Local residents are invited to take part in part in nationwide marches Saturday calling for a ceasefire to the nearly month-old war between Israel and Hamas.
The Quad Cities’ chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and local individuals have organized a walk on the pedestrian path of the I-74 bridge, after meeting at 18th Street and River Drive, Moline, at noon Saturday, Nov. 4. It’s part of a “Free Palestine” movement of marches across the U.S.
“Over 9,000 Palestinians have been killed in the last couple weeks and the Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas in the world,” Andrew D., a co-chair of the QC DSA chapter said Friday (he requested his last name not be public).
Gaza is about five miles wide by 25 miles long, with a population of 2.25 million people. “So to put that in perspective, that’s smaller than the land mass of Rock Island County, which has only 150,000 people,” he said.
“What we want is primarily a ceasefire because it’s created a humanitarian crisis,” Andrew said. “And we are also calling for basically the U.S. to not send any more military aid to Israel, to not further enable this conflict.
“We want peace, we want justice. And we think if the United States government and the Biden administration wants the same thing too, they need to come to the table and not enable one side over the other, which has a much greater military capability,” he said.
For nearly 20 years, the Gaza Strip has been under a military blockade by Israel, and the DSA says they let in very little resources, such as food and water.
“Ninety percent of the water in Gaza is undrinkable, it’s polluted,” Andrew said. “Fifty percent of the people living there are unemployed, 50% of the Palestinians in Gaza are 18 and under and they are horrible living conditions. And I think that this is really calamitous because after these attacks, these bombings by Israel, it’s only increasing the suffering.”
The DSA wants Israel to end that blockade of Gaza “to stop the suffering so that this violence does not perpetuate,” he said.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Friday urged Israel’s leaders to take steps to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza and allow more humanitarian aid to enter the besieged territory, according to The New York Times.
Soon after meeting with Blinken, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel appeared to rebuff the Biden administration’s call for a series of “humanitarian pauses” to allow more deliveries of badly needed food, water, medicine, and other supplies and facilitate the release of hostages held by Hamas. Netanyahu said that any cease-fire would be contingent on the release of Israeli hostages, many of them children, abducted in a deadly attack on Oct. 7, the Times reported.
“I have made clear that we are continuing forcefully, and that Israel refuses a temporary cease-fire that does not include the release of our hostages” held by Hamas, he said. He also stood fast on Israel’s refusal to let fuel enter Gaza, even as it allows limited shipments of other vital supplies.
Even if the war ended, it’s not very realistic to see Israel ending the blockade, because of the billions in U.S. support, Andrew said.
“I think what’s happening is more and more Americans are realizing what’s going on,” he said Friday. “You know, some of the most prominent people to be protesting continued bombings by Israel and Gaza, have been not only our Palestinian comrades here in the United States, but also many, many, many Jews in the United States who don’t want this being done in their name,” he said.
“We think that everyone understands that this is a terribly violent war and it needs to stop and the Biden administration can do that. They have the leverage to do that.”
Some organizers anticipate that Saturday’s planned pro-Palestinian demonstrations against Israeli military action against civilians in Gaza will be among the largest anti-war protests in recent U.S. history and the largest pro-Palestinian action in the country to date, according to Axios.
A national march Saturday in Washington, D.C. will include organizers calling for an end to U.S. aid to Israel and a ceasefire. The march has been endorsed by over 300 groups, and organizers say they are expecting more than 100,000 people.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been taking place in major cities across the country since the Israel-Hamas war began last month.
In New York last weekend, thousands of protesters marched across the Brooklyn Bridge demanding “an end to the blockade and the breaking of the siege,” Palestinian-led community group Within Our Lifetime said. In Los Angeles, thousands rallied in the city’s downtown area to call for an end to Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.
Students have also staged walkouts on college campuses, including UCLA.
President Biden supported Israel after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, whose gunmen broke through Israel’s border, killed at least 1,400 people and took about 240 people into Gaza as hostages, Israeli officials said. At least 5,400 people have been injured, according to Israeli officials.
Since then, at least 9,257 people in Gaza have been killed, and more than 23,516 have been wounded, the Gaza Health Ministry said.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a Republican plan to provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel.
Even though many in Gaza are attempting to flee the war, the Israel blockade prevents them from leaving, the QC DSA leader Andrew said, noting humanitarian groups have called Gaza the “world’s largest open-air prison.”
In 2022, Human Rights Watch said Israel’s closure policy blocks most Gaza residents from going to the West Bank, preventing professionals, artists, athletes, students, and others from pursuing opportunities within Palestine and from traveling abroad via Israel, restricting their rights to work and an education.
“Israel, with Egypt’s help, has turned Gaza into an open-air prison,” Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, said last year. “As many people around the world are once again traveling two years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Gaza’s more than two million Palestinians remain under what amounts to a 15-year-old lockdown.”
“That’s why the situation is so dire and that’s why we’re calling for the ceasefire to begin with,” Andrew said.
On Oct. 7, 2023, the day of the Hamas attack on Israel, the national DSA said: “Today’s events are a direct result of Israel’s apartheid regime—a regime that receives billions in funding from the United States. End the violence. End the Occupation. Free Palestine.
“We unequivocally condemn the killing of all civilians. It is imperative for international human rights law to be respected.
“We cannot forget that the Israeli state has systematically denied Palestinians the right to self-determination for decades,” the DSA said. “This was not unprovoked. For over 60 years, Palestinians have faced ethnic cleansing, torture, bombings, and housing demolitions. Gaza is still under a blockade.”