WASHINGTON: Demonstrators began to gather in Washington on Tuesday (Nov 14) for a March for Israel that organizers say will show solidarity with Israel in its war with Hamas and condemn rising antisemitism.
Streets were closed around much of downtown amid heightened security, as several thousand people gathered in late morning bright sunshine on the National Mall, many draped in Israeli and American flags.
The website for the march, organized by Jewish Federations of North America and Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said communities from across the US would gather “to demonstrate our commitment to America’s most important ally in the Middle East, to condemn the rising trend of antisemitic violence and harassment, and to demand that every hostage be immediately and safely released”.
Protests and public demonstrations – both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel – have rippled around the world since gunmen from the Palestinian militant group Hamas rampaged through southern Israel on Oct 7, killing 1,200 people, according to Israel, and taking about 240 hostages back to Gaza.
Israel responded with a harsh blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza, and an aerial bombardment and ground offensive that Palestinian authorities say has killed more than 11,000 people, around 40 per cent of them children.
As well as protests, the conflict has sparked a rise in antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents in the United States including violent assaults and online harassment, according to advocacy groups.
The largest demonstration in Washington so far related to the conflict on Nov 4 drew thousands who called for the U.S. government, Israel’s main backer, to call for a ceasefire.
The Biden administration has rebuffed those calls, arguing that a complete cessation of Israel’s offensive would allow Hamas to regroup, but it has urged Israel to grant pauses in the fighting for civilians to move to safer locations and for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.
Underscoring support in the US Congress for Israel, busloads of senators and members of the House of Representatives were due to travel to the pro-Israel rally. Senator Charles Schumer, the Senate’s Democratic majority leader, and the highest-ranking Jewish elected US official, rescheduled his weekly press conference so he could attend.
Authorities were putting in place heightened security measures and an increased police presence for the demonstration, the House of Representative’s Sergeant at Arms said in a notice on Monday, adding there was no specific threat but measures were being taken out of an abundance of caution.
Source: Channel News Asia