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Al-Quds Day protest and iftar in New York shows vigorous opposition to Zionism

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A loud and festive protest against the Israeli occupation of al-Quds, also known as Jerusalem, convened in Times Square on Friday, June 23, 2017. More than 100 demonstrators commemorated International Al-Quds Day by reaffirming the right of New Yorkers to boycott institutions complicit in Zionism and calling for the end of Israel’s violent, decades-long occupation of Jerusalem. The demonstrators also called for an end to Saudi Arabia’s ongoing bombardment of Yemen, which has killed thousands of innocent Yemeni civilians in the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes.  

Nerdeen Kiswani of NYC Students for Justice in Palestine condemns Zionism. (Photo: Amith Gupta)

The protest was organized by the Free Al-Quds network and Muslim Congress and co-sponsored by a number of New York-area community organizations, including the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, NY 4 Palestine, and the NYC Students for Justice in Palestine.

Throughout the demonstration, crowds chanted not only for the liberation of Palestine, but for the liberation of other marginalized communities. Speakers repeatedly identified the Palestinian cause with the cause of undocumented immigrants, chanting “From Palestine to Mexico: Border walls have got to go!” Nerdeen Kiswani of NYC Students for Justice in Palestine remarked that oppressed nationalities have always identified with Palestine, pointing out the use of punitive evictions against both black and Palestinian communities, and the ongoing nature of colonization against indigenous people in Palestine and the Americas.

“When oppressed people unite, stand together, and fight against our collective oppressors, we will rise, and that’s what we are doing today…we must spread the message of freedom and liberation, not only for Palestinian people, but for the black community, queer communities, indigenous communities, and the Mexican community…and fight against imperialism,” Kiswani said. 

Speakers from the black, Jewish, Filipino and Puerto Rican communities reaffirmed their collaborative support for the Palestinian struggle. Mike Legaspi, of the Filipino anti-imperialist community organization BAYAN-USA, said “Palestine, to us in the Philippines, means courage. It means fighting back against imperialism…if you’re against war, you’re against imperialism. You’re against Zionism, and you’re against its ultimate lifeline here [in America]. The best way we can help the people’s struggle all over the world is by demanding that U.S. imperialism stop funding Israel!”

“From Puerto Rico to Palestine, the people will be free!” chanted Esperanza Martell, of the Puerto Rican Working Women’s Organization. Martell discussed her happiness to see the Palestinian community’s support of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, which was attacked by establishment politicians for commemorating Puerto Rican freedom fighter Oscar López Rivera. “Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States for one hundred and twenty years. We will never surrender…we will resist until freedom rings, and we stand with the resistance of the Palestinian people,” Martell said.

Left: Demonstrators commemorate Al Quds Day and condemn the ongoing bombing of Yemen. (Photo: Joe Catron)

Al-Quds Day was first announced by Ayatollah Khomeini in August 1979, months after the Iranian Revolution. The demonstration continues to be hosted annually by the government of Iran on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. At the 2015 march, millions protested in Tehran, marking the largest day of Shi’a Muslims protesting against Zionism and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Outside of Iran, the event is organized in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa by political parties, many with ties to Iran. Yet in the U.S. and Europe, the day of protest is organized independently by human rights groups and Palestinian advocacy organizations.

Israeli forces expelled Palestinians from West Jerusalem during the 1948 mass expulsion of Palestinians from nascent Israel, actions known as the Nakba. In 1967, Israeli forces conquered the eastern half of Jerusalem, including the Haram al-Sharif complex, which houses the al-Aqsa Mosque, and then annexed East Jerusalem in a move condemned as illegal by the UN Security Council. Israel has since engaged in a “Judaization” campaign to illegally evict Palestinian residents from East Jerusalem and cancel their residency status while building illegal Israeli settlements on land confiscated by the Israeli authorities. Israeli authorities have separated Jerusalem from other Palestinian communities in the West Bank through checkpoints and movement controls. At the same time, a number of Jewish religious extremists have also sought to destroy Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. 

