More than 600 people took to the streets of Princeton this afternoon to voice their support for Palestine and protest Israel’s recent military strikes on Gaza. A temporary cease-fire is slated to end late Monday.
Protesters peacefully marched down Nassau Street, and then gathered at the Scudder Plaza in front of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University for a rally. Many of the protestors carried posters calling for peace and freedom for Palestine. The protesters chanted as they marched, shouting slogans like “Free, free Palestine, killing children is a crime”, “Brick by brick, wall by wall, Israeli apartheid must fall” and “Obama, Obama don’t you know, the siege of Gaza has got to go.”
The event, one of the largest protest rallies in Princeton in more than a decade, was organized by Princeton for Palestine, a new group of local academics, students, activists, and community members.
Close to 2,000 Palestinians have been killed – most civilians – and more than 10,000 people have been wounded since the war began July 8, according to United Nations figures. In Israel, 67 people have been killed, all but three soldiers. Israel says the blockade of Gaza is necessary to prevent arms smuggling. Israel is also is demanding that Hamas be disarmed or be prevented from re-arming, something the militant group has rejected.
The march to support Palestine and the Gaza blockade was supported by numerous area groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace, the Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War, the Green Party of New Jersey, Philadelphia Jews for Just Peace, the Christian-Jewish Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, American Muslims for Palestine, the Islamic Society of Central New Jersey, Muslims for Peace, the Princeton University Muslim Life Program, the Princeton Committee on Palestine, and CAIR NJ.
Several members of the group led chants, Occupy Wall Street style, and then half a dozen people gave speeches, including Princeton resident and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, and political scientist and author Norman Finkelstein.
“We are here to give voice to the voiceless, to the innocent Palestinians who have been displaced,” said one of the chant leaders. “What is happening is Gaza is not justice. It is not a conflict. It is a conquest. The bullets and bombs raining down on the innocent are paid for by U.S. tax dollars — your dollars. Enough is enough. The blockade must come to an end. These are humans. They bleed like we bleed.”
Shadee Elmasry, director of education at the New Brunswick Islamic Center, said the killing of innocent people in Gaza goes against the beliefs of all three Abrahamic religions — Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.
“Jerusalem does not belong to any one of the three faiths. It is something we share in common,” Elmary said, accusing some Jewish people of distorting their faith and comparing them to Muslim militants who are distorting the Muslim faith in Iraq.
Kingston resident Sereen Hashem, a local Palestinian-American teacher who just returned from her annual summer trip with her daughter to visit relatives in Palestine, talked about how afraid her daughter was that they were going to be killed while they were there.
“She couldn’t sleep all night, Hashem said. “She was afraid Israel was going to attack. She was traumatized.”
The protesters observed a moment of silence for everyone who has been killed in recent conflicts around the world, and voiced solidarity with protesters in Ferguson, Mo.
Finkelstein said in his speech that it is impossible to predict at this point how the conflict in Gaza is going to end.
I’m afraid it’s going to end badly for the people of Gaza,” he said. “But whichever way it ends, if Israel didn’t completely get its way, it really is because of the heroic, the honorable, the dignified, the indomitable people of Gaza.”
“We demand justice for all those who suffer in Gaza and Palestine, ” journalist Chris Hedges said, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
“Israel has tanks and drones. All we have is our hearts and voices,” he said. “But we will keep working, praying, and protesting.”