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As historical Israel-Gaza war shifts, thousands gather in D.C. to demand ceasefire

A massive protest of around 300,000 people urged President Biden to push for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza war, with demonstrators gathering from across the U.S. and globally in solidarity for Palestinian rights, advocating against Israel’s actions and demanding an end to the ongoing war. 

A Pro Palestinian protester holds up a sign advocating for Palestinian journalist protection. (Daryn O’Neal/The Hilltop).

Approximately 300,000 people marched on the streets of Washington, D.C. last weekend demanding that  President Joe Biden call for a ceasefire to the ongoing Israel-Gaza war which has led to thousands of casualties

The assembly of protestors, who came from different parts of the country, gathered at Freedom Plaza to participate in what event organizers called the largest pro-Palestine protest in American history on Nov. 4.

“This genocide against the Palestinian people has exposed Israel for what it really is,” Nazek Sankari, a member of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, an organization that seeks to uplift Palestinian and Arab voices, said to protestors in the nation’s capital. 

“A weak white supremacist, racist, apartheid, zionist state that is determined to remove Palestinians from their ancestral homes and lands at all costs,” Sankari said. 

In addition to Washington, D.C., demonstrators led protests around the globe as members of the international community in the western and eastern hemispheres demanded an end to Israel’s bombardment of Palestinian territories, as reported by The Guardian. In cities such as Paris, Berlin, Milan, and Santiago, thousands of people marched for solidarity and a resolution to the ongoing Israel-Gaza war.

The National March on Washington to Free Palestine was organized by several U.S.-based pro-Palestinian groups including the Palestinian Youth Movement, the ANSWER Coalition, the American Muslim Alliance, the People’s Forum, National Students for Justice in Palestine, as well as Al-Awda: the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, the U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) and Maryland2Palestine.

Last week’s protest attracted people of all ages. (Photo courtesy of Eliseo Mehki Agudo)

The marches program began around noon and included speeches and music before it transitioned to the End the Siege in Gaza Rally. 

At 4 p.m., protesters left Freedom Plaza to head north on 14th Street towards K Street, West on K Street to 17th Street, South on 17th Street to the closed portion of Pennsylvania Avenue and East to 15th Street before returning down Pennsylvania Avenue to Freedom Plaza.

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On X, formerly known as Twitter, the Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition, an anti-war and social justice coalition with organizing centers across the country, shared a post that said: “Tens of thousands of protestors in Washington D.C. demand [a] CEASEFIRE NOW!”

“There’ll be no cease-fire, general cease-fire, in Gaza without the release of our hostages,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to AP News, after discussing a potential humanitarian ceasefire with Biden.

“Being part of the protest was really moving and it felt like our message came through loud and clear,” Eliseo Mehki Agudo, a freshman computer science major at Howard University, who attended the march in Washington, D.C., said. 

During his speech at the Washington, D.C. protest, rapper and singer Macklemore declared, “I’m not afraid to speak the truth.”

The current outrage around the longstanding discord between Israel and Gaza, which has divided the international community and has roots in the 20th century, is the culmination of several key events that have caused ideological and political differences over decades according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

After the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948, which many members of the international community feel was unlawfully established as the land was partitioned from Palestine, the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 spurred after five Arab nations invaded the territory in the former Palestinian mandate.

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The  Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and the latter state’s retaliatory response has served as the catalyst that sparked a new wave of activism for both nations. 

In “Hamas: A Historical and Political Background,” Ziad Abu Amr, a former associate professor of political science at Berzeit University in the West Bank, who currently serves as a deputy prime minister and is a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, discussed the origins of the resistance movement.

“Since Hamas was the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine, to understand it one must begin with the history of the parent organization in the occupied territories…The Brotherhood had been founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna, and soon spread to other parts of the Arab world,” Abu Amr wrote in his 1993 article published in the Journal of Palestine Studies. 

The Brotherhood’s connection with Palestine dates back to 1935, when Hasan al-Banna sent his brother, Abd al-Rahman al-Banna, to establish contacts there. Before the founding of the contemporary state of Israel in 1948, the first branch of the Brotherhood was established in Jerusalem in 1945, with an additional 25 divisions established in other Palestinian towns by the year 1947.

In the weeks since the surprise attack by militant representatives of Hamas, Israel responded to one of the most significant invasions throughout the previous five decades by launching deadly attacks on Palestinian territory.

