By ERWIN FREED and OTHER RSN REPORTERS
As the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and anti-Palestinian pogroms continue, and as youth in Palestine call for a May 18 general strike, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets all over the world demanding freedom for Palestine. Over 100,000 marched in London while thousands demonstrated in Paris despite attacks by police and the effort by the French government to ban the action. News reports stated that some 4000 people marched in Paterson, N.J., over 2000 in Brooklyn, N.Y., and thousands more in Los Angeles. Demonstrations took place in dozens of other U.S. cities, including in San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Phoenix, Dearborn, Mich., and Louisville, Ky. Marchers carried signs with slogans such as “End Israeli apartheid,” and shouted, “Free, free Palestine!” and “Long live the Intifada!” The slogans and militancy show a strong positive shift toward the Palestinian cause.
Affiliates of the Revolutionary Socialist Network, including Socialist Resurgence, participated in actions all over the United States. We intend to continue building the struggle for Palestinian liberation as more actions are organized in the coming days and weeks. Toward the forefront of demands, we call for an end to all U.S. aid to Israel. The U.S. backing for Israel’s terrorist war against the Palestinians can be seen in the fact that on May 17—in the midst of the current carnage—President Biden signed a new $735 million arms deal with Israel, which will be aimed primarily at increasing Israel’s arsenal of missiles.
Here are some reports from a few cities around the country where the RSN has affiliates. We hope to add more information as it comes in.
The Denver Communists reported that “500 demonstrated in solidarity with Palestine” on May 14, the day before Nakba Day. The Nakba, literally “the catastrophe,” is the term used for the systematic, forced removal of over 700,000 Palestinians in 1947-48 from the land currently occupied by the state of Israel.
While the speakers were relatively mild in their political discourse, the crowd of largely young Muslim people was militant. A common chant was, “In our thousands, in our millions—we are all Palestinians!” Shortly after arriving, the Denver Communists quickly distributed all of the RSN statement flyers they had printed. The group also staffed a book table at the rally, which was very popular. They completely sold out of “Palestine: A Socialist State,” the book topic for upcoming RSN classes (register at this link) and sold a number of other titles. Other popular sales were pamphlets on oppression by the police. Palestinian liberation activists understood the deep connection between the struggles for Black power and Palestinian self-determination.
Steve Leigh from the Seattle Revolutionary Socialists reports: Nearly 1000 people came out on May 16 in defense of Palestine from the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza and repression in the West Bank. Palestinian flags and hundreds of homemade signs were prominent throughout the crowd. The rally was organized by a new Palestinian Feminist group, Falastiniyat. It was endorsed by dozens of Palestinian organizations and other community groups. The majority of the crowd were young people, some with small children.
A large portion were Palestinians and other people of Arab descent. However, all ethnic and age groups were represented. Speakers from the front emphasized this solidarity. The rally started with a land acknowledgement, recognizing that Seattle sits on unceded land of the Coast Salish people. Native drummers welcomed the rally.
One of the organizing groups, Deadly Exchange, showed this connection clearly. For years the Seattle Police Dept. has engaged in training exchanges with the Israeli Defense Forces. Activists from Jewish Voice for Peace and other groups have been working to end this program, which helps Israel repress Palestinians and helps Seattle Police attack Black people. Black Lives Matter signs and T-shirts were present throughout the crowd . Speakers brought up the similarity of police attacks on Black people in the U.S. and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Israel.
Another prominent theme was feminism. Speakers noted the plight of Palestinian women trying to hold their families together in the face of the onslaught. A speaker from the Palestinian Feminist Collective, of which Falastiniyat is a part, read a “love letter” from the collective to the people of Palestine. This statement has been translated into several languages and sent to rallies around the world. The speaker from the Palestinian Feminist Collective called for all Feminists to understand that “Palestine is a Feminist issue!” (See: https://mondoweiss.net/2021/05/a-love-letter-to-our-people-struggling-in-palestine/?fbclid=IwAR3hQjQOtaOTvHbnG3YGfYMYhnjv3Ipv3Q_DeA0GvQvEc5Fl6646wSgdYw0)
A Columbian speaker led rally-goers in chants of solidarity between Columbia and Palestine. Speaker after speaker outlined the horrors of the current attack. As of the rally Israel had killed nearly 200 Palestinians, including a large number of children, in the latest attacks. However, the rally also focused on the origins of the occupation of all of Palestine, not just the West Bank and Gaza.
One of the largest banners proclaimed “Israel: Racist state, 73 years.” Israel was legally established on May 15, 1948, after years of ethnic cleansing by the Zionists. Some 700,000 Palestinians were forced out of what is now Israel to make way for the colonial settler state. The rally had been called even before the latest atrocities to commemorate 73 years of the Nakba and the continual expulsion of Palestinians.
