Photo: Joe Catron

New Yorkers rallied on Friday, 8 June – Al-Quds Day – in Times Square in central Manhattan to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and demand freedom and justice for Palestine as well as to express solidarity with Yemen under Saudi bombs. The event was one of hundreds around the world held on 8 June and over the weekend marking al-Quds Day, commemorated on the last Friday in Ramadan each year.

Photo: Bud Korotzer/Desertpeace

Speakers at the rally included representatives of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, the Muslim Congress, Within Our Lifetime, the International Action Center, Labor for Palestine, BAYAN USA and a number of other organizations.

Photo: Bud Korotzer/Desertpeace

Joe Catron, the U.S. coordinator of Samidoun spoke at the rally (full text of speech below)

“We also see all the historic enemies of the Palestinian people – the so-called “State of Israel,” the Zionist movement, imperialism, and Arab reaction – united in an attempt to force the “deal of the century,” a Camp David-style surrender agreement, upon them.

But the Great Return March has been Palestinians’ unmistakeable response.

The children of their revolutionary classes – workers and farmers – have made perfectly clear that they will never allow their holy sites, their land, their prisoners, or their right of return to be bargained or sold.

Photo: Bud Korotzer/Desertpeace

Nerdeen Kiswani of Within Our Lifetime led the crowd in passionate chants for justice in Palestine.  Bill Dores of the International Action Center denounced the relationship between the U.S. and the Israeli state, while Michael Letwin urged greater involvement of the labor movement in organizing to defend Palestinian workers.

Photo: Bud Korotzer/Desertpeace

In addition, Neturei Karta, the Orthodox Jewish organization, brought a strong anti-Zionist religious Jewish contingent to the rally.

Photo: Joe Catron

There were numerous signs and chants at the rally and march drawing attention to Palestinian prisoners, including signs demanding freedom for Ahmad Sa’adat, Khalida Jarrar and Ahed Tamimi.

Lydia of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression – NYC also spoke about Palestinian prisoners, noting that “They repeatedly imprison Palestinians like the Tamimi family in Nabi Salah; without forgetting thousands of political prisoners who have been in israeli dungeons like Ahmed Sa’adat and Marwan Barghouti for years.”

Photo: Joe Catron

One speaker, a medic, focused on the case of Razan al-Najjar, the Palestinian paramedic shot dead by Israeli occupation forces as she provided medical treatment to people participating in the Great Return March in Gaza on 1 June. Groups of health workers also participated in the protest, carrying signs to highlight their call for justice for Razan.

Photo: Joe Catron

After the rally, demonstrators dressed in black led a mock funeral procession for the Palestinians shot down by Israeli occupation forces, especially the over 135 Palestinians killed since 30 March, Land Day and the beginning of the Great Return March in Gaza. They marched to the Israeli consulate carrying mock coffins and signs memorializing the martyrs of Palestine.

Photo: Bud Korotzer/Desertpeace

The march and rally was followed by the annual Al-Quds Day Iftar, organized by Within Our Lifetime at the International Action Center.

Photo: Joe Catron

Full speech of Joe Catron, U.S. Coordinator, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network:

One, two, three, four:
Open up the prison door!
Five, six, seven, eight:
Smash the settler-Zionist state!

As we mourn the losses and celebrate the gains of eleven weeks of the Great March of Return, we should also reflect on its significance at the centennial of the Palestinian national movement, which began with the founding of the Muslim-Christian Association in British-occupied Jaffa on May 8, 1918.

At that time, Great Britain and the world’s other imperialist powers, in collusion with the Zionist movement, were already determined to implant their own colonial outpost in the ancient land of Palestine.

Over the ensuing decades, it became clear that this meant nothing less than wiping Palestine off the map.

But through the strength of its people and the ferocity of their struggle, Palestine survived.

In the face of imperialism and occupation, followed by settler-colonialism, ethnic cleansing and fragmentation, their popular mobilizations, strikes, guerrilla warfare, bombings and hijackings shattered the hopes of imperialists and Zionists, who had assume Palestinians’ expulsion and subjugation would result in their disappearance.

And today, we celebrate the perseverance of the Palestinian national movement: the unbelievable fact that, despite the ferocity of its enemies, and often the betrayal of its allies, it’s still alive and fighting.

As one of its leaders, Ahmad Sa’adat, wrote from his Israeli prison cell last year, “Despite oppression, exclusion, marginalization and siege, the masses of our people continue to fight for their sacred right to return to their land and to the homes, villages and towns from which they were forcibly displaced.”

We also see all the historic enemies of the Palestinian people – the so-called “State of Israel,” the Zionist movement, imperialism, and Arab reaction – united in an attempt to force the “deal of the century,” a Camp David-style surrender agreement, upon them.

