protesters sparked confrontations. There were no arrests or injuries and the protest continued, lasting several hours.
The latest uprising across Israel and the Occupied Territories began late last month, with 31 Palestinians and 8 Israelis slain since then. Nearly 1000 Palestinians have been wounded, many by gunfire. One Israeli stabbed another Israeli in retribution for other incidents when he mistook him for Palestinian.
Tensions have been building in Gaza, the West Bank, and in East Jerusalem over restrictions placed on access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Adding to Palestinian anger are Israeli archaeological excavations near the Temple Mount and the Old City in Jerusalem. Palestinians have filled protests through third party countries at the UN concerning the excavations. Further, disaffected youth, who are experiencing a 70% unemployment rate in Gaza and the West Bank, are using social media to share their experiences under “apartheid” rule. Youth are spreading cellular photos and videos of incidents involving IDF which are in turn inflaming more tensions.
Several leaders of the Occupied Territories have called the building youth movement, which is not affiliated with any particular political group, the beginning of a new Intifada.
“I’ve been to Palestine before and witnessed occupation, intentional discrimination and murder of Palestinians by the Israeli military,” said Nejwa Ali, a Palestinian-American from Buffalo, NY. Ali is a student and has previously volunteered in the occupied lands. Ali believes money sent to the Israeli military could be used for education and healthcare. “The U.S. Government supports Israel with $3 billion a year and the Americans need to know,” she said.
Video circulating on social media showed IDF firing on West Bank youth attempting to break through the wall between Israel and the West Bank with sledgehammers. “I don’t believe in collective punishment of Palestinians,” said Julia Rapp, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. “I don’t think Netanyahu should be using individual acts of violence as collective punishment against all Palestinian people,” she said.
With tensions rising and no forward movement towards peace talks or a one-state solution, it is unlikely the uprising will end anytime soon.