Separate Pro-Palestine, Pro-Israel demonstrations held in Charleston area
CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Amid the growing crisis oversees between Israeli and Palestinian forces in the Middle East, two Charleston-area groups on both sides of the conflict protested the violence in separate demonstrations Sunday.
In recent weeks, longstanding tensions between Israeli and Palestinian groups in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank have boiled over, leading to a climbing death toll from airstrikes and violent fighting.
Supporters of both sides of the conflict came out to protest in Charleston and Mount Pleasant Sunday.
“Free, free Palestine. Free, free Palestine,” chants the crowd of around 40 Palestinian supporters on the corner of King Street and Calhoun Street. They came out Sunday morning to voice support for the Palestinian people as the list of those killed in Israeli bombings grows. Among the dead are women and children.
Habiba Alquza is a 10-year-old girl with a scarf draped around her shoulders in the colors of the Palestinian flag. She is standing with protestors, two of whom are her parents who came to America more than 20 years ago. She says when she sees images of bombed homes and mangled bodies, she can’t help but wonder if that could have been her.
“I feel like if they [parents] didn’t leave, I would be in the same situation they are in. I could be hurt, my family could be hurt,” Alquza said. “Especially with corona now, you have two things hurting you. You have to be worried about almost everything.”
Many of the initial clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians started around a site holy to both Jews and Muslims. Demonstrator and local Charleston doctor Ghazala Javed says those clashes were instigated by the increased Jewish police presence.
“We have lived in peace in Jerusalem. People Live in peace,” Javed said. “Get police the police out of the worship places. This is what started it. The police in our worship places. For god’s sake.”
Javed emigrated from Pakistan but has loved ones still in Palestine. She says they want peace. They want the violence to stop on both sides, but importantly they want the United States to stop using tax dollars to send aid to the Israelis. Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II.
“Netanyahu has been charged, he and his wife, for stealing. They should be in prison. They are criminals. Who dares support them, Biden, I ask you,” Javed said. “Down with the weapons going to Israel.”
The demonstrators accuse the Israelis of indiscriminate bombings that have cost the lives of innocent Palestinians.
Sunday’s demonstration is part of a larger protest movement that corresponds with the Palestinian remembrance day of Nakba. The day commemorates the displacement of around 700,000 Palestinians by Israel. Nakba Day is usually commemorated on May 15.
The Ravenel Bridge was lined with Israeli and American flags as dozens of people marched in groups to support of Israel’s defenses in the Middle East.
“Just to show moral support for a situation in Israel. they’re being bombarded with hundreds upon hundreds of rockets daily,” Activist Eli Hyman said. “Israel and America share the same values, democracy, liberty, freedom.”
Pro-Israel supporter Sam Mylrea said he wants to see Americans take a strong position of support for Israel.
“I think we’re all here in support to get us as Charlestonians, as Americans, were here to support one of the only democracies in the Middle East and one of our greatest allies,” Mylrea said.
According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, the United States gave Israel 3.8 billion dollars last year alone for military and missile defense. Since the late 1940′s, the US has provided Israel $146 billion in “bilateral assistance and missile defense funding.”
Longtime Ambassador for goodwill between Jewish and Christian communities, Earl Cox, said it’s important for Americans to understand the decades-long conflict surrounding land in Israel and how that impacts people in the US.
“Because it could have a major impact here in our country,” Cox said. “We’ve got things going on here that need to be addressed just as well as it does in Israel.”
Cox said whether Pro-Israel or Pro-Palestine, there’s a shared hope for peace.
“I think there are a number of Palestinians in Charleston, South Carolina and America that want peace with Israel as much as the Jewish people want peace,” Cox said.
According to the Charleston Police and Mount Pleasant Police Departments, both demonstrations did not have permits, however remained peaceful.
“The Mount Pleasant Police Department became aware of an unpermitted gathering at the Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park. The group was peaceful, less than 100 people, and walked on the pedestrian walkway of the Ravenel Bridge,” Inspector Don Calabrese with MPPD said in a statement.
“There was a small rally in Marion Square this morning for an hour,” The Charleston Police Department said in a statement. “The incident commander for this morning’s event said that no permit was requested, however, he didn’t believe that ultimately it was over the required limit and was extremely small.”
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