Large crowds took to the streets of Bay Ridge on Saturday, May 15, to demonstrate their support for Palestine amid the fighting between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip. Th event also commemorated the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948, known as “Nakba” Day.
“Despite over 73 years of catastrophe, Palestinians remain steadfast and resilient in defense of our land and our nation,” said Nerdeen Kiswani, a Palestinian-American. “The ‘Nakba’ is not a singular historical event. It is a daily process of settler colonialism whose aim is the complete expulsion of indigenous Palestinians from our land.”
Kiswani is the founder of Within Our Lifetime (WOL), a community-led organization fighting for Palestinians in Brooklyn.
The crowd banged on drums as they marched and chanted “we will free Palestine|within our lifetime” and “from the river to the sea|Palestine will be free” around all of Bay Ridge and then blocked one side of Interstate 278 after sunset.
“We are in a historical moment. What we do from here on will determine the future of our generation and the next. We can not let another generation of Palestinian children watch their families be massacred with the blink of an eye,” said Dr. Hafsa Kanjwal, a member of Critical Kashmir Studies and an associate professor at Lafayette College spoke at the rally. She said the struggles of Palestinians and Kashmiri are linked.
“You are either fully in solidarity with the oppressed, or you are on the side of the oppressor. Do not let anyone tell you to compromise. Do not let anyone tell you to be practical. Do not let anyone tell you this is complicated. Speak the truth wherever and whenever you can,” Dr. Kanjwal said.
A group of Jews led by Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss walked from Williamsburg to Bay Ridge since Saturday was Sabbath.
“Our brothers here in the United States and around the world who are true to the Torah, we will never accept the occupation of Palestine. The Torah forbid the Jews to occupy other people,” whispered Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss at the ear of the organizers and then they repeated what he said to the crowd through the mic.
“Around the world, we demonstrate for Palestinian people, but the news doesn’t cover any of it. So let the world know this not a conflict between the religions. Because we are Jewish, we protest the Zionist state of Israel. One day the almighty will end the occupation because it is unacceptable,” he added and asked people to be silent for a couple of minutes for Palestine.
Omar, an 8-year-old Palestinian spoke at the rally and said, “Assalamualikum [may peace be upon you]. My name is Omar and I want peace. Ever since I watch the video of Israeli’s bomb my home, my heart hurts. Also, babies and kids are being murdered for defending their homes. Also, the Israel is destroying Al-Aqusa and taking over everything that the people own. Their homes are being taken. This is not fair. There should be peace.”
Bella Hadid, who received backlash from Israel, also joined the protest.
The fighting between the Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip entered the second week with the death toll of “197, including at least 58 children and 34 women,” according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Ten deaths were reported in Israel in Tel Aviv.