Liberation photo: Saul Kanowitz

Liberation photo: Saul Kanowitz

More than 200 hundred people gathered at U.N. Plaza to protest the Israeli massacre of 17 Palestinians during a “Land Day” protest in Gaza on March 30. The unarmed demonstrators were commemorating the murder of six Palestinians who were killed on that day in 1976 protesting the theft of Palestinian land by the Israeli state. In addition to those killed the Israeli military used live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets and massive amounts of tear gas to injure over 1,500 other protestors.

The emergency demonstration was called by the Palestine Action Network, a coalition of Palestinian and progressive organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Chairing the rally was Nadia Tannous, of the Palestine Youth Network. She opened the program leading the crowd chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free. Free Free, Free Palestine. End End the Occupation.”

The Palestinian people have continued to fight for their liberation against the most unfavorable odds. For seventy years, they have faced a settler state that has one of the world’s most powerful militaries and the full backing and protection of the government of the United States.

This writer noticed the remarkable absence of any mainstream media covering the rally. Only KPFA Pacifica radio was on the ground. The total boycott by the corporate media of this event exposes the lie that there is a free media in the United States. The ruling class media can’t justify the massacre, so they try to ignore it. They hope the Palestinians will just go away. But they are wrong.

This determination to endure and reclaim their homeland that is embedded in each Palestinian inside Palestine and throughout the diaspora was reflected in Nadia’s words when she stated, “We know that we have a long way to go, but we are not stopping anytime soon. Seventy years of dispossession, seventy years of refugeehood, and displacement and yet we are resilient, yet we are present, yet we are still here. We know our villages, we know where we come from, we know our roots…We are coming back, we have not forgotten. We are not going anywhere.”

Richard Becker, the West Coast Regional Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition spoke to the crowd, “The United States government is equally guilty for the massacre that took place in Gaza yesterday as is the Israeli armed forces. Without the emboldening projections coming from Washington to the Israeli leaders, I don’t they could do everything that they are doing now. We now it is a criminal regime and it has been a criminal regime for a long time, just like the one in Washington…the first prime minister of Israel was asked what will happen to the refugees…Ben Gurion replied, ‘the old will die and the young will forget.’ Becker said, “Well many of those who were alive at that time are still alive today. We can see from those heroic protests yesterday that the young have not forgotten, that the young are determined to carry on the struggle until Palestine is truly free and the Palestinians have the right to self-determination including the right of return.”

In the crowd was a former USAID worker who explained why she was at the rally, “I am here today because U.S. aid to Israel is the problem. It is a colonial imperial project.”

The desire for liberation lives on in each new Palestinian generation wherever they may live. Students from the General Union of Palestinian Students at San Francisco State spoke to the crowd about the struggle on their campus against an administration that has pledged to “protect Zionism,” equating Zionism to Jewishness and by extension anyone opposing Zionism as anti-Semitic. Lina from GUPS read a statement that said in part:

President Wong has made a false declaration of equating Zionism to Jewishness. This does not speak for our Jewish members, friends, and allies who denounce Zionism and the destruction it has caused. Such a statement acts as a direct response to pro-Palestine activism and erases discourses held by anti-Zionist Jewish Students.

President Wong has and continues to create a toxic learning environment for students who have been directly impacted by Zionist attacks on campus. Today he has proven explicitly that he is only concerned with the interests of Zionist organizations. SFSU, as an institution, has capitalized off its false slogan that it is a campus that believes in social justice, yet has made it clear that justice for Palestine and supporters of Palestine are unworthy of this conditional “justice.”

GUPS is here to remind President Wong, SF State and the entire Bay Area community that we will not be silenced. Palestine is not an exception and we will continue to do the work as student organizers. Click for more info.

Holding a huge Palestinian flag, Abid E., the president of Students for Justice in Palestine at San Jose State explained he was here today because, “The Palestinian people are constantly being vilified in the press. We ask the American people and the people of the world to engage in actions such as this and boycotts and divestment actions against corporations that are complicit in the occupation of Palestine.

A moment of silence was taken after the names of those murdered by the Israeli military were read one by one.

Lara Kiswani from AROC spoke, “We called this emergency demonstration on 24 hours notice. We showed up united as we always do, as Black and Brown communities, as LGBT communities, as poor and working-class communities, we stand in solidarity united against fascism, united against Zionism, united against racism. We stand united because we know our struggles are one. The liberation of Palestine means the liberation of all.”

Other speakers included representatives from Queers Undermining Israeli Terror, All African People’s Revolutionary Party, International Anti-Zionist Jewish Network, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, and BAYAN.

The rally was closed with chants of “Long live international solidarity!”