Pro-Palestinian rally in Washington seeks end to US aid to Israel

More than 1,000 people rallied in support of Palestinians at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, on Saturday. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - More than 1,000 people rallied on Saturday (May 29) in Washington in support of Palestinians and calling for an end to United States aid to Israel.

The demonstration on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial came as a ceasefire that ended 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip has so far held.

"We are hoping to send a clear message to the United States government that the days of supporting the Israeli state without repercussions are over," one of the demonstrators, 39-year-old Washington lawyer Sharif Silmi, said as he stood in the crowd where many protesters held red, white, green and black Palestinian flags.

"We will stand against any politician that continues to fund weapons to Israel. We will oppose them, we will vote against them, we will fund their opponents, until we vote them out of office," said Mr Silmi.

The US has been sending billions of dollars in military aid to Israel in recent years.

The deadly conflict in Gaza has prompted some members of its Congress to revisit the question of whether these funding commitments are justified.

Last year alone, the US gave US$3.8 billion (S$5 billion) in aid - almost all of it in the form of military assistance - to Israel. It was part of a long-term commitment made under the Obama administration, according to the BBC.

The US also gave US$5 million towards the resettlement of migrants in Israel that same year.

Resident Lama Alahmad, of neighbouring Virginia who is of Palestinian origin, said US public opinion is turning in favour of the Palestinian cause.

"There is a huge change" going on in the US with regard to the Palestinian cause seeking a sovereign homeland, she said.

"We just want the world to recognise that we are human beings. We are not terrorists," said Ms Alahmad, a 43-year-old stay-at-home mother who grew up in the United Arab Emirates before moving to the US around 20 years ago.

Mr Silmi insisted there was now broad opposition in the US to how Israel treats the Palestinians that he likened to apartheid in South Africa.

"People have now woken up, and we're resisting. Whether young Jews, young Muslims, young Blacks, young whites, there is a generational shift. And people are working across ethnic groups, racial groups, to work for change and freedom and liberation for Palestinian people," he said.

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