Hours after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi announced a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on Nov. 21, Twin Cities activists nonetheless marched the Lake Street Bridge over the Mississippi River to express solidarity with Palestinians. Several dozen demonstrators — Arabs and Anglos alike — occupied the sidewalks as dusk fell on Minneapolis and as rush hour brought a stream of automobiles leaving town for the Thanksgiving holiday, many of them honking in solidarity with the protest. Activists will rally again tomorrow in support of Gaza.
“We keep being told that the Palestinians are the enemies (of the United States), and they’re not,” said social justice activist (and former UpTake staffer) Cirien Saadeh. “They’re all people and they all have stories that need to be told, and all we’re hearing is the politics and the statistics.” All around Saadeh, demonstrators chanted “Free, free Palestine, stop the hatred Israel!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” while others held signs aloft that read “Hands off Gaza”, “End Aid to Israel” and “Israel, ‘Never Again’ Means You Too”.
One protestor, Inam al-hammouri, lost family in Gaza during the weeklong mini-war between Israel and Hamas. I’ve been “crying every night seeing my family die, and (the U.S. and Israeli governments) don’t give a shit. It hurts,” al-hammouri shared. “Everybody should stand up for something, and this is what I stand up for.”
But why should Minnesotans protest a situation unfolding half a world away? Because of the U.S. government’s unflinching support for Israel, answered musician and activist Papa John Kolstad. He pointed out that non-binding resolutions, expressing “vigorous support” and “unwavering commitment” passed by the House and Senate in support of Israel had not one minute of debate — prompting criticism from Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich. “There was no notice, no committee hearing, no discussion and no debate,” said Kucinich. “In such a fashion, we achieve unanimity on great matters related to the Middle East. … Members must be given the opportunity to debate U.S. support of a military operation that is likely to be of significant consequence in talks between Israel and the Palestinians. This impacts the region and the world.”
“This is our responsibility,” said Kolstad. “This is our money that’s supporting this war. Its our military equipment, its our military budget, its our military war machine. I think we have a responsibility to say no — our government’s not supposed to be doing this.”