Seattleites rally for Gaza
Last updated 1-8-09 at 1:08 p.m.
More than 600 Seattleites crowd in front of Westlake Mall
in a rally organized by the Palestinian community to protest against
Israel’s killing of 200 civilians in Gaza on Jan. 3.
Photo by Brett Jelinek
By Jane Mee Wong
Northwest Asian Weekly
On Saturday, Jan. 3, Westlake Mall was a landmark of Gaza solidarity.
Chants of “Free Free Palestine” rang through the streets
of downtown, breaking only for the Muslim call
The energetic fervor of the 600-strong multiracial,
multireligious crowd calling for the end of the
Israeli siege bespoke a sense of tragedy and anger
surrounding the situation in Gaza. Since Dec. 27, Israel had conducted
air raids on Gaza, where 1.5 million Palestinians inhabit. Casualty
figures have risen to 540 Palestinian deaths and 2,600 injuries.
Six Israeli soldiers have also died in the attacks.
“My heart is heavy around what is happening [in Gaza]. There
are disproportionate violence, disproportionate suffering,
and disproportionate media response,” said Jacquelyn Hermer,
a Jewish woman present at the protest.
“Jewish people should understand what it means to have your
land, your home, and your rights taken away from
you. I am outraged that they are the ones who are doing to the Palestinians
what was done to their people,” said 44-year-old Aisha Yeoh.
Yeoh identifies herself as a Muslim Asian American.
As the crowd marched on Fourth Avenue toward Denny
Way, chants acknowledging the Palestinian resistance,
the Intifadas of 1987 and 2002, were made. Chants
such as “Free
Free Palestine / Long Live Palestine / Long Live the Intifada /
Intifada Intifada” accompanied
the steady beat of the rally.
“It is empowering to see so many older uncles and aunties
waving their fists and chanting,” said Selma Dillsi, a senior
at the University of Washington who helps organize
for Students for Justice in Palestine.
In response to claims that Israeli attacks were a
justified response to the rocket attacks of Hamas,
the Islamist political party that won the 2006 national
elections in Palestine, Yeoh compared the plight
of the Palestinians to those incarcerated in the
U.S. She said, “Hamas
attacked Israel in response to the Israeli blockade
of food and medicine from reaching the Palestinian
people. In the U.S., even condemned prisoners are
given food and water, medical attention, and last
rites which are denied to the Palestinian people.”
“The current Israeli attack of Gaza is timed very precisely.
It is happening two months before Israeli elections.
[Israeli foreign minister] Tzipi Livni and [Israeli defense minister]
Ehud Barak want to play on the fear and paranoia of Israeli voters.
They are attacking Gaza to prove that Israel is strong so they can
get elected. It is a disgusting political move,” said Dillsi.
Referring to Israel as one of the countries receiving
exorbitant amounts of U.S. foreign aid, Dillsi said, “The
U.S. government has equal responsibility for what
is happening in Gaza. The irony of my life as a Palestinian
American is that my tax money goes to destroying
my people in Palestine.”
Hermer is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, an
organization focused on mobilizing Jewish voice around
support of Palestine, as well as presenting a united,
alternative voice for peace in the region. “The U.S. government is invested
in the policies of the state of Israel. […] American companies
like Caterpillar invest massive amounts of money in the Israeli
Defense Forces that demolishes Palestinian homes. It supports the
U.S. economy. It’s a complicated relationship.”
For her views against the policies of the Israeli
state, Hermer has been described as being “not Jewish enough,” or “not
a good Jew.” Hermer said, “We need the language to differentiate
Jewish people from the policies of the state of Israel.
There is rampant racism present in Israel. […] It was founded
on colonialism and white supremacy,” said Hermer.
“The liberation of our [Jewish] children is bound up with
that of the Palestinians. The right of return of
Palestinians is an important part of that.”(end)
Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Washington
(SJP-UW) organized a Gaza solidarity rally on Thursday, Jan. 8th,
at noon on the HUB Lawn at the University of Washington Seattle
Jane Mee can be reached at email@example.com.