by Ashahed M. Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call
CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) – Palestinian political and student organizations led rallies in several cities across the United States recently calling for justice and protesting the brutality of the Israeli government and police.
A large and spirited rally was held here July 5 in solidarity with others taking place across the globe. Protesters of all ages carried banners and at one point unfurled a large Palestinian flag, gathering less than a block away from Michigan Avenue on Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile.”
Many were shocked, horrified, but not surprised when video emerged of Israeli police kicking and beating 15-year-old Tarek Abu Khdeir, a U.S. citizen from Tampa, Fla., who was visiting family in the region. Making the situation even more tragic is that the young man was the cousin of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was kidnapped early one morning on his way to the mosque to make prayer. His dead body was found and showed evidence he was burned alive by his killers in what investigators believe was retaliation for the deaths of three Israeli teenagers, Gilad Shaer, 16, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19.
Six Jewish suspects were arrested July 6 in connection with Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s death and surveillance video has also emerged reportedly showing his abduction. Despite the arrests, many Palestinians still believe it is unlikely his killers will ever face real justice. Although those arrested were described in the Israeli media as “extremists,” with “nationalistic” leanings, anti-Zionist activists say it makes no difference. At the highest levels of government, there is disregard for the lives of Palestinians and the infectious intolerance spreads throughout Israeli society. Shortly after the announcement that the bodies of the Jewish boys had been found, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasted no time ratcheting up tensions by calling for vengeance and placing the blame squarely on Hamas, calling members of the movement “human animals.”
Hamas has denied killing the three Jewish teenagers. Organizers believe Israel is simply using the incident to pressure Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the newly formed unity government with Hamas.
Hundreds of military raids have been launched across the occupied West Bank since June 12, with homes, refugee camps and offices of Palestinian service organizations ransacked. Israeli occupation forces have also targeted the campuses of Birzeit University near Ramallah and the Arab American University in Jenin, detaining students and staff members without charge.
The Israel Defense Forces have conducted at least 100 airstrikes on Gaza in recent days, most notably a fiery and intense bombing campaign in July making conditions even worse for Palestinians living in Gaza.
Attorney and activist Tarek Khalil described the bombings, military raids and unprovoked attacks by settlers as “Israeli state-sanctioned violence” resulting in the deaths of dozens of innocent Palestinians whose names may never be known. It is a misnomer to refer to what is happening between the Palestinians and the Israelis as a “peace process” because really, it is “nothing but process and no peace,” he said.
Young Palestinian brothers mourn the deaths of those who have lost their lives at the hands of the Israeli police and military.Photo: Ashahed M. Muhammad
“We have to understand that the disappearance of the three settlers must be understood within the context of this brutal military occupation against the Palestinian people,” said Atty. Khalil. “The media has made well known the names and the faces of these Israeli settlers but they have not made known the names and the faces of the beautiful Palestinian people, so our job right now is to make them known!” he added.
“The Palestinian people will never give up in fighting for their liberation and their freedom!” Atty. Khalil told the crowd.
Some enjoying Saturday afternoon walked by and joined the downtown protest, while others kept a distance, but gave the “thumbs up” sign. Drivers honked their horns in support. Others angered by the rally displayed the bigotry which has become commonplace in America’s increasingly Islamophobic society. One bare-chested man moved to within 20 feet of the protesters holding aloft an American flag and screamed “U-S-A! U-S-A! Yeah, we fu–in’ bomb people!” Another young man walked quickly by asking sarcastically, “What is this ‘Ground Zero?’ ”
Undeterred the student protesters chanted and marched down Michigan Avenue under the watchful eye of Chicago police.
“Palestinians do not need our tears, they need our action,” Nadine Darwish of Students for Justice in Palestine at Loyola University in Chicago said defiantly.
Columbia University student Ahmad Hamad, a young Palestinian who grew up on the north side of the Gaza Strip, sounded an equally defiant tone as he encouraged his peers in Palestine, and those at the rally, to continue to resist the Israeli occupation.
“We are not going to gain their sympathy,” said Mr. Hamad. “We have to challenge them!”
Hatem Abudayyeh of the United States Palestine Community Network said his father, who still is in Palestine, told him these are very dangerous times for Palestinians.
“The Israelis are absolutely out of control right now. Settler gangs are all over the Palestinian villages, they are grabbing kids out of their homes,” said Mr. Abudayyeh. “The Israeli military and police are protecting those settlers as they wreak havoc on Palestinian society,” he said.