But the Great Return March has been Palestinians’ unmistakeable response.

The children of their revolutionary classes – workers and farmers – have made perfectly clear that they will never allow their holy sites, their land, their prisoners, or their right of return to be bargained or sold.

Shortly before her murder, Razan al-Najjar, the 21-year-old Palestinian medic martyred by Israeli gunfire a week ago today, wrote on Facebook:

“To all those who think they know better than the March of Return; than the weapons of the Resistance; than the medics, and the press:

“We go to the fence without anyone forcing us, and it is we who feel the pain, not you.”

Yet even as they struggle, bleed and die, our comrades, friends and heroes under the Israeli occupation are thinking deeply about their need for a strategy capable of not only holding these enemies at bay, but defeating them.

Sa’adat also wrote last year, “What our Palestinian political forces and factions must do to support the prisoners and strengthen their steadfastness is to restore our national unity toward a path of advancement and leave behind this stage of going around endlessly in circles.”

Can we, who face infinitely more favorable conditions, do any less?

We find ourselves in a moment of peak struggle, when we can do little but mobilize, again and again.

But this, too, shall pass.

And we know that mass mobilizations, corporate campaigns and educational projects, as necessary as they are, are still insufficient to the task facing us here, inside the world’s strongest superpower, whose economic, military and diplomatic strength enables every atrocity Israel commits against Palestinians.

As we continue to mobilize in the coming days and weeks, we should also think and discuss, as individuals and organizations, what it will actually take to defeat the Zionist movement, end U.S. support for Israel, and enable the Palestinian people to erase this criminal regime from the pages of history.

The martyrs of the Great March of Return, and of a century of Palestinian struggle, demand no less of us.

It is right to rebel;
Israel, go to hell!

There is only one solution:
Intifada, revolution!

Photo: Joe Catron

Full speech of Lydia, Committee to Stop FBI Repression – NYC:

One month ago was the anniversary of Victory day, which was celebrated on May 8th 1945 in Europe as the defeat of Nazi Germany. On the same day across the Mediterranean sea, Algerians, who fought alongside France during the second world war, were protesting for their own liberation, waving the new Algerian flag, demanding their turn and hoping for independence from their French colonizers, when they would be citizens of their own land instead of subjects…however, that was prohibited. Their protests were met with violent responses, a massacre of thousands from village to village in Sétif, Kherrata, Guelma in the northeast of the country; the press was censored about repression of Algerians, only reporting the French casualties. They estimated just 1500 deaths, whereas their American allies, who didn’t bother intervene, announced 17,000; the final count according to the FLN (National Liberation Front) was 45,000, and that started with one guy waving a flag. The Great March of Return in Gaza reminded me of this.

Razan Ashraf al-Najjar was a 21-yr-old volunteer medic who was killed one week ago and on Monday her cousin Ramzi was killed protesting her death; on May 14th alone, the Nakba commemoration, 60 Palestinians were killed. Laila al-Ghandour was the youngest, an 8-month-old infant who suffocated from tear gas. On April 6th, Yaser Murtaja was a 30-yr-old photojournalist killed. Since it started on March 30th Land Day, hundreds were murdered and tens of thousands were wounded; among them several children because israel wants to kill the next generation of resistance fighters. They have said that every bullet arrives at its destination and they strategically target Palestinians. They prevent wounded protesters from being treated and they silence journalists so news doesn’t get shared. They repeatedly imprison Palestinians like the Tamimi family in Nabi Salah; without forgetting thousands of political prisoners who have been in israeli dungeons like Ahmed Sa’adat and Marwan Barghouti for several years. We Algerians are not foreign to the idea of torture and imprisonment in French dungeons or extrajudicial killings after 13 decades of colonization, but we gained liberation and Palestine will be free as well, within our lifetime insh’Allah!

…but even right here in New York, political organizers are oppressed by the police who are trained by the israeli offense forces. The Strategic Response Group, which are military personnel trained in counter-terrorism tactics, try to silence us and follow activists while marching; they wait for any reason to arrest and lock us up. We won’t stop voicing our opinions due to their threats. Tell me now, are we terrorists? … That’s what they call Palestinian freedom-fighters and that’s how they considered Algerian mujahideen. We say that US imperialists are the #1 terrorists! The Committee to Stop FBI Repression will keep fighting against political repression whether it’s done by NYPD, la migra ICE which separates children from their families, FBI, or DHS which funds the SRG. We won’t stop rallying, protesting, marching, and we call on you to join us!

Photo: Bud Korotzer/Desertpeace
Photo: Bud Korotzer/Desertpeace
Photo: Bud Korotzer/Desertpeace
Photo: Joe Catron
Photo: Joe Catron