On Aug. 8, over 300 people rallied in front of the Manhattan, New York City offices of the Friends of the IDF, an American organization that provides monetary support to members of the Israeli Occupation Forces.
Palestinian activists organized the rally to protest both the latest violence perpetrated in Gaza by Israel, as well as the ongoing occupation of Palestine. The action was coordinated by Within Our Lifetime — United for Palestine, Palestinian Youth Movement, Decolonize This Place, Samidoun Palestinian Political Prisoner Solidarity Network and Existence Is Resistance, and attended by the Party for Socialism and Liberation and ANSWER Coalition among others.
On Aug. 5, just a little over a year since its last brutal offensive in May 2021, Israel conducted a bombing raid on a residential area in Gaza where militants from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, along with many civilians, were living. As PIJ retaliated for the unprovoked attack, Israel escalated its bombing campaign against Gaza over the next two days.
While Israeli military authorities claimed that the further strikes were targeted specifically at PIJ members’ homes, the fact these bombs targeted multi-story civilian apartment complexes proved that destruction, terror and loss of civilian life were the true motives of the attacks. By the time a ceasefire was negotiated on Aug. 7, the Israeli strikes had killed 45 people, including 16 children, whose photos decorated signs and posters in the crowd on Aug. 8.
“They support baby killers!” exclaimed Harrabic, an organizer with Existence Is Resistance, gesturing to the handful of counterprotestors across the street. “They help raise $10.2 million of taxpayer money to buy weapons that murder our children!”
Despite the fact Israel itself designated this attack a “preemptive strike,” unprovoked by any military activity from Palestinians, local representatives like New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York Governor Kathy Hochul were quick to call Palestinian retaliation “terrorism,” which some speakers at the rally denounced.
“Resistance is not terrorism!” declared Nerdeen Kiswani, an organizer with Within Our Lifetime. “Palestinians have every single right to defend themselves by any means necessary!”
The rally turned into a march through midtown Manhattan, moving into Grand Central Station and finally concluding at the United Nations building. Throughout the march, activists chanted in Arabic, “The gate of Al-Aqsa is made of iron! It can only be opened by martyrs!” and “With our spirit and with our blood, we will redeem you, Al-Aqsa! With our spirit and with our blood, we will redeem you, Palestine!”
U.S. and New York ties to Israel
One point emphasized by the organizers of the protest was the centrality of the United States — and New York specifically — to the oppression faced by Palestinians.
“Elected officials in New York historically have supported Zionists and have ties to Zionists. They’ve tried to undermine the Palestinian cause through spurious charges of antisemitism,” explained Miriam Osman of Palestinian Youth Movement.
“As New Yorkers, we can’t stand for the connection between [support of Israel] and the increasing support of police as a solution for everything,” she said, speaking of the well-documented collaboration between the NYPD and the Israeli military. “We know how police strategies and tactics are related to Zionist occupation forces’ strategies and tactics.”
Osman, as well as other organizers who spoke that day, underlined the importance of a continued presence at actions protesting the violence against Palestinians, particularly in the “belly of the beast of U.S. imperialism,” as Kiswani put it.
Palestinian liberation will prevail
Organizers also urged protestors to continue supporting the Palestinian liberation movement outside of widely publicized conflicts as the violence against Palestinians occurs daily. This not only includes the daily injustices of occupation but also smaller-scale military activity. For instance, just a day after Egypt brokered a cease-fire between PIJ and Israel, Israeli forces in the West Bank raided a house in Nablus, injuring forty and killing three, including Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade commander Ibrahim Al-Nabulsi. This appeared to be a part of a broader Israeli strategy to destroy leadership in the different groups of the Palestinian resistance.
Despite the dire consequences of the Israeli attack on Gaza, Osman sees this tactic as a sign of Israel’s fear of the growing momentum in the struggle.
“The Zionist tactic right now is to break apart the unity that is appearing across Palestine right now,” Osman said. “They’re seeing the strength of Palestinian resistance right now as a threat. These attacks come as a way to break apart the different fronts, but that just serves as a testament to the strength and unity of the struggle.”