These policies have been enforced with an aggressive use of state violence. In 2015, Israeli police executed a Palestinian man after he was chased and harassed by Israeli settlers who accused him of being a “terrorist.” More recently, Israeli forces fired indiscriminately at Palestinian crowds in Jerusalem, killing three, in response to an attack on an Israeli soldier, before closing off the city and threatening to kill any Palestinian who was out at night. Last week, a Palestinian man was killed at a checkpoint near Jerusalem; Israeli soldiers claimed he posed an armed threat.

During the demonstration in New York, members of the Jewish Defense League counter-protested aggressively, repeatedly crossing barriers set up by the NYPD and attempting to intimidate the Al-Quds Day rally-goers. Many of the Jewish Defense League counter-protesters carried pro-Trump banners and paraphernalia. While the NYPD did little to restrain the Jewish Defense League, officers arrested a member of the Al-Quds Day protest for using a megaphone, despite the organizers possessing a sound permit.

Left: Nick Maniace, a demonstrator with the Al Quds Day protest, is arrested for using a megaphone. Maniace was released later that night and plans to challenge the charges. (Photo: Amith Gupta)

Following the demonstration, the NYC Students for Justice in Palestine held a community Iftar to commemorate Al-Quds Day. Iftar is the traditional breaking of fast during Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown. Community Iftars are open to people of all faiths, and indeed, the room was filled with people from diverse backgrounds.

Jewish Defense League counter-protesters promote Donald Trump. (Photo: Amith Gupta)


Guests teach and learn debke(Photo: Amith Gupta)

NYC Students for Justice in Palestine makes an active effort to ensure that its campus activities held on multiple New York college campuses are closely linked to the wider efforts of people in Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim communities off-campus. Prior to the breaking of fast, a volunteer with the group called on the Muslim community to use its resources and organizing strength to defend Palestinian rights and remarked on the specific Islamic significance of Jerusalem. Following the Iftar, the community broke out into dance, teaching newcomers how to dance the traditional Palestinian debke.

Amith Gupta
About Amith Gupta

Amith Gupta is a recent graduate of the New York University School of Law, where he was an Institute for International Law and Justice Scholar. He is a Palestine solidarity activist.

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11 Responses

  1. RoHa
    June 30, 2017, 12:18 am

    ‘Speakers repeatedly identified the Palestinian cause with the cause of undocumented immigrants, chanting “From Palestine to Mexico: Border walls have got to go!”’

    But they are opposite causes! The Palestinians want to live freely in their own country. Undocumented immigrants want to live freely in someone else’s country, as the Zionists did.

    • Mooser
      June 30, 2017, 11:35 am

      .” Undocumented immigrants want to live freely in someone else’s country, as the Zionists did.”

      Sure, “RoHa” no difference at all.

      • Citizen
        July 1, 2017, 3:51 pm

        I don’t get your snark, Mooser; please explain. Thanks!

    • echinococcus
      June 30, 2017, 1:35 pm


      You’re no doubt right according to the strict wording of your statement. It is, however, frowned upon by Dame Logick to compare apples to oranges, beggars to choosers and compliers to overturners.

      • RoHa
        June 30, 2017, 7:27 pm

        Yes, there are differences. The Zionists also wanted to drive out the locals and set up a Zionist state. Most undocumented immigrants do not have similar desires.

        Nonetheless they do want to live in a country where they have no obvious moral right to live.

    • JoeSmack
      June 30, 2017, 9:39 pm

      Disagree with the contrast. Think of it this way.

      If a Palestinian living in the West Bank, Gaza, or in a refugee camp in Lebanon, wanted to cross into present-day Israel, is he an “undocumented migrant” or an “indigenous person” who is simply traversing his own historic lands? The imposition of an Israeli border allows us to morph a person who was at once able to cross freely, being an indigenous person in that land, into an immigrant. This is especially the case for Palestinians whose entire heritage is based in the West Bank or Gaza; if they and their families had always historically lived in Gaza or the West Bank, what are they but an “immigrant” when they try to cross into Israel/’48 Palestine? Prior to the existence of Israel or its borders, there would have been no issue. They may have been from a different part of Palestine, but all of Palestine was seen as a single territory. The imposition of borders allows people with historic ties to an area to become “foreign” over night, on the basis that while they may have claim to some parts of the land, they no longer have claim to all of it.

