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Protests Around the World to Break the Siege of Gaza

By Hatem Abudayyeh

Rally in Chicago against Siege in Gaza

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in the United States and around the world, Jan. 25-26, to demand an immediate end to the Israeli siege of Gaza. Protesters gathered outside Israeli embassies and consulates, as well as at U.S. federal buildings, making it clear that the U.S. must stop aiding and abetting Israeli war crimes.

Over 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza are suffering from the Israeli blockade that has resulted in shortages of food, fuel, medicine and other necessities. The Israeli government claims that this is in response to rocket attacks from Palestinian militants, but Palestinians say this is part of a long-standing policy of collective punishment.

Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom Foundation was one of the organizations that called for the demonstrations. Its executive director, Mahdi Bray, issued a statement noting, “The embargo is a gross human rights violation, forcing collective punishment on the entire population, in clear violation of international law – an act that has been condemned worldwide, and yet our government remains silent.”

In Washington D.C., 200 demonstrators rallied outside the Israeli embassy, before marching through the streets. Sami El-Zaharna, a Palestinian from Gaza, said, “We’re out here to show our indignation at what's happening. We have to speak out and people here need to hear what we have to say.” Many pointed to clear U.S. support for Israel's policy of collective punishment and raised the demands of implementing the Right of Return for all Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and ending U.S. aid to Israel. Mahdi Bray spoke at the rally, and ended by saying, “Every Palestinian has a right to self-determination and to live in peace and freedom. You can never stop the determination of a people to be free!”

Many students joined in the call to action to break the siege, organizing rallies on campuses or mobilizing for larger demonstrations like the one in Washington.Chloe Briede, a member of Students for a Democratic Society in Washington D.C., said, “We want to show that students are here in solidarity with Palestine, that this is not just a ‘Middle East issue,’ but something that truly concerns everyone who is interested in justice.”

The national days of action protests were called by National Council of Arab Americans, Free Palestine Alliance, Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, Palestinian American Women's Association, Al-Awda Palestine Right of Return Coalition, the ANSWER coalition, and many other antiwar and progressive groups.

In Chicago, the Palestine Solidarity Group, along with Chicago’s International Solidarity Movement chapter, American Muslims for Palestine, Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism, and many others, organized a rally in solidarity with the people of Gaza on Jan. 29, where the demonstrators were also protesting a Zionist fundraiser for the Israeli Occupation Forces. Emotions were high, as over 200 of Chicagoland’s Palestinians and their allies were passionately chanting, “Who is the terrorist? Israel is the terrorist!” and “Racists go home!” in response to a few Jewish Defense League members who attempted a pitiful counter-protest.

Palestinian Youth protesting outside Israeli Embassy in Washington

Mahdi Bray outside Israeli Embassy

Worldwide Protests outside Israeli consulates

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