Far away from Gaza, a showdown on NYC’s Times Square

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New York City, US  Iris Tatian remembers the first time she splashed red paint on an Israeli flag.

Horrified by an Israeli assault on the Jenin refugee camp in 2002, Tatian, in her late sixties, says she stitched a mini American flag on to the Israeli one, flicked red dollops of paint on both so that the flags would look drenched in blood.

She says she did it to showcase Israeli brutality and US complicity. She didn’t expect to be still carrying it to Palestine protests all these years later. 

“That was 16 years ago, and nothing has changed. I have carried this flag for years to protests,” the soft-spoken Tatian told Al Jazeera during a Palestinian solidarity rally in New York City on Friday. 
 
“And yes, I am tired of carrying this flag, but imagine the Palestinians. It has been 70 years for them, imagine how they must feel,” she said.  

Organised by the NY4Palestine coalition, Tatiane was one of at least 800 people who descended on Times Square on Friday in solidarity with Palestinians after another week of bloodshed in Gaza.  





About 800 people participated in the rally in New York City [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]

At least 62 people were killed and a further 2,700 injured on Monday when Israeli military opened fire on tens of thousands of protesters commemorating the Nakba, or catastrophe, when some 700,000 people were expelled from historic Palestine in 1948. 
 
Since the Right to Return protests began on 30 March, Israelis have killed 106 people, including 15 children.  

At least 12,000 others have been injured, including 3,500 with gunshot wounds.  

‘Wholly disproportionate’ 

The carnage on Monday prompted Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN Human Rights Chief, to describe Israel’s response to the protests in Gaza as “wholly disproportionate” and called for an investigation.

Noura Farouq, a spokesperson for the NY4Palestine coalition that organised the rally in New York City, one of several sites to host solidarity events for Palestinians over the past week, told Al Jazeera they had set up the event “to commemorate 70 years since the establishment of the state of Israel and the wide-spread expulsion of Palestinians from their homelands”. 

“It was also organised as a response to the Trump’s administration opening of US embassy in Jerusalem,” Farouq said. 

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Fully kitted with keffiyehs, large Palestinian flags, posters, and placards, the crowd that assembled under the dazzling lights of Times Square, roared with songs and chants in support pof Palestine. 

A dozen speakers, made up of community leaders, activists and academics, raised the ante of a boisterous crowd by linking the Palestinian struggle to the global fight against capitalism, racism, inequality and injustice.

Shellyne Rodrigruez, a teacher and artist, told Al Jazeera that she was at the rally “to make sure that the Palestine issue would not be made invisible”. 

“It is outrageous that colonialism would still exist in 2018; It is long overdue that Palestine is recognised and that their struggle against apartheid is recognised,”the 40-year-old from the Bronx said. 
 
Likewise, Marshall Douglas, a 67-year-old US citizen, said that “Israel had to be recognised for what it was: a sadistic state”. 

“What happened earlier this week shows that Israel wants to close off any form of Palestinian expression. This is grossly unfair. It just has to be rectified,” Douglass said. 

The march on Friday also comes alongside a series of activities and events held in New York and elsewhere in response to the recent incidents in Gaza.  





Protesters carried banners and posters in support of Palestinians [Al Jazeera]

The movement IfNotNowa Jewish movement that focusses on urging Jewish Americans to withdraw support for Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinan territory, also held a vigil on Friday night for Palestinians killed in Gaza.  

The group said in a statement that they were gathering to “mourn the Palestinians killed by the Israeli army and make it clear that the future of the Jewish community rejects Israel’s horrific, deadly violence and the further entrenchment of the Occupation”.

While outrage and demands for accountability over the killings in Gaza continued to grow, there were others who came out to show support for Israel, describing the killings as self-defence. 

Small counter rally

Across the picket line from the Palestinian rally on 42nd Street and Broadway on Friday, about 20 people held a counter rally in support of Israel. 

Some protesters screamed expletives at the Palestinian supporters, calling the diverse crowd “Hamas sympathisers” and “anti-Semites”. Others screamed “Jerusalem is Jewish”, “F*** Palestine” and “All of you under the shoe”.  

Elise Nahum, 47, who described herself as a “Puerto Rican Jew”, claimed that most at the Palestinian rally were paid to be there. “It’s always the same people who come to protest against Israel,” she told Al Jazeera. 

“And look, we are not looking for trouble. Trump kept his promise to move the embassy and did it. We want to live in peace and there are Arabs and Israelis who live in peace in Israel. These [here] are just troublemakers,” Nahrum said.  






Israel-Palestine: Split screens and dissonant narratives – The Listening Post

Another protester, Ariel Kohane, 47, holding a “Jews for Trump” poster, said that “these supporters of Palestine were simply against peace”. 

“Israeli soldiers bend over backwards not to hurt anyone. Only as a last resort do Israeli soldiers open fire on Palestinians,” Nahrum Kohane told Al Jazeera.  

Responding to the claims of the Israelis, Douglass shakes his head and says that Israeli excuses for their violent actions were running thin.

“They aren’t allowed to fight, they aren’t allowed to protest peacefully … even if they throw molotov cocktails, everyone knows it is mostly symbolic, these don’t hurt or impact anyone,” Douglass says. 

Looking on at the handful of Israeli hecklers that looked to disrupt the Palestinian rally, Iris Tatian, clutching on tightly to her Israeli flag splattered with red paint stains, says that she feels pity for protesters across the road, “on the wrong side of history”. 

“They are uninformed and therefore fearful. They have been sold the Israeli narrative of victimhood. And in the end, they are just doing what was done to them,” Tatiane says. 

Follow Azad Essa on Twitter: @AzadEssa

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