Orthodox rabbis participate in pro-Palestinian rallies at White House

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters from across the United States rallied on Saturday in front of the White House to call for an end to the ongoing Israeli attack on Gaza and protest the US government support of Israel.

The Israeli attack on Gaza, which has started 26 days ago, has left more than 1,525 Palestinians killed, 84% of them are civilians, according to the UN latest figures.

The protest was called for by “ANSWER Coalition”, a US-based protest umbrella group consisting of many antiwar and civil rights organizations.

Demonstrators protested around Washington DC streets, some were waving Palestinian flags and the majority was holding yellow signs reading “Free Palestine Let Gaza Live.” Other signs, which read “Your Tax Dollars Fund Israeli War Crimes”, were meant to raise awareness among Americans about the taxes they pay; which contributes to the 3.1 billion dollars the US provides Israel.

The protest was representing people from across the spectrum, from atheists to leftists, conservative Muslims, Sunnis and Shiites, Jews, including rabbis, Muslim Brotherhood members, and many others.

“I am coming from Florida, driving for almost 16 hours to protest against the Israeli occupation and call for ending the blockade on Gaza, making sure that Israel is exposed for its war crimes,” said Sanaa Abou El-Khair, a 24-year-old Palestinian born in the US.

Neveen Hassan, 22, born in Washingtonto an Egyptian father, and a Palestinian mother, explained she was alarmed by the US media bias towards Israel and came to the protest afterreceiving a Facebook invitation from the event organizer.

In response to the common argument circulating thatHamas isprovoking the war by firing rockets at Israel, she said,“I am neither in favor of Hamas nor Fatah, but rather a united Palestine, and I am protesting against Israeli terrorism in Gaza.”

Ali al-Saeedi, 65, an Iranian who migrated to the United States in 1970s was chanting, “Shame, shame USA, how many kids were killed today.” He stated that Saudi Arabia is fomenting the Shiite-Sunni sectarian strife to distract the attention of the Muslim world from the Palestinian cause.  “We must all put our sectarian differences aside and get united against Israel, the common enemy,” he added.

“Back in Egypt, no one is allowed to protest, thanks to Sisi, Egypt’s new dictator who rules with an iron fist, he is an agent to Israel, you know what, he and Netanyahu should be tried over charges of war crimes,” said Madiha Ibrahim, a 50-year-old Muslim Brotherhood member, holding the Rabia sign  (the pro-Morsi four-fingers symbol).

“Here I can practice my right to protest for our families in Gaza,” said Ibrahim who migrated to the US after the oust of former President Mohamed Morsy.

Rabbis participate in the pro-Palestinian march

Goldsti, a 28-year-old rabbi was one of the rabbis participating in the march. He is a member of Neturei-Karta (Aramaic for "Guardians of the City) a Jewish orthodox group that believes that Judaism rejects the existence of an Israeli state. Their sign read,“Authentic rabbis always opposed Zionism and the state of Israel “”.”

“We are here to say that God sent us in exile and we are not allowed to establish a state, and to do anything for the Palestinian people,” said Goldstin who came to the march from Portland, Oregon.

According to the rabbi, Israel is not a Jewish state but rather a Zionist atheist state. “Netanyahu does not practice, and he is an atheist, not representing Jewish, and he is using Judaism to achieve political goals, he kills Palestinians for his Zionist schemes,” he added.

When asked if rabbis in Israel shared his view, he explained that they are threatened by Zionists not to criticize the state of Israel, however, there are several groups who are refusing the existence of Israel, among them his own group who has 80, 000 supporters.

Rebecca Stewait, 50, is another Jewish American who is supporting the Palestinian people by encouraging Israelis not to serve in the IDF (Israeli Defense Army).She has been to Israel several times and has relatives there, she said, “I have been working since 2003 in writing letters of support to the Israelis in prisons for refusing to serve in the IDF.”

“The number of such mutinous Israelis is increasing thanks to the education and awareness campaigns informing people not to be involved in Israeli massacres in Palestine” Stewait added. 

Pro-Israeli protest

While pro-Palestine protesters marched to the White House, around four Israelis, escorted by police, were holding Israeli flags and signs calling for peace.

“Hamas fired rockets at our compound, Palestinians must end acts of terrorism to live in peace, they use civilians as protective shields, and they are like scorpions who never stop stinging,” said Robin Alon, a pro-Israeli protester.

“Hamas is firing rockets at us, they spent millions of dollars to dig tunnels rather than improving Palestinian lives,” she said.

A brief argument took place between pro-Palestine and pro-Israel protesters; however, the police intervened before it escalates to clashesand escorted the Israeli protesters away from the mob.

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