From The Final Call Newspaper

 Global protests intensify and demands to ‘Free Palestine’ grow

By The Final Call
- March 5, 2024

Demonstrators gather outside the Israeli Embassy to demand a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip in Washington, D.C., on March 2. Protesters also commemorated the U.S. service member Aaron Bushnell who self-immolated outside the embassy. Photo: Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images

by Nisa Islam Muhammad and Charlene Muhammad

The Final Call @TheFinalCall

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Thousands gathered at the Israeli Embassy in the nation’s capital and in cities across the U.S. and abroad as part of another global day of protest to demand no invasion of Rafah, a ceasefire to end the Israeli killing spree on Palestinians and the lifting of the siege of Gaza. Rafah is in the south of the Gaza Strip which shares a border with Egypt.

An estimated 1.5 million internally displaced Palestinians taking refuge there are facing famine, and Israel has threatened a last-ditch effort to destroy Hamas with a ground invasion of Rafah.

“Our request was for a ceasefire, but we’re 140 days in,” Hazami Baramada, told the media. She is an activist, global strategy consultant, and international public speaker.

“You have a majority of Gaza destroyed, demolished schools, infrastructure, hospitals, all civilian infrastructure is completely demolished. You have 14,000 children who’ve been killed, over 40,000 according to Euro Med (Human Rights Monitor). People have been killed, including civilian populations. There are 20-plus thousand orphans.

The numbers are so staggering and so disgusting and so inhumane that a ceasefire is no longer enough. We demand a change in the U.S. relationship with Israel. We demand accountability,” she continued. Gaza’s health ministry said the number of Palestinians killed in the war has surpassed 30,000.

“We demand answers on why the United States is constantly allowing war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes against international law, violations of just basic human dignity to continue to happen. And the hypocrisy! You call out what’s happening in Russia and Ukraine and you’re not willing to hold the same standards to Israel and Palestine. It is atrocious. The American taxpayer dollars are not only paying for this, but our military has normalized it.”

Ms. Baramada argued that misinformation and lies are being peddled and that one of the objectives of the March 2 mass mobilization was for citizens to hold the U.S. and Israeli governments accountable for their actions.

“We can’t hold Israel accountable as individual citizens, but what we can do is expose what they’re doing. We can educate the average American and put pressure on our administration to cut the relationship, to stop unconditional aid, and to start holding Israel accountable for its war crimes.

Protesters rally in front of Los Angeles City Hall during a “Global Day of Protest” in support of Palestinians in Los Angeles, California, on March 2, 2024. (Photo by Katie McTiernan / AFP) (Photo by KATIE MCTIERNAN/AFP via Getty Images)

We have for far too long, regardless of the administration, used our political, social, and economic power to sanction what is happening, but then also to support it. We are actively part of a genocide. We are not just enabling it. We are part of the genocide and this needs to stop.”

Madge Henderson is a White American middle-class woman. After the October 7, 2023, attack by Hamas, she said she supported Israel’s right to defend itself. However, after hearing about the tens of thousands of murdered Palestinian women and children she later changed her mind. Ms. Henderson traveled with her family from Fredericksburg, Virginia, to D.C. to participate in the demonstration.

“I’m here to protest the genocide going on in Gaza. Babies (limbs) are being amputated without any anesthesia, people are starving and dying. I can’t believe my government of the United States is using my taxpayer dollars to pay for this atrocity,” she told The Final Call. “I’ve never protested anything in my life. I love all people. I grew up traveling the world with my parents. I love Palestinians and I also love Jewish people. I love Muslims. But today love is not enough. Something has to be done to stop the massacres.”

D.C. was one of more than 120 cities across the United States and dozens of others around the globe engaged in mass actions, on March 2, to protest the continued genocide in Palestine. Israel has threatened to invade Rafah on March 10 coinciding with the beginning of the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan. More than 300 organizations supported the protests.

A Palestinian woman reacts after an Israeli strike on Shaheen family house in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

“The Palestinian people of Gaza have been faced with months of nonstop bombardment, mass killing, and forced starvation. Even as the occupation army targets various quarters of Rafah, even as it continues its relentless campaigns of annihilation in Shuja’iyya, Nuseirat, Khan Younis, and Jabalia, the colonial regime is additionally threatening to carry a full-scale ground invasion of Rafah. The world must rise up to stop this brutality,” said Jamil Madbak, of the Palestinian Youth Movement, one of the event’s organizers.

More than 50,000 marched in New York City, 15,000 in San Francisco, and many thousands more in mass actions in Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and many others cities. Hundreds gathered in downtown Syracuse for the “Hands Off Rafah” protest.

Event organizers included members of the Syracuse chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace and Veterans for Peace. International sites included Havana, Cuba, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nanaimo, British Columbia (Canada), São Paulo, Brazil and Seoul, South Korea.

Despite moderate to heavy rains, thousands of activists and residents gathered for the #HandsOffRafah demonstration in downtown Los Angeles on March 2. Approximately eight hours before the ANSWER Coalition’s Global Day of Action, themed “Shut It Down For Palestine” began, at least 11 were killed and 50 wounded after an Israeli air attack on a tent housing displaced people next to the entrance of a hospital in Rafah City, according to Al Jazeera.

Palestinians pray over the bodies of their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardments of the Gaza Strip in front of the morgue to pray over them at Al Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Representatives from the Palestinian Youth Movement’s Los Angeles, Orange County and Inland Empire chapters participated in and coordinated the gathering. The transnational, independent, grassroots movement of young Palestinians in Palestine and those in exile worldwide exist as a result of the ongoing occupation of their homeland, organizers stated.

