Thousands demonstrate in Washington to support Israel, oppose cease-fire

Thousands demonstrate in Washington to support Israel, oppose cease-fire
4 min read
Washington, D.C.
15 November, 2023
A major gathering in support of Israel drew a variety of speakers and attendees, from moderates who still cling to a two-state solution to Christian extremists who support Israel's right-wing government unconditionally.
Thousands demonstrate in Washington in support of Israel. [Brooke Anderson/The New Arab]

On Tuesday, 14 November, thousands of Jewish supporters of Israel and their allies gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC, to rally against antisemitism, advocate for the release of the Israeli hostages being held by Hamas, and for the US government's continued unconditional support to Israel's war on Gaza

Organisers claim that the turnout was 290,000, slightly lower than what organisers for the pro-Palestinian demonstration for the gathering that took place in Washington 10 days earlier.

The demonstrators, some carrying the Israeli flag and many wearing its colors of blue and white, began gathering in the late morning of a sunny and crisp November, with people coming and going until after sunset on the National Mall. 

Like many of the pro-Palestinian demonstrations in recent weeks, the supporters for Israel came from different states as well as Canada for the gathering. 

"What brought me here was growing antisemitism around the country and around the world and the need to be counted," Wayne Sachs, a demonstrator from Philadelphia, told The New Arab

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After months of warning the ultra-right-wing government in Israel to de-escalate its actions, which have killed more than 240 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Hamas launched a surprise attack from Gaza on 7 October that killed 1,200 and kidnapped 240 Israelis. 

Israel followed suit with a full-on war on Gaza, killing more than 11,000 Palestinians and at least 186 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Since 7 October, there has been a surge of antisemitism and Islamophobia in the US and around the world. The last two months have seen regular attacks on places of worship and incidents of violence against Jews and Muslims. 

"I believe in a two-state solution. I believe that innocents shouldn't be killed. I believe in the immediate return of the hostages. I would be in favour of more pauses in the active war effort, but I do believe that Hamas has brought this on themselves and is not acting in the best interest of its own people," he said, expressing a common sentiment at Tuesday's demonstration.

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Among the speakers on the National Mall were politicians and celebrities, including newly-selected House Speaker Mike Johnson, who described calls for a ceasefire as outrageous, and actress Debra Messing, who said she'd felt abandoned by progressives, but seeing the large gathering meant they were not alone.

One of the more controversial speakers at the event was notorious antisemitic evangelical pastor John Hagee, who has in the past blamed Jews for the Holocaust. It is unclear why he was chosen as a speaker (no rabbis, however, were invited to speak at the event, according to a report by the Jewish publication The Forward).

Though he didn't bring up such controversial stances in his speech on Tuesday, he did nonetheless express extreme views.

"You, the leaders of Israel, and you alone, should determine how this war is going to be conducted and completed. You decide. No one else," he said to cheers. "Israel has shown the world that it overcame the tragedy of the Holocaust through the power of hope. Israel has demonstrated the courage to make peace with its neighbours."

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Referring to his alliance with an orthodox rabbi he made 40 years ago, he said, "If a line has to be drawn, then draw that line around Christians and Jews. We are one! We are one! We are one!"

He said, "We choose peace or terror. We choose Israel or Hamas. There is no middle ground. You're either for the Jewish people or you're not."

This was followed by a speech by Rochelle Ford from Dillard, a historically Black university, who discussed the revival of their centre for Black-Jewish relations. In her speech, she discussed the history of Black-Jewish solidarity. 

"The Bible says that the Jewish people won when Moses held his arms up. But who was holding up Moses' arms? Aaron and Hur. Let us be your Aaron and Hur. Lean on us," she said.

She also expressed sympathy for Palestinians in Gaza, though blamed Hamas for their predicament.

"Together we co-wrote a statement that more than 100 other college and university presidents and chancellors signed condemning terrorism and calling upon all to act with moral clarity while seeking truth to stand with Israel, with the Palestinians who suffer under Hamas's cruel rule in Gaza and with all people of moral conscience," she said. 

The variety of speakers and attendees showed the diversity of Israel's supporters, who range from those who condemn Hamas while expressing sympathy for both sides to Christian extremists, including the new House Speaker, who support the Israeli government unconditionally.

At various points the crowd chanted against a ceasefire.