For the past 73 years, Palestinians at home and abroad have marked the Nakba or Catastrophe on May 15, when hundreds of thousands of residents were forced from their homes by the new state of Israel, which was supported by the U.S. and United Nations resolutions. This year, Palestinians around the world were joined by others to condemn the Israeli military, which invaded El Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Israeli settlers also moved to evict Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where they settled after the Nakba. For years, those settlers occupied the homes with Palestinian families still living in them.
After Hamas began firing rockets into Israel, the Israeli military launched airstrikes into Gaza, destroying buildings and infrastructure of the most densely populated city in the world. As of May 18, more than 200 Palestinians have been reported killed and 12 Israelis have died from rockets fired into Israel’s cities and towns.
Major protests have been organized across the world to voice opposition to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus attended a rally in Hartford, Connecticut on May 15, where hundreds of Palestinians and their supporters gathered at the federal building, many waving Palestinian flags and chanting in Arabic and English. One of the speakers at the rally was John Fussell, vice president of the church-affiliated social justice group Tree of Life Educational Fund.
JOHN FUSSELL: Good afternoon, everybody. Watching the events in Israel/Palestine unfold in Sheikh Jarrar, the Al Aqsa mosque, and Gaza, I grow angrier and angrier with our government’s inaction in the face of Israel’s ongoing aggression against the Palestinian people. Our present congressional representatives have a special responsibility to speak out against Israel’s human rights and international law abuses because they – Reps. John Larson, Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes and Jahana Hayes – they all support the grotesque sums of military aid our Congress gives to Israel — $3.8 billion a year (boos). That’s right, our tax dollars provide 20 percent of Israel’s military budget – a country only slightly larger than the state of New Jersey. Connecticut taxpayers’ share is approximately $80 million a year. Our tax dollars from Connecticut would be far better spent helping our underpaid and overworked nursing home workers or investing in our children’s education (cheers). But congressional support for Israel’s military budget continues, without placing any human rights conditions on these expenditures.
As Israeli settlers attack, dispossess and displace Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, Reps. Larson, Courtney, DeLauro, Himes and Hayes have remained silent (boos). Now some people refer to the events in Sheikh Jarrar as an eviction, but we are witnessing it’s not an eviction. An eviction implies a legal process. There’s nothing legal about the ongoing occupying power displacing the indigenous Palestinian population with Jewish settlers from Brooklyn and Chicago. Such conduct is a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
We watch as military forces from Israel attack peaceful Palestinian protesters with tear gas and rubber- coated bullets, and we cry out in grief. But Reps. Larson, Courtney, DeLauro, Himes and Hayes have remained silent. Our corporate media refer to these Israeli solders as the “Israeli Defense Force.” But a better name would be the Israel Offense Force, or the Israeli Occupation Force or the Israeli Apartheid Force.
Why does our Congress continue to give Israel $3.8 billion a year without requiring Israel to respect human rights and international law? Our nation’s policy has only served to embolden Israeli aggression and apartheid, not bring peace and justice. My friends, isn’t it time that we demand our elected officials end the failed policy of unconditional support for Israel? (cheers) Isn’t it time that we say, “Hey, Israel, if you take our tax dollars, then you must respect our values?” (cheers)
Chant: Not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for the crime in Palestine!
Chant: Free, free Palestine!
JOHN FUSSELL: Now, there’s gonna be some people handing out leaflets as I go through this next segment. I want you to read it, take it home, and do what the leaflet asks you to do. There are a few in Congress who do place the values of peace, freedom, justice and equality over unconditional military aid to Israel. On April 15, Rep. Betty McCollum introduced into Congress HR 2590. This legislation, if passed, promotes and protects the rights of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. The legislation will ensure that the government of Israel does not use U.S. taxpayer dollars to 1) support the military detention of Palestinian children; 2) the unlawful seizure and destruction of Palestinian property; or 3) further annexation of Palestinian land in violation of international law.
Brothers and sisters, this is America telling Congress, “Stop your complicity in Israel’s apartheid crimes!” (cheers)
For more information on the Tree of Life Educational Fund, visit tolef.org.