The only recourse to justice for their people is the dismantling of Zionism, its genocidal war machine, and its political institutions, said a LA-based Palestinian American youth activist. “Here in the U.S., we not only have a role, but an obligation, a duty to dismantle Zionism.

Our mobilizations have ruined the Occupation’s image and have left Zionism in ruins! We will continue to organize, and we won’t stop until this racist, genocidal project is defeated once and for all!” she added.

She then summarized the atrocities of the genocidal war and nearly 20-year-long siege, pointing out the bombing by Israeli forces of civilians seeking shelter along aid routes in the Gaza Strip. “Shame!” she declared.

“Shame,” roared the demonstrators, many still joining the protest in droves. They filled corners and crosswalks, sloshing through the rain and mud puddles saturating City Park, just across from City Hall. Demonstrators filled the building’s steps, up to the iron barricades protecting entry to the doorway. They nearly spanned the entire block within an hour after the protest began.

‘Genocide is happening’

Global activism against Israeli genocide on the Palestinian people has continued since the October 7, 2023 attack on southern Israel by Hamas fighters emerging from Gaza. That act killed almost 1,200 people and led to Israel’s massive military response, backed by the U.S. government. News reports state the Israeli bombardment has displaced 1.8 million of the 2.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza and turned much of the besieged territory bordering Israel, the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt into rubble and dust.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan addressed the conflict during his highly anticipated Saviours’ Day 2024 message, entitled, “What does Allah The Great Mahdi and The Great Messiah Have to Say About the War in the Middle East?”

The Muslim leader explained that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a second Nakba (catastrophe) in mind for the Palestinian people. The first Nakba on the Palestinians was in 1948 when Israel became a state. More than 700,000 Palestinians were exiled at that time and made “like vagabonds in the earth,” he said.

Mr. Netanyahu wanted to use the pain of the loss of Jewish lives to destroy the whole Palestinian community, not only in Gaza and the West Bank, but also in East Jerusalem, Minister Farrakhan charged. “It was a genocidal attack that he knew would preserve his place as a great Jewish leader,” he explained.

“Who could do to another human being what is being done to our Palestinian family and not think of a humanitarian crisis?” stated Minister Farrakhan, continuing, “Who will pay for the killing of Palestinians—men, women and children? Who will pay for the destruction of Palestinian life and culture?”

The bold leader also expressed sympathy for families who lost loved ones in the Hamas attack. He expressed support for Tal Mitnick, an 18-year-old conscript to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who refused to serve and was sentenced to a 30-day prison term. The Minister asked Allah (God) to sear the young man’s image into his mind.

U.S. Airman Aaron Bushnell was so conflicted by the war that he went to the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. and set himself on fire. The 25-year-old dressed in his U.S. Air Force uniform and said he would “no longer be complicit in genocide.” He shouted “Free Palestine” as he burned, until he collapsed to the ground dying hours later in the hospital. Officer Bushnell live-streamed his ultimate sacrifice, ensuring that his actions — which he described as an “extreme act of protest” — were seen worldwide.

“The decision by U.S. Airman Aaron Bushnell to set himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy while condemning the U.S.-backed Israeli genocide being carried out against the people of Gaza was a desperate act designed to arouse public outrage. He made the ultimate personal sacrifice to end a genocide that the entire world has been witnessing for the past months,” explained Brian Becker, national director of ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). “This was an act of martyrdom by a U.S. service member who was outraged by the actions of a government that speaks in his name.”

“People all over the United States, in the millions, have been involved in mass actions to protest the U.S. support for Israeli genocide against the Palestinian people in recent months. People have also engaged in civil disobedience actions of many types. Many have been arrested and are facing trial, including many whose constitutional rights were violated by violent police repression.”

“The United States government and Israel are killing babies,” said Nazaro Aguero of Peru, pointing to his children who were at the Los Angeles demonstration. “We don’t want any more kids to die! Every kid deserves to live. If you touch a kid, you are not a good person. Palestine deserves to be free.”

His truck included a flatbed covered with flags of Latin America—Argentina, Chile, etc. “We want peace in the world. That’s why from everywhere we are here. Latin America stands with Palestine, always,” Mr. Aguero said.

Sarah and Affan Tareen said their liberation, safety, and dignity of life is interconnected, and they believe that the Palestinians are their brothers and sisters just as much as those of Jewish descent. They came to the L.A. gathering with their young children, ages 6 and 4. “Genocide is happening, and we cannot rest until that is stopped. We will not rest,” stated Mrs. Tareen. She said she’s outraged that U.S. dollars are being used to penetrate this war.

“I am outraged that President (Joe) Biden bypassed Congressional approval in the first place to send aid to Israel. I am angry. I feel that democracy is talked about being attacked by the Republican Party and I see it not being upheld and prioritized by the Democratic Party and I am angry at this country for not living up to its values and the principles it says that we are built on. We have a lot reckoning to do with our own past and moving forward we must change our ways,” she added.

Maaz Bajwa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community drove from San Diego to L.A. with his children, son Isa and daughter Anisah.

“We see this as a prayer, as congregational salat. We see this as everybody praying, ‘Free, free Palestine!’ as a prayer that we’re all praying together, not just Muslims but all people of faith, who just believe in any bit of morality,” he told The Final Call.

“We have a chance, an opportunity to stop a real-live genocide from occurring, something rare in history. And our so-called elected officials and the people that are supposed to represent us continue to stand idle while this keeps going on,” said Javier Guerrero, an organizer with the ANSWER Coalition.

He noted predictions that if the impending massacre is not stopped, up to 90,000 innocent Palestinians could die, and called it “nothing short of a blood bath,” poised to be one of the worst human atrocities in world history.

Final Call Staff Writer Nisa Islam Muhammad reported from Washington, D.C. and National Correspondent Charlene Muhammad reported from Los Angeles.