Sunday, January 4, 2009

Denverites Protest Israel's Bombardment and Invasion of Gaza

According to the Denver Post, which is not known for being a pro-Palestinian journal, the state of Israel had by January 3rd "killed more than 460 people and left 1,700 injured..." through air strikes alone. Deaths resulting from the ground invasion are as yet unclear, though it is obvious the above number is now outdated.

Less apparently newsworthy is the fact that by January 3rd, 2009, only FOUR Israelis had been killed by Palestinians' Quassam rockets. Yet this is claimed by Israel to be sufficiently outrageous to justify unleashing one of the world's deadliest and best equipped militaries upon the people of Gaza, who reside in one of the most heavily populated areas on the globe.

The proportion since the "cease fire" ended of 115 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military for every one Israeli killed by Hamas' generally ineffective, home made rockets does not even tell the whole story, as absurd and enraging as that statistic alone may be. Almost entirely missing from every American account of the conflict is the fact that residents of Gaza have been living under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade for years. There is no convenient way to tabulate the deaths, not to mention the far harder to measure emotional trauma, inflicted upon these people by Israel's methodical destruction of their economy and infrastructure. The Israeli Navy's recent decision to ram and threaten to sink a private ship attempting to deliver medical supplies to the besieged gazans graphically illustrated the reality of this blockade. Were it not for that incident millions who heard about it on the news might very well not have known that a blockade even exists at all.

On January 3rd, for the second time in less than a week, Denverites of conscience added their voices and their solidarity to the wave of worldwide protest which erupted in response to Israel's recent escalation of aggression. Approximately 70 people assembled in front of the state capital from 2 to 4pm to make their voices heard. The crowd was about 60 percent persons of middle eastern and Palestinian descent, with the rest being made up by members of Denver's progressive and activist community. The political composition of the crowd was quite diverse. It seems every shade of ideological perspective, organization, and non organization was represented, from anarchist vegetarians, to liberals and pacifists holding UN flags, to toddlers barely young enough to walk unassisted and everything in between. Clearly the sign of a healthy and a broad movement, albeit of rather modest size.

The fact that snow flurried intermittently throughout the day, and the temperature was 25 degrees F at 2pm ("feels like: 18 degrees", according to, seemed only to harden their resolve, and emphasize the seriousness of the situation. As one clearly under dressed protester put it, "We're here to show solidarity with the people of Palestine. What's going on over there is really fucked up. Holding a sign isn't much but it does say something when you're out here in the cold."

The solemness of the occasion was broken by a series of chants projected from a megaphone obtained by Food Not Bombs. A young speaker in his teens led the crowd,

"Free Free Palestine/ End this Genocide"
"Shame Shame Israel / Shame on Arab Leaders"
"What do we want/ Peace - When do we want it / now"

Cars passed, several hoking their horns in support, to the welcome surprise of many protesters. While a video crew did show up to take pictures and conduct interviews, sadly neither of the city's major dailies felt compelled to cover the demonstration in their Sunday issues. This is of course not to say the crowd had nothing worthwhile to say, as I soon found out by taking the opportunity to speak with several of those demonstrating whom I did not recognize.

Adel, a Lybian by birth who has lived in Denver since 1983, took pains to express the fact that he was by no means an "activst", or even a generally "political" person. In his words, "This is the first time I come to something like this, in my whole life. I used to be a regular guy, keep to myself, and not get involved. But I saw on the news... Yesterday I went to the mosque to pray, and heard about [the protest]. Coming here to stand with the people is the least I can do."

Najah, a woman of Palestinian birth, who attended the rally with her husband, Hassan, and two children, was representative of much of the crowd. Not an "activist", she like many others heard about the demonstration by word of mouth, and was determined to add her voice to those assembled.

"I'm here to say end the war in Gaza... They kill people... and to demand protection for Palestinians in Gaza, especially for children and women, and to call for an intervention to stop [the war]."

After translating for me, her husband added, with approximately one hundred times the degree of intelligence evidenced by any of the commentators allowed on major new networks:

"I believe the US has the power to stop this. Unfortunately the American actions so far have been to support Israel, and to justify war crimes... It's a one sided, immoral, inhuman war. Even if we accept retaliation it should be in equitable amounts. So far Palestinian rockets have killed four Israelis. Israel retaliates by dropping "bunker buster", 2,000 lb bombs on a mosque and an orphanage. If this is the land of the free- all Palestinians have been supporting for years is their freedom. I wonder if Americans are truthful to their own principles, to their own moral imperatives. "

For further reading:

Israel's War of Terror
(Haidar Eid, Palestinian activist and Gaza City resident, discusses the airstrikes with Eric Ruder)

Molten Lead in Gaza
(Uri Avnery, Israeli peace activist, discusses the role of the continued blockade in the collapse of the "ceasefire")

America Must Stop Shirking its Responsibility on Gaza
(Ralph Nader calls out the American Political Establishment)
(has several good articles over the past few days)

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