ITHACA, N.Y.—Around 100 people took to the Ithaca Commons on a sunny Sunday afternoon to voice their objection to the Palestinian people’s condition and the often violent campaign in Gaza carried out by the Israeli government, particularly recently.
The group, appearing to come from a wide variety of backgrounds in the area, carried signs, yelled chants and delivered speeches, and followed another well-attended event that took place the previous day, May 17, on Cornell University’s campus. Though the conflict is one of the most polarizing around the world, there were no counter-protesters seen at the event, which went on uninterrupted except for one driver who passed by yelling “Go Israel.”
The gathering, announced just days in advance, was prompted by a spate of violence over the last several days that has seen hundreds of Palestinians die at the hands of the Israeli government, while rocket campaigns from Hamas fighters in Palestine have killed 10 Israelis over the border. President Joe Biden, in line with the United States’ longstanding support of Israel, has reiterated that support consistently during this time, despite the violence.
Like the crowd itself, the list of speakers was wide-ranging. Mary Anne Grady Flores read a statement from her sister, Clare, in support of the movement to free Palestine. Clare Flores is currently incarcerated in a federal prison for her involvement in a break-in at a nuclear submarine base in Georgia, where she and other activists wanted to disarm a nuclear missile. Rayvon Kenyon, one of the leaders of The Ithaca Pantheras activist and organizing group, drew parallels between the treatment of Palestinians overseas and the treatment of Black people in America, and urged attendees to show a real dedication to action instead of giving up after one day of protesting.
Ariel Gold, the national co-director of women-centric peace group CodePink, also addressed the crowd at length. She talked about her dismay at watching the violence play out again, particularly hearing the Israeli government employ the same public relations tactics as it has in the past.
“There is no self-defense about bombing the international media,” said Gold. “There is no self-defense about bombing the main road to the main hospital. There is no self-defense about bombing entire families.”
In her fiery remarks, Gold gave voice to a common theme of the event: that Israel’s government does not represent the will of the majority of Jews in America, and that its aggression towards Palestinians needs to end immediately—in the form of both this current violent campaign and the overarching suffering of people in Gaza.
“We, Jews in America, from my family and so many Jews across America, we say ‘Not in my name,'” Gold finished. “As Americans, we say ‘Not with my tax dollars.’ We say ‘No’ to apartheid.”
She was followed by her daughter, Isabella, who reiterated many of her mother’s points. Isabella noted that this is the fourth time she has had to come out to protest the Israel government’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.
“Zionists will tell you that this is all very complicated—there’s nothing complicated about bombing children,” Isabella said. “This is not complicated, this is war crimes.”
The event was closed by three local students, one from Cornell University and two from Ithaca High School, all of whom actually are Palestinian. The first, high schooler Aya Oulida, castigated Americans for trying to equate the conduct of Hamas with the Israeli government, before closing with a raucous “Free Palestine” chant.
“Listen to the cries and screams of mothers, wives and children as they look over their loved ones begging them to come back to life, then tell me it’s a two-sided issue,” she said. “Watch $3.8 billion of our tax money go to these terrorists that claim they are justified, then tell me it’s a two sided issue. […] To those that say anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, we say Jews say no to Israel.”
Following her, Malak Abuhashim from Cornell, talked about her family overseas that she has resigned herself to never actually being able to meet.
“Imagine a life where you’re constantly living in fear on the soil of your own homeland,” she said. “Imagine not knowing if you’ll ever wake up in the only place you’ve ever called home. Imagine not knowing if you’d never see your son again. […] We are witnessing a genocide.”