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Palestinians and Israelis Come Together to Protest Violence in Palestine

Outside the Chicago Hilton hundreds of people gathered to protests a fund raiser where former Prime Minster of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu was speaking. Protesters called for an end to US funding of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and a cessation of attacks that have killed over 500 people during the last seven months.
“There should be a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians and the way you do that is by ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem”. Those were the words of Steven Feuerstein a member of Not in My Name, a gathering of American Jews seeking a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.

Feuerstein was not alone as over 200 people came out to the Chicago Hilton on Michigan Avenue to protest the escalation of conflict between the Israeli army and the people of Palestine. The crowd included Palestinians, Jews and many other groups who feel that peace is possible in the region.

Inside former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was speaking at a fund raiser for the University of Haifa, Maritime Studies Department, which works with the Israeli Navy. The $250 a plate dinner was too expensive for many of the protesters to even think about buying their way in.

Parents walking with or carrying young children cried out for an end to the killing of Palestinian children as a result of the increase in violence. Calls were also sent out to the US government to stop sending military and economic aid to the Israeli government. The US sent over $3 billion dollars to Israel last year, most of it military aid. On Friday May 18, the Israeli Air Force used American made F-16 fighters to bomb cities in the occupied territories, the first time that American warplanes have been used against heavily populated cities since 1967.

Just this week former Senator John Mitchell released the report that former President Clinton requested that he undertake about prospects for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The report highlights the importance of a freeze on Israeli settlement building in the occupied territories. While the Israeli government has accepted the report, Feuerstein sees that actions have not backed up the rhetoric. “Ariel Sharon is not willing to say ‘you know what, we will not build any more settlements, we will not continue to take your land’. In essence Israel has rejected the Mitchell report in fundamental ways”.

The American press has focused on the violence on both sides and has failed to look at how the situation is affecting people’s everyday lives, especially the Palestinians living in the occupied territories.

Hatem Abudayyeh of the Committee for a Democratic Palestine says people are not talking about the economic situation that Palestinians are in. “50 percent of the Palestinians are unemployed right now, some of them used to work within the 1948 territories and the borders are entirely cut off now.”

The Israeli government has shut off access into Israel where most of the regions jobs are, claiming that security needs to be maintained.

“The fact that there are checkpoints between villages,” continued Abudayyeh, “now means that even obtaining food, basic medical supplies, even basic necessities for a normal standard of living is not possible right now.”

That strain to find the necessities of life and the now constant targeting of cities and villages has contributed to the conflict. In the past seven months, 500 Palestinians, including 172 people under the age of 18, and over 100 Israelis have been killed. Tens of Thousands have been injured in the fighting.

The protest that was planned in two days lasted an hour and a half. In the end, the police behaved and no problems occurred. With 48 hours, individuals with different religions and different histories were able to come together for a common purpose and get their message across to the public.



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