An awaking in Washington as pro-Palestine demonstrations and congressional support gain momentum

An awaking in Washington as pro-Palestine demonstrations and congressional support gain momentum
As favourable US public opinion towards Israel continues to be counteracted by increasing Palestinian support, Benny Gantz's arrival in Washington has only galvanised Palestinian support bases, as congressional sympathy continues to rise.
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
04 June, 2021
Favourable public opinion towards the Palestinian cause in the United States is at unprecedented levels of support [Getty Images]

Washington DC, The New Arab - On Thursday afternoon, dozens of activists gathered in front of the White House to protest the State Department visit of Israel's Benny Gantz over a meeting to request $1 billion from the US for its Iron Dome defence system. 

The demonstrators held up signs reading: "Palestinian blood is on your hands" with pictures of President Joe Biden, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

They quickly assembled in the late afternoon on a weekday with only short-notice of the visit, and were met with support from passers-by and were interviewed by reporters.  

This is a whole new era. We’re at the stage where we’re no longer going against the current

This was the second Palestinian demonstration in downtown Washington in less than a week, the previous one being on May 29, which drew a crowd of more than 1,000 at the Lincoln Memorial, where activists demanded the halt of US aid to Israel, which amounts to $3 billion annually.  

"This is a whole new era. We're at the stage where we're no longer going against the current," Zein El-Amine, a Lebanese activist based in Washington DC, told The New Arab. He recalled that when he moved to the US in the late 1980s, "the reception to the Palestinian issue wasn’t what it is today".

Dana Abushanab, an organiser with the Palestinian Youth Movement, who came down to from Baltimore for this latest demonstration, told TNA that this recent series of demonstrations has "ignited the Palestinian diaspora".  

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This series of demonstrations follows around 10 days of continuous attacks on East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, which left over 200 Palestinians dead, including 66 children. Unlike similar instances in the past, these events were shared widely on social media and residents were interviewed on major international news networks.

Shortly after the ceasefire, the New York Times made the unprecedented move of publishing the names and photos of the children killed, mainly from Israeli air strikes on Gaza.

Though the reception to this news coverage has been mixed, the Palestinians are seeing growing support around the world.  

Though this move is significant, activists at Thursday's demonstration were quick to point out that this amount pales in comparison to the $1 billion now being sought by Israel for its Iron Dome. This recognition has extended to the US Congress. Earlier this week, 145 House Democrats, led by Representative Jamie Raskin, in a letter to Senator James Risch, urged the ranking Republican member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to release the hold on $75 million appropriated for Palestinian aid.

Nevertheless, these demonstrations appear to be gaining momentum in both size and public awareness. With time, the sustainability of this shift will become clear. 

"It's definitely noticeable in numbers, but also in its sustained interest," Atalia Omer, professor of religion, conflict, and peace studies at the University of Notre Dame, told TNA.

"It will be interesting to see what happens when things go back to normal."