On Nov. 4, a protest in support of Palestine was held in Freedom Plaza in the heart of Washington, D.C. The plaza overflowed with tens of thousands of participants, who also packed the surrounding roads.
“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The words that the speakers repeated remained in my ears. The unspoken message is a reference to the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. It is a slogan that appeals for Palestine’s liberation.
As the war between the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas — which effectively controls the Palestinian territory of Gaza — and Israel intensifies, protest actions all across the U.S. calling for an immediate cease-fire have been brisk. Some well-informed voices also say that participants are celebrating Hamas’ violent acts and fanning the flames of hatred toward Jewish people.
During the demonstration, I carefully listened to and observed the participants’ appeals. Women held up photos of children killed in the Gaza bombings, and speeches denounced U.S. President Joe Biden, who supports Israel, as a “murderer.” There were also a few posters that linked the Star of David, a Jewish symbol, with the Nazi Party. However, I did not encounter any rhetoric glorifying Hamas’ acts of terror.
Jewish writers and artists have released statements contesting the notion that “any criticism of Israel is inherently antisemitic.” Some certainly do interpret “from the river to the sea” as a “denial of Israel’s right to exist.” But there is not just one voice in the hearts of the protesters.