SAN FRANCISCO — As Israel’s campaign of ethnic cleansing in Gaza intensifies, so, too, does the global outcry.
On Saturday, Oct. 14, thousands flooded San Francisco’s Market Street, Palestinian flags and signs of solidarity bobbing amidst the sea of people, their chants for a free Palestine echoing off the city walls as they made their way to the Ferry Building, where Hatem Bazian, professor at Zaytuna College and the University of California, Berkeley, was among those who spoke about the Palestinian struggle for freedom.
“Palestinians in Gaza are not free people,” Bazian told the crowd. “They are internationally dependent people, so you need to tell the (United Nations), you need to tell President (Joe) Biden, you need to tell (French President Emmanuel) Macron — all of them — Palestinians are internationally dependent people and all of these Western countries with Israel are engaging in genocide against a protected population.”
In response to attacks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a coalition of groups known as the Joint Operations Room in Gaza launched Operation Al-Aqsa Flood a week ago. This action prompted Israel to declare war against Hamas, the armed wing of a Palestinian Islamic political party bearing the same name and one of the members of the coalition. Yet Israel is not only targeting Hamas, but all of the 2 million people who have been trapped in Gaza since 2007 as a result of its illegal air, land and sea blockade.
Since the attack was launched Saturday, Oct. 7, Israel has deprived all of the people of Gaza, half of whom are children, of basic necessities such as food, water and electricity. The Israeli military has killed Palestinians indiscriminately, targeting journalists and ambulances, using illegal chemical weapons like white phosphorus, wiping out entire families, and killing and injuring an ever-increasing number of Palestinians, including over 700 children. On Friday, Israel issued an order for 1.1 million Gazans in the north to evacuate to the south within 24 hours. Shortly thereafter, they began bombing the people who were fleeing.
United Nations human rights expert Francesca Albanese cautioned on Saturday that Palestinians face the looming threat of mass ethnic cleansing. She highlighted that Israeli public figures have openly advocated for another Nakba, or catastrophe, referencing the violent expulsion of about 750,000 indigenous Palestinians during the establishment of Israel within Palestinian territory in 1948. During the Naksa, or setback, in 1967, Israel violently expelled an additional 350,000 or so Palestinians and proceeded to illegally occupy the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
Israel continues its occupation to this day and encourages the illegal settlement of Jewish people from other parts of the world in remaining Palestinian territories in the West Bank, while violently expelling and ramping up attacks against native Palestinians.
“Israel has already carried out mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians under the fog of war,” Albanese said in a statement. “Again, in the name of self-defence, Israel is seeking to justify what would amount to ethnic cleansing. Any continued military operations by Israel have gone well beyond the limits of international law. The international community must stop these egregious violations of international law now, before tragic history is repeated. Time is of the essence.”
On Friday, Oct. 13, 55 Democrats, not including Reps. Ro Khanna (D-District 17) and Eric Swalwell (D-District 14), penned a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Blinken, calling for a swift restoration of Gazans’ basic needs, the creation of a humanitarian corridor, and inclusion of humanitarian aid for both Palestinians and Israelis in funding requests.
The next day, Biden had calls with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss working with the U.N. and countries like Egypt and Jordan “to ensure humanitarian supplies reach civilians in Gaza.” However, the Biden administration also dispatched a second aircraft carrier to join the USS Gerald R Ford carrier already stationed in the region. This move comes as the Israeli military prepares to launch a ground invasion of Gaza.
Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, called on local elected officials to take stronger action to end the genocide of the Palestinian people. This includes demanding an immediate ceasefire and an end to the occupation.
If the administration refuses to listen to calls for de-escalation, the Bay Area will respond in kind, the way it did when Trump tried to impose the Muslim travel ban and locals shut down the San Francisco International Airport, she said to cheers. The turnout Saturday already dwarfed the several hundred Bay Area residents who stood in solidarity with the Palestinian resistance a week prior.
“Ten thousand of us took the streets of San Francisco today,” Kiswani said. “And, as we speak, Gaza is still being bombed. Fifty thousand of us will show up next time.”
Sonia Waraich can be reached at 510-952-7455.
Photo caption: Protesters march in San Francisco against U.S. support of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories on Saturday, Oct. 14. (Sonia Waraich – East Bay Echo)