On Monday, May 14, the NY4Palestine Coalition and community leaders held a march from 72nd Street to 82nd Street along Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge in protest of President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
The move has been met with outrage across Palestine as protests began along the Gaza border early Monday morning, leaving 58 Palestinians dead, and injuring more than 2,700 others including women and children. With a rising casualty toll, the recent protests were the deadliest protest in the Gaza area since 2014 when war broke out between Israeli forces and the Hamas group in Gaza.
Numerous Palestinians participated in the Bay Ridge event, carrying flags, including Dr. Ahmad Jaber, the president of the Arab American Association of New York. “It is a terrible decision by our president.” Jaber said. “He knows that the region is in turmoil, and he [Trump] shouldn’t have moved it without solid information about the rights of the Palestinians.”
Organizers of this rally were motivated not only by the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem but also to acknowledge the 70th anniversary of the “Day of Rage,” “Nakba” as it is called in Palestine. The Day of Rage refers to the day on which Israel became a free state and began the widespread expulsion of Palestinians throughout the area. As a result, protesters were walking under a banner that read “March of Return.”
NY4Palestine leader Nerdeen Kiswani — who in the past celebrated anti-Israeli terrorism on social media following a January 2017 truck attack in Jerusalem that killed four people — spoke at the rally before marching began, saying, “Trump does not have the right to give away Palestine.”
Kiswani also spoke out against the military aid given by the United States to Israel every year, amounting to around $10 million per day. Kiswani concluded her remarks by stating, “The community is coming out to this rally to refuse to concede more and more Palestinian land, including Jerusalem, and we will continue to resist until we return to our homeland.”
Other speakers of various origins wanted to make it clear that the ongoing issue in the area was becoming a human rights issue and not a war based off of religion.
Jaber, in addition to rallying for a Palestinian state, addressed claims that the Palestinian people are anti-Semitic. “We are not anti-Semites. We are peaceful people,” Jaber told this paper.
Other protesters included Jawahir Kamil who traveled four hours to Bay Ridge just to participate in the protest, and who said, “I feel angry, I feel it’s not fair, I feel provoking the Palestinians shouldn’t be done.”
Kamil then added, “I don’t think keeping things divided is the solution; it has to be a one state that is all Palestinian.”
Not all protesters were of Palestinian descent. Ralph Perfetto, a Bay Ridge activist, referred to the map in the back of his Bible that referred to the land in dispute as belonging to Palestine during the time of Christ. “I am ashamed of silent Christians,” he said.
Perfetto also spoke to his displeasure with the current administration, calling out Nikki Haley, the United States’ U.N. ambassador, “Nikki Haley does not speak for all Americans,” he contended.
The protest and subsequent march were centered around the hopes of the Palestinian people both in Bay Ridge and around the world to return to the home that they believe were stolen from them.
“Thank God we are American, but our hearts are there in the Holy Land,” Jaber said.