Speaking to the hundreds who were demonstrating against the policies of Israel and the United States in downtown Boston, Nidal Al-Azraq of Lexington struck a hopeful yet defiant tone.
“The occupation has failed to destroy us,” Al-Azraq, a 40-year-old Palestinian who grew up in a refugee camp, told the crowd gathered Tuesday inside the Cathedral Church of St. Paul.
That proclamation was met with cheers.
The gathering marked the Nakba, which is Arabic for “catastrophe,” and refers to Israel’s founding and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
The Boston rally was also held following the bloodiest day in the Gaza Strip since a 2014 war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the territory bordering Israel and Egypt. More than two-thirds of Gaza’s population is descended from refugees who were displaced at the time of Israel’s creation 70 years ago.
Israeli forces killed 61 Palestinians earlier this week during large protests along the Gaza border fueled by a decade-long blockade, and also in response to the relocation of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem.
This week’s bloodshed weighed on Tuesday’s event in Boston, as dozens of names of Palestinians who were killed this week were read aloud.
Salim Tamari, a Palestinian scholar who is teaching Middle East history for a semester at Harvard University, said the recent violence in the Gaza Strip represented Israel’s intransigence. Israel “thinks it can get away with murder when peaceful protest is being exercised,” he said after the event.
Tamari, who was two- years-old in 1948 when his family was forced from their home in Jaffa, said “We are no closer to peace now than we were 20 years ago.”
Israel, he said, has entrenched itself in the occupied territories therefore undermining the possibility of a two-state solution, while the Trump administration is giving its full support to Israel’s “occupational policy, including its control over Jerusalem.”
The gathering started near the Park Street station, but moved across the street to the church because of heavy rain. One sign in the crowd read, “Stop Israel’s War Crimes Let Gaza Live.” Another stated: “End the Siege of Gaza Free Palestine.” At one point, a crowd chant referenced the nickname for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Ethnic cleansing is a crime, Bibi should be doing time.”
“We have a right to a history,” Devin Atallah, a Palestinian-American activist who lives in Boston, said. “We have a right to be fully human as Palestinians.”
Meanwhile, area leaders of Jewish institutions condemned Monday’s violence and called for concrete steps to ease the long-simmering tensions.
“The question should not what should the US or the Europeans or other outsiders be doing to foster peace, it is what can be done to help Israelis and Palestinians come together to hear and to see and to recognize each other’s belonging in a shared homeland,” said Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston.
Others questioned the implications of the embassy move, a fulfillment of a campaign promise by President Trump on the belief that it rightfully recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“This should be a moment of celebration for all of us who feel deeply connected to Jerusalem and its importance to the Jewish people,” said Janette Hillis-Jaffe, New England regional director of J Street, a liberal Jewish advocacy group. “But the manner and timing of this move were designed to advance the agenda of right-wing political leaders in the US and Israel, rather than help the Palestinians and Israelis move closer to solving their conflict.”
The deadly violence, Hillis-Jaffe added, “is a clear example of the disastrous consequences of President Trump and [lsrael’s Prime Minister] Netanyahu’s policies for the prospects for peace in the region.”
“The Trump administration, in putting forward unilaterally this recognition in the absence of policy, without having prepared the ground, while the Palestinian Authority seems to be collapsing…seems to inflame an already volatile situation.”
At Tuesday’s rally, Nasir Almasri, a 25-year-old Palestinian-American MIT graduate, was even more blunt in his criticism. He said the US was complicit in Israel’s “targeting of civilians who are marching at the border in Gaza.” He wanted to see US lawmakers push for aid to be allowed into Gaza and for the situation there to be recognized as a “humanitarian crisis.”
“Shame on the US and shame on Israel,” he said.
Source: Boston Globe