With Palestinians counting more than 150 dead in Gaza from continuing violence with Israel, dozens of protesters gathered in front of the White House on Saturday afternoon to protest the Israeli attacks.
Beginning Tuesday, the Israeli army has launched escalating attacks on Gaza that officials say are in response to rockets fired into Israel by Palestinian militants. Many civilians, including children, have been reported among the dead.
Protesters held signs such as “Let Gaza Live” and chanted for an end to the killings.
“I just want to have my voice heard,” said Mustafa Hawa of Alexandria. Referring to the armed Islamist group involved in the fighting, he said: “Not everyone is Hamas. People think we’re all terrorists. We’re not. There are kids who have no reason to die being killed.”
While opinions differed on what the U.S. response to the violence should be and who, if anyone, is to blame, the protesters generally called for the fighting to end. Many protesters were Palestinian Americans, some with relatives in Gaza.
“Our relatives are being bombed; it’s not an easy thing to just sit down,” said Rashad Massoud of the District, gesturing at the White House as he stood with his wife and two sons. “The least you can do is express your solidarity by being here. We check our phones constantly; we’re calling constantly.”
Several protesters with no Palestinian family or roots joined the shouts for peace and for an end to U.S. support for Israel. Obama telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, supporting Israel’s decision to carry out airstrikes but also advising restraint.
Saturday’s protest started with a Facebook page created by Peace House, a grass-roots group in Washington, but there was no specific organizer because many similar groups with overlapping memberships took part.
For more than two hours, the protesters chanted and waved Palestinian flags in the summer heat, even as many fasted to observe the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Iman Potter of Virginia stood with her daughter and two grandsons with signs she had kept from protests in 2008. The signs showed photos of injured and unarmed Palestinians, some depicting children not much older than her 5-year-old and
“I still have these signs around because it’s still the same thing,” Potter said. “Nothing has changed; they’ve been killing each other forever.”
Potter said she wants peace and pointed to the imbalance in death tolls. Several Israelis have been injured, but none have been reported killed as a result of the violent exchanges.
Potter’s daughter, Shayma al-Hanooti, said she believes discussions of the conflict in the United States tend to be in reaction to spikes in violence and are short-lived. Al-Hanooti said she wants to see more sustained attention.
“The violation of rights is quite simple,” she said. “Israel and the U.S. try to complicate it so people can just ignore it and say, ‘I don’t get it.’ ”
Saturday’s demonstration followed another pro-Palestinian protest outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington on Friday, and some at the protest Saturday suggested there would be more to come.