On October 16, 150 people rallied in Tampa to call for an end to Israel’s renewed attacks on Palestinians. They also called for Israel to stop barring Muslims from holy sanctuaries such as the Al-Aqsa compound and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
A stunning sight, the rally captured Tampa’s attention for several hours. Large groups of Palestinian children and youth circled the intersection at the intersection of Fowler Ave and 56th Street with flags and signs. “Free, free Palestine!” they chanted. “Stop funding Israel!” Their enthusiasm spread to people waiting at the lights, who honked and waved in support.
“We organized this protest because we’re calling for a halt to all the bloodshed overseas,” said Eaman Zayed. “Palestinians are being used as target practice. You’re talking about innocent children coming to and from school. You’re talking about children that are going out to grab something from the grocery store.”
Since the beginning of October, the Israeli military and Israeli settlers have killed at least 42 Palestinians and injured hundreds more. The outbreak of violence comes as Israel’s illegal occupation and displacement of Palestinians intensifies.
In recent months, Israel’s military has frequently stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem. Zionist groups who are funded by Israel and who advocate the physical destruction of Al-Aqsa and its replacement with a Jewish temple have also made frequent trips to the Muslim holy site.
Opposing this gradual Israeli effort to take over Al-Aqsa, people in Palestine responded with waves of protests. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu escalated the situation by calling for the military to use “all necessary measures” against protesters. Israeli soldiers have even been filmed protecting settlers as they attack Palestinians.
“The Dawabsheh family—a settler set fire to their home. The 4-year-old lost his brother, his mom and his dad,” said Zayed. “What did the settler get? Six months, a slap on the wrist. But for the stone throwers? They’re getting 20 years in jail. It’s so odd that the U.S. is funding Israel with over 3 billion dollars annually. Why are we funding to have people killed?”
Tampa is not unfamiliar with the situation in Palestine. Last summer, Tariq Abu Khdeir, a 15-year-old Palestinian American attending the Universal Academy of Florida went to Palestine to visit his family. While he was there, Israeli settlers burned to death his cousin Mohammed Abu Khdeir. At a protest for his cousin, Tariq Abu Khdeir was kidnapped by settlers, badly beaten and imprisoned by Israeli police. Thankfully, his family and community were able to get him released.
Liberation News spoke with Sanah Abu Khdeir, the aunt of Tariq Abu Khdeir, about the importance of Friday’s rally and the message she hoped it would send to the public.
“The reason I support this action is because of the injustice going on over there. It’s not a ‘conflict.’ It’s not Israel against Palestine or
Palestine against Israel. It’s an occupier and the occupied,” said Abu Khdeir. “People ask, ‘What do you think about the Israeli Palestinian conflict?’ I don’t see a conflict. I see a tyrant and a poor people being occupied.
“Another misconception in the media is that it’s a fight over land. If it was a fight over land, there’s plenty of land we could go to and they could go to. *They* are fighting for land; we are fighting for our homeland. There were a people in those homes when they came. My family has lived there for hundreds of years. Ask an Israeli over there where his grandfather was born. You get the same answer all the time: England, Poland, Holland, Ireland, Russia.”
“Palestinians have been living with Christians, Jews and Muslims hand in hand for centuries,” said Eaman Zayed. “It wasn’t until the wake of Zionism that this all began. There was no ‘my religion’s better than yours.’ We don’t believe in that. We never will. We believe in unity, in solidarity. We want peace.”