Some experts, activists and members of the international community have called Israel’s attacks on Palestinian territory a form of contemporary genocide.

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“For years, the Israeli regime and international donor community have utilized a ‘conflict management’ approach toward Palestinians,” Fathi Nimer, a member of the Palestinian Policy Network, wrote in “Genocide in Gaza: Global Culpability and Ways Forward.” 

“This approach abandons the pretense of seeking a political resolution and focuses instead on maintaining ‘security’ for the Israeli regime while ‘rewarding’ Palestinians with limited economic incentives,” Nimer explained.

While Israel has increased its bombardment of the Gaza Strip as the IDF stated it was “expanding” ground operations in Gaza, Palestinian officials in Gaza have rejected Israel’s claim that Hamas is operating from Al-Shifa Hospital.

Although the U.S. backed the state of Israel by stating that it is defending its citizenry from Hamas advances and attacks, there have been accounts of Palestinian civilian casualties as a result of Israel’s attacks.

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza released a list on Oct. 26, which documented the deaths of more than 7,000 Palestinians, including nearly 3,000 children, since the war began on Oct. 7.

Reuters reported that Hamas, a Palestinian militant group that has been categorized as a terrorist group by the U.S., carried out an attack on Israel that resulted in more than 1,000 fatalities to Israeli citizens, while many others were left traumatized. 

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“I am appalled by the ruthless acts of terrorism committed by Hamas and deeply saddened by the brutal, senseless loss of so many innocent lives in Israel and Gaza,” U.S. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia, said via her X account on Oct. 10. 

D.C. Councilmember Brooke Pinto, who represents Ward 2 and serves as chairwoman of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, denounced Hamas’ attack on Israel. 

“I condemn the horrific acts of terrorism on Israel committed by Hamas, and I stand with our Jewish community here in D.C. and with the Israeli people,” Pinto said in a statement released on Oct. 10.

“As we yearn for peace during this painful and uncertain time, our Jewish neighbors have the support of the District government as we increase security and vigilance at our synagogues, houses of worship, and embassies to keep our communities safe,” Pinto said. 

According to Mohammed Deif, the leader of Hamas’ military arm, he said the Oct. 7 assault was in response to several recent and historic points of conflict, including violence at Al Aqsa, the disputed Jerusalem holy site sacred to Jews as the Temple Mount, increasing attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians as well as the growth of settlements.

Deif said the recent attack was the start of “Operation Al-Aqsa Storm” and called on Palestinians between east Jerusalem and northern Israel to join the fight. Deif also cited the ongoing 16-year blockade of Gaza and Israeli raids inside West Bank cities over the past year as reasons for the surprise attack. 

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In response to Hamas’ surprise attack, the Israeli military has spent the last month retaliating with operations in Palestine, which has resulted in a large deprivation of basic resources such as food and water, as well as the deaths of over 10,000 Palestinians through excessive bombing according to PBS.

While Axios reported that 80 percent of Democrats, 57 percent of independent voters and 56 percent of Republicans want Biden to call for a ceasefire, the president has requested over $14 billion in aid for Israel. 

According to The Times of Israel, Biden confirmed that he asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to consider a ceasefire to fighting in Gaza, however, after hours of consideration, the Israeli government declared that the war would not permanently stop but would implement tactical intermissions. 

“As far as tactical little pauses, an hour here, an hour there,” Netanyahu said in an ABC News interview after being asked about the potential for aid interventions.

“We’ve had them before, I suppose, we’ll check the circumstances in order to enable goods, humanitarian goods to come in, or our hostages, individual hostages to leave. But I don’t think there’s going to be a general cease-fire,” Netanyahu said. 

As previously reported, Howard University announced its position on the ongoing war in an emailed statement to The Hilltop.

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“At Howard University, we stand for peace and progress, and we pray for an end to this conflict and the humanitarian and personal suffering of the Israeli and Palestinian people because violence and hatred must never be tolerated,” the university noted. 

U.S.-based Jewish organizations are calling for a “March for Israel” in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14. The Jewish Federations of North America is organizing the massive rally and stated that it plans to make demands for the “unconditional return of hostages held by Hamas terrorists” as well as “renewed efforts to combat antisemitism,” The Times of Israel reported. 

Copy edited by Alana Matthew


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