Rally for Palestinians

6 Apr 2018

in front of Kimmel Center

In front of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, just a few blocks South of Philadelphia City Hall, we carried out a rally for Palestinians. The immediate "ask" of the demonstration was to request that the Philadelphia Orchestra not perform in Israel (They're scheduled to perform in Israel and Europe May 24 through May 29). The idea is to contribute to the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) Movement and thus to repeat what the West did with South Africa from the mid-1960s to 1990. Generally, sanctions are an ineffective tool for producing changes in other countries, but the sanctions on South Africa were bottom-up, applied by civil society as opposed to being a top-down effort by a government. The BDS movement as it applies to Israel was established in 2005 and has produced a great deal of change a great deal more rapidly than the South African sanctions did. Here's the letter that was sent to the Philadelphia Orchestra on March 21st.

in front of the street

Another immediate provocation that certainly boosted attendance at the rally was the demonstrations by Palestinians in Gaza at the border fence between Gaza and Israel. There are two areas of Palestinian control, the West Bank, which is run by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah Party. Abbas "has repeatedly stated that he cannot leave his Ramallah headquarters without Israeli approval," a situation that hardly suggests a truly independent state and Gaza, run by Yehiyeh Sinwar of Hamas. Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007. Hamas has refused to do as Fatah has done and renounce violence against Israel, but it's far from clear, viewing the situation in the West Bank, that peace and prosperity would follow such a renunciation.

in front of center

The latest confrontation at the border resulted in the death of a journalist whose status was clearly marked. Palestinians had lit many tires between them and the Israelis to create smoke as protection from Israeli gunfire, so it's possible that those who shot the journalist didn't see that he was a journalist. Perhaps they were firing blindly through the smoke of the burning tires. The Israeli military has reported that they've gotten a few homemade explosive devices on the order of molotov cocktails tossed at them from behind the smoke, but all of the casualties reported have been been Palestinian. So far at least, the political reaction in the US has been from the political left. There has been no audible reaction from the right wing.

looking towards street

CNN polled in December 2017 (This and the next poll found here) and found that Americans favor supporting neither side and being neutral by a two-thirds majority. Generally, Gallup found that support for Israel is a bit over 60% and support for Palestinians is a little under 20%. There is a strong partisan split between Republicans and Democrats, with Independents following Democrats, on feelings about Israel vs Palestinians. In recent years, the two parties have diverged ever more strongly with Democrats/Independents increasingly identifying with the Palestinians while Republicans have "doubled down" on supporting Israel. The single group in the US that most strongly supports Israel probably shouldn't cause Israelis to feel much comfort. It's Evangelical Protestants, a group that feels that Israel serves a crucial role in the sometime-in-the-future Rapture. The next most populous group are those above 50 years of age. And of course, I suspect there's quite a bit of overlap between the two groups.

crowd grew a bit

We have a group in Philadelphia dedicated to seeking a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict called Christian-Jewish Allies or to, at the very least, educate people as to what the conflict is all about. We ran a successful course a while ago where the issues between the two peoples are explored in detail. The new textbook for the course is here.