VOLUME 28 NO. 3 | JANUARY 10 - JANUARY 16, 2009

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 to prayer.

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 campus.

Jane Mee can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.


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