Photo: Demonstration outside the White House against Bennett-Biden meeting
Protesters rallied outside the White House on Aug. 26 as Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was set to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden. They argued that if Biden wants to live up to his promises to do things differently than Donald Trump, he must end U.S. support for Israeli apartheid instead of selling them more weapons and giving them diplomatic cover against growing calls for Israel to be held accountable to international law.
The meeting, which was suddenly postponed until Friday due to the terrorist attack outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, is the first between Bennett and Biden and comes after Bennett met with other U.S. military and diplomatic leaders. The White House has framed it as an opportunity for them to meet “face-to-face,” an effort that would never be afforded to Palestinian leaders in the West Bank or Gaza.
The murderous 11-day war in Gaza, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, and the rise to power of an unashamedly racist demaoguge like Bennett has led to growing sympathy for the Palestinian people among significant sections of the U.S. population. Bennett has called the Gazan children killed by Israeli bombs terrorists and boasted that he’s “killed a lot of Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that.” Bennett is eager to shore up his alliance with the United States.
The White House has praised the “diverse coalition” supporting Bennett’s government, but virtually nothing has changed in terms of the approval of more settlement construction in the West Bank, the constant violence against Palestinians attempting to go about their daily lives, or the wholesale erasure of the town of Silwan.
Bennett also hoped to encourage Biden to drop negotiations for the United States to return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Trump unilaterally pulled out of the deal in 2018 and imposed destructive sanctions that have strangled Iran’s economy and exacerbated the COVID-19 pandemic there. Israel has long been responsible for overt and covert acts of aggression against Iran, including the assassination of some of the country’s top nuclear scientists.
Demonstration demands an end to Israel’s crimes
Thursday’s rally was called by an alliance of Palestine solidarity groups, including the Palestinian Youth Movement, American Muslims for Palestine, and U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. Speakers also came from other groups, including the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Democratic Socialists of America, and Jewish Voices for Peace. The ANSWER Coalition was proud to join the coalition.
They carried a large banner that read in English and Arabic: “Sanction Israel, Stop Ethnic Cleansing.” However, as the time for the leaders’ meeting grew closer, police suddenly forced the protesters from Lafayette Park to a position several hundred yards away from the White House in violation of their free speech rights. Instead, the protesters took to the street and held their rally there.
Dr. Osama Abu Irshaid, executive director of American Muslims for Palestine, said that if Biden’s claim to moral authority is legitimate he would tell Bennett that Israel “has to respect all international laws, to respect the human rights, to respect human dignity and to dismantle the apartheid regime.”
“This president has been asserting time and time again that ‘America is back.’ Yes, under his leadership, America is back to the same complicity. Under his leadership, America is back to support and to empower occupation and oppression against the Palesitnian people,” Abu Irshaid said. “So America is back and doing everything wrong, everything that he promised us that he would do otherwise. But, as many people are fooled by Bennett as the antidote of [previous Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu, many people were fooled by Biden as the antidote of Trump. We should not embrace it, we should not legitimize it and we should not accept it.”
Raya from the Palestinian Youth Movement hailed “the rise of a new generation of resistance. The rise of an intifada.”
Noting that Biden and Bennett were meeting to solidify their ties, she said: “It is further proof — as if more is needed — that the peace process has always and will continue to be a sham. It is evidence that we as Palestinians were never meant to have a say in our future, but are instead expected to take some sort of deal handed to us from above … When we resist as a people, Biden’s response is to invite our oppressor into his home. He claims progressive values, but what is progressive about genocide? After the Zionist regime dropped bombs on Gaza for 11 days straight, Biden sent an extra $735 million in weapons from Boeing to the Zionist regime.”
Marching in a broad circle around the White House grounds, the protesters chanted, “Bennett, Bennet you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!” and “Long live in the intifada!”
Outside the Israeli delegation’s tents at the Willard Hotel, they stopped and read a partial list of the names of Palestinians killed by Israeli police and military this year alone. After more than 10 minutes of names, they had still not reached the martyrs from Israel’s 11-day bombing campaign on Gaza, which killed at least 256 Palestinians, 66 of whom were children. But where there is oppression, there is resistance!