On Wednesday, 30 March, Palestinian Land Day, hundreds of marchers took to the streets of midtown Manhattan in New York City to protest organizations funding war crimes in Palestine, including the “Friends of the Israel Defense Force,” the Central Fund of Israel and American Friends of Ateret Cohanim.
The march commemorated Land Day, an annual date marked by Palestinians and supporters of Palestine inside and outside Palestine. Land Day not only recalls the six Palestinians shot and killed by Zionist forces on 30 March 1976 at the mass demonstrations in occupied Palestine ’48 against land confiscation, it also highlights the unity of Palestinians in defending their land from colonialism, occupation and apartheid.
The New York City action came as part of the Campaign to Defund Racism, launched by over 150 groups in Palestine to oppose the tax-exempt status of United States-based organizations funding illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
The protest was organized by a coalition of organizations, including Samidoun New York/New Jersey, Within Our Lifetime • United for Palestine, the Palestinian Youth Movement, Existence Is Resistance, Decolonize This Place, CUNY School of Law Students for Justice in Palestine, and the CUNY Law Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
The demonstration began outside the “Friends of the IDF” headquarters on 42nd Street before proceeding in a strong march throughout midtown Manhattan. Speakers from Within Our Lifetime, Samidoun, Palestinian Youth Movement, CUNY Law Students for Justice in Palestine sent a clear message against these organizations and in support of Palestinian liberation.
Many organizations participated in the demonstration, including Brooklyn College SJP, the US-Palestine Mental Health Network, NY Boricua Resistance and the anti-Zionist Jewish group, Neturei Karta.
As the demonstration launched, multiple speakers addressed the crowd, including Nerdeen Kiswani of Within Our Lifetime, Fatima Mohammed of CUNY Law Students for Justice in Palestine, Rabbi Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta and Laila Boutros, coordinator of Samidoun NY/NJ. (Read Laila’s full speech below.)
As the march proceeded to the Central Fund for Israel, Mette Loulou von Kohl spoke representing the Palestinian Youth Movement, while Hassan of Samidoun NY/NJ spoke outside the American Friends of Ateret Cohanim (read Hassan’s speech below.) The demonstration ended with a spirited march to the steps of the James A Farley Building, as chants for Palestinian liberation echoed through the streets of Manhattan.
Demonstrators also carried signs in support of the Collectif Palestine Vaincra and other pro-Palestinian organizations targeted for dissolution — official banning — by the French government, for their advocacy for Palestinian liberation and against apartheid, racism and colonialism, and highlighted the case of Khaled Barakat, Palestinian writer expelled from Germany and subjected to a political ban for his positions on Palestine.
Participants also highlighted the struggle of 4,600 Palestinian political prisoners jailed by occupation forces, including nearly 500 administrative detainees imprisoned without charge or trial by the Israeli occupation and currently boycotting the Israeli military courts. Palestinian prisoners include political leaders and resistance strugglers like Ahmad Sa’adat as well as Ahmad Manasra, the young Palestinian man jailed as a child and subjected to horrendous abuse by his captors. There is an international campaign by global and Palestinian mental health campaigners for his release. Click here to sign the petition.
Organizers in New York and New Jersey will continue to build the Defund Racism and organize for justice and liberation for Palestine, from the river to the sea. To get involved with or learn more about Samidoun NY/NJ, reach out on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
Laila Boutros’ speech outside the “Friends of the IDF”:
My name is Laila and I’m with Samidoun New York/New Jersey. If you are standing here with us today, I don’t have to tell you that Palestinians and supporters of Palestinian liberation have been brutally repressed for as long as our collective consciousness can recall. 19 years ago this month, Rachel Corrie, a 23 year old American activist, was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer operator while trying to defend a Palestinian home from demolition. The driver saw her and didn’t slow down – he just ran over her. 37 years ago this July – Ghassan Kanafani, beloved Palestinian writer and PFLP leader, was assassinated by the Mossad via a car bomb, along with his 17 year old niece, Lamees. When they are able to, this is what they do. They murder Palestinians and their supporters who speak up for their right to life and land.
Israeli repression is still happening up to this day, and it doesn’t just happen in Palestine – it happens in the diaspora, too. This month, the French Interior Minister ordered the dissolution of Samidoun’s Toulouse chapter, the Collectif Palestine Vaincra, citing baseless claims of “calls to hatred, violence and discrimination.” While this was happening, Palestinian activist Khaled Barakat fought to appeal his unjust political ban from Germany. Khaled was banned from the country because he was not afraid to say he supports Palestinian resistance and he calls for the liberation of Palestine. This is what the enemy does when they can’t literally kill our people, they attempt to kill our spirit and our voices and they attempt to delegitimize our struggle to the rest of the world. This won’t work because the people of the world know the truth and can recognize a common enemy. The same forces that encourage IDF soldiers to murder Palestinian children also encourage United States pigs to kill Black boys and girls, and the same forces that kill Black and Palestinian youth are also upholding the fascist US-backed Duterte regime that wreaks havoc on the lives of the Filipino people.
The greatest thing we can take away from these horrible stories is that the Zionist enemy is afraid of us. If they were not afraid, they would not work so tirelessly to kill and silence our people. It would not matter to them that Ghassan Kanafani wrote truthful stories about Palestinian life and struggle, it would not matter to them that Rachel Corrie was moved to defend a land so far from where she came, it would not matter to them that the Collectif is peacefully organizing its community in support of the Palestinian prisoners. If the Zionist entity was really as strong and unbreakable as it claims to be, it would not need to spend its time killing and repressing our people. So now is not the time for us to cower in fear, it is time for us to fight back.
Hassan’s speech outside the American Friends of Ateret Cohanim:
Right here is the office of the American friends of Ateret Cohanim. Ateret Cohanim operates as a passthrough between Zionist settlers and their state and their “Friends” here give them half a million dollars a year in tax exempt money. Through legal and extralegal means the organization seeks to push Palestinians from their homes and move in what they call “ideologically motivated settlers” — in other words, armed ultra Zionists. Their goal is to “securing a united Jerusalem” by ensuring a demographic majority in al-Quds.
Right now in Silwan, in Jerusalem, the Zionist court is threatening to kick a 26 person Palestinian family off their ancestral land. Zionist settlements are propping up all over on the remains of houses the occupation has forcibly demolished. Ateret Cohanim is directly involved in these heinous acts and that’s why we must hold their “Friends” accountable.
Ateret is doing the same thing luxury housing developers do here in historically Black and Brown neighborhoods but with even more overt violence and intimidation. Whether it’s Bay Ridge or back home, we condemn these acts of ethnic cleansing and support the brave people who dare to resist forced displacement.
We demand that these terrorist organizations be stripped of their tax exempt status. This is a clear case of favoritism on the part of the racist imperialist US government and reflects the two countries’ shared commitment to genocide. But no matter how many millions are poured into their unjust cause, we know the Palestinians’ spirit of resistance will not be broken. We know we will return and reclaim all of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Palestine.
Palestine is our demand
No peace on stolen land