All photos by Casey Jaywork.
Early Friday evening, about a hundred people gathered at Westlake Park in support of Palestine and in protest against US support for Israel. In recent weeks, over 1000 Palestinians, along with dozens of Israeli soldiers and a handful of Israeli civilians, have been killed in Gaza in one of the worst bloodbaths in recent memory.
The US is the primary backer for the military of Israel, the Jewish nationalist state born in the aftermath of the Holocaust when Jewish communities annexed part of what was then Palestine. It has long functioned as a lonely beacon of American influence within the Middle East. Palestinians have played a similar proxy role for surrounding Arab countries; the two have been in an on-again, off-again state of war for more than six decades.
The protesters at Westlake carried signs saying “Free Palestine!” and chanted “While you’re shopping, bombs are dropping.” Amina Ali said she was there to protest against the “genocide” in Gaza. “Children are dying,” she said, “and America is helping them.”
Other protesters spoke of Israel’s “war crimes.” One man, Ibrahim Soudy, carried a picture of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dressed as Adolf Hitler. “This is a vigil, not a protest,” he said, “to remind American taxpayers of how their money is being used.” Asked if he thought his sign was persuasive to anyone who didn’t already share his political views, Soudy said he didn’t care. “It’s the reality. I’m not here to pat people on the back.” He added that he was protesting against the state of Israel, not against Jewish people generally: “That would be anti-Semetic.”
Other protesters agreed. Maryam Hussain told a man carrying a sign which equated the Star of David with the Nazi swastika, “This is not OK.
“We are against Zionism,” she said, referring to Israel’s underlying political philosophy. “We are not against Judaism.”
At least one follower of Judaism was among the anti-Zionists. Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, who addressed the crowd from a stage, believes that Israel’s political Judaism contradicts the Torah. “This occupation [of Palestine by Israel] does not represent the Jewish religion,” he said. “Zionism is a transformation [of Judaism] into nationalism.”