      Many undocumented immigrants are therefore also “indigenous” in that same sense. Many of them are from communities that were allowed to move back and forth freely across the US border, even if they themselves only lived on the other side of it. The only reason they now appear to be “foreign” in their own land is the imposition of a border by settler-colonists.

      Hence, if you want to analogize someone to the Zionists, it would not be the undocumented immigrants. Rather, it would be the settler-colonists who imposed the borders in the first place, namely the American settlers. The undocumented immigrants as well as indigenous Native Americans would be analogous to the Palestinian population as well as other local Arab populations that were able to cross freely until the settlers arrived and imposed their nation-state.

      • Citizen
        July 1, 2017, 4:03 pm

        Between the end of the American Indian wars in late 19th Century & the birth of Israel in 1948, lie two deeply connected world wars, resulting in the Nuremberg Trials & Geneva progeny. Israel is nothing but regressive, considering all the victims of those world wars and the new, corrective international laws laid down, commencing in 1945.

      • RoHa
        July 2, 2017, 9:23 am

        You have made a case for the moral right of at least some (but by no means all) undocumented immigrants to enter those parts of the US * that were part of the traditional territories of their ancestors. I am not sure that this extends to a right to live in those parts, and and even less sure that it gives a right to live in any other part of the US.

        But I see a difference between being prevented from entering part of the traditional territory by the imposition of a new border, and being driven out of home and forced to the other side of the border. The latter is what happened to many Palestinians.

        (*The context of the original story suggests that it is only immigrants to the U SA who are being referred to.)

      • JoeSmack
        July 2, 2017, 10:23 pm


        “But I see a difference between being prevented from entering part of the traditional territory by the imposition of a new border, and being driven out of home and forced to the other side of the border. The latter is what happened to many Palestinians.”

        As you seem to admit, the crux of your position would not allow many Palestinians to cross into present-day Israel. For example, Palestinians who were born to refugees and were not originally themselves from the other side of the border would not be included. Likewise, Palestinians who always lived in the present-day OPT would not be allowed to cross into Israel, even though prior to Israel’s existence, they could because the entire thing was a contiguous territory (“Palestine”).

        Moreover, what are the “traditional territories of their ancestors”? If you are serious about such a statement, then Mexicans, regardless of where they are from today, would be able to cross into much of the western United States, which was seized from Mexico. Likewise, prior to colonization, many of these places did not have strict borders at all. They may have had different nations, but the existence of a strict geographical border that remains unchanging and is mutually recognized by other parties, etc. is a relatively new development in world history.

        Finally, I think it is clear that your position hinges on the legitimacy of a “new border”. If you are willing to recognize the traumas and injustice that are created for many because of the imposition of new borders, I don’t know why you would lend those new borders any legitimacy at all. Even people who are not personally displaced are affected by those borders.

      • RoHa
        July 12, 2017, 8:38 am

        Sorry to have taken so long to respond. Most of my time has been taken up by the process of moving house. (Where did all that stuff come from?)

        I think that the idea of firm borders has been around for long enough for people to get used to it.

        On your principles Northern Mexicans would have a right to enter the US and go to Albuquerque, but not to go to Detroit (though I doubt any would want to), whereas Southern Mexicans, whose ancestors never travelled that far North, would not. (Unless you think that the Southern border of Mexico has more legitimacy than the Northern border, and thus that people include by that border all have the same rights.) But this seems to me to be a reductio ad absurdum of your position.

        And yes, there are problems, and often injustices connected with changing borders. That sort of thing happens. Border changes lead to changes in people’s lives and positions. In 1871 Alsatians stopped being French and became Germans. Instead of “ouah ouah” they had to say “wau wau”. And just when they had got used to that, in 1919 they had to change back. More recently, respectable Soviet citizens living in their own country woke up one morning and found they were a Russian minority in a tinpot republic of Estonia.

        I think the only way we can avoid these problems is either to remove all borders or to ensure that borders never change. And neither of these is a practical option at this stage of human history.

        But it seems to me that a border change is, usually, nowhere near as bad as being thrown out of your home and your land.

  2. JosephA
    June 30, 2017, 1:05 am

    Strength through diversity will always “trump” the racists/bigots of the JDL.

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