On Nov. 4, coinciding with the “National March on Washington: Free Palestine,” students, activists and community members assembled at Binghamton’s Martin Luther King Promenade for an “All Out for Palestine” rally.
Organized by Broome County activists and advocates, members of the local Islamic community, a variety of faith leaders and Binghamton University students — hundreds of rally participants met at 3 Court St., also known as Peacemaker’s Stage at 1 p.m. Some recited speeches and many held signs in protest of Israel’s attacks in Gaza. Organizers instructed participants to wear masks, in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines, as well as black or white clothing.
The event was organized to advocate for a cease-fire in the region and an end to United States aid to Israel. According to the Washington Post, Brian Becker — the executive director of the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) coalition and one of the organizers of the national march — cited President Joe Biden’s call for a “pause,” but not a cease-fire, as a motivating factor for the event. In October, Biden announced that his administration was seeking a $14 billion aid package for Israel.
In a Facebook post announcing the event, organizers called for an end to Israeli occupation and expressed support for a liberated Palestine “from the River to the Sea.”
“We, the outraged inhabitants of the Southern Tier of New York — who similarly reside on land forged by genocide and theft — join the voices of millions around the world in saying ‘no more,’” the post read. “We say no to the recent and ongoing escalation of genocidal violence by the Israeli state. And we say no to the continued [United States] funding of settler colonialism in Palestine.”
Since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks, Israel’s military has responded with airstrikes on Gaza, including on the Jabalia refugee camp, according to the Associated Press. Despite urges from American and Arab leaders to briefly halt attacks to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that a ceasefire will not happen until the 242 Israeli hostages kidnapped by Hamas are returned. As of 8:07 p.m. on Nov. 5, the Israeli death toll reached more than 1,400, and the Palestinian death toll has risen to above 9,700. This is a developing situation. For more information visit AP News Live Updates.
The rally began with announcements from organizers, who led the crowd in a series of chants, including “Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry, Palestine will never die,” “stop the killing, stop the slaughter, Gaza has no food or water” and “free, free Palestine.” Many held signs calling for a cease-fire and for the United States to stop their funding of Israel.
In a speech to the crowd, Aviva Friedman ‘14, a Working Families Binghamton City councilmember, said that she can trace her family lineage back to Palestine before the state of Israel was founded in 1948. Though she has Israeli citizenship because her mother was born in Jerusalem, she reiterated that she is not a Zionist.
An alumni speaker read excerpts from the resignation letter of Craig Mokhiber, a former director of the New York office of the United Nations (UN) high commissioner for human rights. In the public letter, Mokhiber explains why he stepped down from his position, saying that the UN had “failed in our duty to meet the imperatives of prevention of mass atrocities, of protection of the vulnerable and of accountability for perpetrators.” He outlined 10 steps for holding perpetrators of genocide accountable, and his letter’s closing statement was read in full.
“In the immediate term, we must work for an immediate [cease-fire] and an end to the longstanding siege on Gaza, stand up against the ethnic cleansing of Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank — and elsewhere — document the genocidal assault in Gaza, help to bring massive humanitarian aid and reconstruction to the Palestinians, take care of our traumatized colleagues and their families and fight like hell for a principled approach in the UN’s political offices,” Mokhiber wrote.
Throughout the afternoon, a few counterprotesters were present, holding signs reading “Hamas is worse than ISIS” and “free Gaza from Hamas.” They were met with resistance upon their arrival, including a few rallygoers grabbing their signs and stepping on them. Police escorted them to a separate area behind the speakers, where they continued to chant throughout the first half of the rally.
Pastor Kim, a speaker from the United Presbyterian Church of Binghamton who chose to go by only her first name, criticized the Israeli government’s military actions in Gaza.
“Choosing a side makes it sound like it’s a contest,” she said. “It’s not a contest. We’ve got to turn our thinking around and stop imagining that just because you have the military power, you have the right to decide who lives and dies.”
Protestors later marched to the Court Street traffic circle to continue the rally. A speaker from the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier emphasized the humanity of Palestinian children currently in the crossfire, asking participants to “think of their faces — they have names, favorite goods [and] famous games.”
A student speaker at the event granted anonymity, said that with ongoing violence in the Middle East, students should remind themselves of their privilege.
“As an Egyptian, I have heard daily of the humiliation, cruelty and constant theft of the land of the Palestinians,” the speaker wrote. “As an Arab-American, being present and giving a speech at the rally is the minutest action I could take to be of support and convey the apparent persecution and genocide taking place in Palestine. Our electricity at [BU] was cut off for a few hours on Saturday, Nov. 4 — as my suitemates’ worries and panic-filled comments about their phones dying and dining halls shut, I couldn’t help but wonder how torturous 30 days of being deprived of food, water and electricity is. For the students, I understand that speaking out in the name of justice and Palestinians might be scary, but we have the privilege to look away. Palestinians live every moment with the constant horror that it will be them, their family or someone they know under rubble, fighting relentlessly to catch another breath.”
Editor’s Note (11/16): This article has been updated with more accurate information about the counterprotestors at the rally.