The organizers of the rally made clear that they were opposed to the existence of the state of Israel, an ethnic/religious state based on colonization and expulsion of the native population. One speaker said, “We have been fighting for 73 years and we will fight on to liberation!” Another said, “We will not leave. We will return!” One young Palestinian woman proclaimed, “I was heartbroken from the day I was born” over not being able to live freely in the land of her ancestors.
Several speakers called for Boycott , Divestment and Sanctions. Companies that do business with Israel included Catepillar, Ben and Jerry’s and Hewlett-Packard. One led the rally in a chant, “ When Palestinians are oppressed, Boycott, Sanction and Divest!” After two hours of speakers, the rally marched through downtown Seattle.
Socialist Resurgence members in Philadelphia converged with about 3000 people on May 15 who marched through a large section of Center City, from Rittenhouse Square to the steps of the Art Museum, where a rally was held. The crowd of mostly young Palestinians was accompanied by a car and truck caravan full of people waving Palestinian flags.
As was the case with virtually all of these actions, the Philadelphia demonstration was built by a coalition led by young Palestinian activists with only a few days notice. The branch was excited and surprised by the turnout, which was much larger than expected, and quickly distributed all of their RSN flyers. People eagerly took the flyer, which included a bold headline reading, “Free Palestine! Long Live the Intifada!”
The Boston Revolutionary Socialists participated in a mass demonstration of over 1000 people. Marchers streamed to the Israeli consulate at 20 Park Place, where the crowd demanded justice for Palestine. One member, EH, reports that in the excitement of the protest, “people started climbing streetlights and the awning in front of the building.” Only one counter-protester appeared, waving an Israeli flag, but he was completely dwarfed by the significant turnout of mostly young people. Ultimately, he decided to leave the scene. Palestinians themselves vastly outnumbered any other demographic.
BRS comrades handed out a number of RSN flyers on Palestine, and many people who received them expressed interest in socialism. EH reported, “We had people literally asking us for flyers! I’ve never had that scenario.” The energy from that day will continue through participation in upcoming RSN and BRS classes, discussions with revolutionaries, and common united front work.
Socialist Resurgence’s Connecticut branch joined at least 500 other activists and community members from around the state at a rally and march beginning at the Federal Building on May 15. Many militants seasoned in the antiwar movement estimated that this 2021 Nakba Day demonstration was among the largest pro-Palestine actions in Connecticut history. Palestinian college students with University of Connecticut’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine led powerful chants calling for freedom in their homeland. A particularly popular slogan from the speakers situated above the crowd was “There is only one solution—Intifada revolution.”
After a number of powerful speeches covering the unconditional support of U.S. imperialism for Israel; the horrible situation currently facing Palestinians, especially in Gaza; and the connections between the struggles for Black liberation in the U.S. and Palestinian self-determination, the demonstration took to the streets. The demonstration was much larger than any of the organizers expected and covered the streets of Hartford between the Federal Building and the State Capitol with a wave of red, green, black, and white as Palestinian flags rippled through the crowd.
All of the speakers were uncompromising in their demands for a free Palestine. At the Capitol, speakers led chants of “No more Israel,” which were very well received. After the formal rally, people celebrated with traditional Palestinian dances, followed by an impromptu march through Hartford.
Socialist Resurgence members and friends handed out hundreds of RSN flyers, as well as SR newsletters and flyers for a May 22 New Haven rally for Colombia and Palestine. Socialist Resurgence also worked with local DSA, Socialist Revolution (IMT) members, and unaffiliated socialists to form a sizable socialist contingent at the rally. Many people took pictures of our banner, which read “For a Democratic, Secular Palestine! End US Aid to Israel!”
Central Ohio Revolutionary Socialists helped organize a 700-person Nakba Day rally and march through the streets of Columbus. That demonstration followed a previous Palestine action held on May 8, which had over 100 people. The Nakba Day event was especially significant for the overwhelming support it received from the local Muslim community. Comrades report that rank-and-file members of large organizations like the Council of American Islamic Relations energetically pushed to support and build a mass solidarity action in the city.
Every local report from the nationwide weekend of protest indicates a sea change in public opinion on Palestine. Palestinian and Muslim youth are leading the movement into the streets, and masses of people are following them, demanding an end to Israeli oppression, apartheid, and U.S aid to Israel. Significantly, support for a single, democratic, secular Palestine is also gaining in popularity among a new layer of the population, including an expanding number of anti-Zionist Jews. Amidst this movement is a growing radical consciousness that must find its full expression in the creation of a mass party of working and oppressed people capable of fighting independently of the bosses and their imperialist political allies.
Socialist Resurgence is proud to be a part of the RSN, a network of organizations dedicated to the fight for Palestinian liberation.
Top photo: London march for Palestine, May 15. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)