WASHINGTON (AFP) - Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters, many waving or wrapped in flags, rallied outside the White House Saturday, pushing for peace and an end to fighting in Gaza.
The crowd, young and old from across the United States, including scores of children, chanted “End US Aid to Israel” and “Israel out of Palestine.” “Gaza will not die – it will never die,” said Amar Jamal as he marched through downtown Washington with his family. “It is the time to make peace because this bloodbath will not stop in Gaza. All the Middle East will be in trouble” if the conflict doesn’t end, warned the Palestinian-born 70-year-old.
The protest came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Jewish state would keep up its military campaign against Hamas in Gaza for as long and as forcefully as needed, in a conflict that has cost more than 1,700 Palestinian and 65 Israeli lives. Hamas, meanwhile, vowed to continue its fight against Israel until the Islamist movement group had achieved its objectives.
Many of the protesters voiced anger at Netanyahu, with one waving a banner that read “Netanyahu and Hitler are the same, the only difference is the name.” Others called on Washington to end its military backing of Israel and adopt a harsher stance toward its ally.
Shereen Abdel-Nabi, holding her young son who was wearing a “Jesus is Palestinian” T-shirt, said she participated “to express her concern about what’s happening in Gaza and US support for it.” “The US should stop military aid to Israel and use stronger words in condemning its action,” said the 34-year-old, who works for a non-profit in the US capital.
“I really think this is a turning point ... it’s an issue of humanity. The US government is proving to be on the wrong side of history on this one.” Friends Waleh Kanan and Jasmine Abuhummos, both 15, traveled for hours overnight from Toledo, Ohio, to take part.
“A lot of people are ignorant about what is going on. So we hope this will help get more of the truth out,” said Kanan. “I cannot believe how many people, thousands, came out to support Palestine, and a very diverse crowd. All kinds of people,” Abuhummos added.
Organizers claimed that as many as 50,000 people participated in the afternoon rally.
Police did not immediately respond to an AFP request for an official estimate or confirmation that, according to CNN, a small group of Orthodox Jews held a counter-demonstration that led to a minor scuffle.
Regardless of the turnout, Alli McCracken, National Coordinator of the anti-war group CODEPINK, a co-sponsor of the event, said spirits were high “even though there’s a massacre going on.” “It was really hard to miss all of us,” she said.