Tampa, FL

Two Palestinian solidarity rallies to be held in Tampa this weekend

Justin Garcia

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Save Sheik Jarrah Protest FlyerSave Sheik Jarrah Protest/Facebook

Lara Abu Ghannam gets overwhelmed by emotions when she talks about the crisis in her mother country of Palestine.

“Have you ever had that nightmare where you’re crying to people for help, but they can’t hear your cries and turn away?” asks Ghannam, holding back tears. “That’s what it feels like for Palestinians every day. But at least from a nightmare, you wake up.”

Ghannam was born in the U.S., but her family is from Palestine and she is deeply connected to her roots there. At 13, she went to her first rally for Palestinian rights. It sent her on a path of advocacy that continues to this day. She’s co-organizing a demonstration on Saturday, May 15th at Fowler Ave. and 56th Street in Tampa, to speak out about the Israeli takeover of the Palestinian Sheik Jarrah neighborhood. The following day, there will be another demonstration at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa.

Protests in defense of the Palestinian people are occuring from New York City, to South Africa and Austrailia. 25 House Democrats sent a letter to the Biden administration, asking for diplomatic pressure on Israel to stop the takeover of Sheik Jarrah.

Israelis and their allies claim that they have the right to Sheik Jarrah in East Jerusalem, even though experts and an official at the Israel Policy Forum confirm that Palestinians have the right to remain there. Forceful evictions have overwhelmed the community, where the elderly, women and children are being pushed out.

The most recent violence began when Palestinians gathered at the al-Aqsa compound to block encroachment by Israelis. Israeli police and citizens assaulted the Palestinians at the compound. Three hundred Palestinians and twenty-one Israeli officers were wounded. Hamas responded by firing rockets from Gaza at Israel, most of which were intercepted by their “Iron Dome” missile defense system, while some struck Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, and other cities. Israel retaliated with a hundred and thirty airstrikes in Gaza. As of Thursday, an estimated 65 Palestinians have been killed, including 16 children. Six Israelis have been killed by Hamas, including one child.

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Total injury and death toll Palestinians and IsraelisUnited Nations/Statista. Via Statista's Instagram

Ghannam says it’s important to acknowledge that this struggle is nothing new. The rally she’s helped organize is on the 73rd anniversary of Al Nakba, (translated to “the catastrophe”) when Israel declared a state in Palestine and forcefully displaced an estimated 700,000 Palestinians. According to Jewish Voice For Peace (JVFP), over 400 Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed. By the end of the conquest, Israel controlled over 78 percent of historic Palestine.

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Palestinian refugees during Al NabkaWikimedia Commons

As JVFP explains, what followed was subjugation and institutional discrimination of the Palestinians. The group says that after decades of occupation, it seems the Zionists want permanent settlement on Palestinian land, and calls the situation “entirely unjust.”

For Ghannam and her people, the Nakba does not just represent a historical event, but a continuing process that began in the 1880s.

“The settlers started moving into Palestine, where they were treated fairly,” she says. “But they kept taking over land."

Some of the 3,000 people who live in the Sheik Jarrah neighborhood that is now besieged include families who were displaced during the Nakba.

Some Palestinians have lived in Sheikh Jarrah since they were re-housed there during Nakba, after being forced to abandon their homes in West Jerusalem and Haifa.

Israelis filed a lawsuit over the neighborhood that claimed they bought the land from two Jewish associations that have owned it since the 1870s.

An Israeli court ruled in favor of the lawsuit under an Israeli law that allows Israelis to reclaim ownership of property lost in 1948, when some Palestinians were forced to migrate to the Sheik Jarrah neighborhood. No law allows Palestinians to do the same in West Jerusalem or other parts of Israel, where hundreds of thousands were displaced.

Israelis defend their actions by claiming that via this law, Sheik Jarrah is rightfully theirs.

The government of Israel instituted tax exemptions and other benefits available to people outside of the country to move there (especially from the U.S.) and help settle the area. The Israel Times says this move may have created a haven for criminals avoiding taxes.

Indigenous people compare Israel’s push for the takeover of more Palestinian land to the genocide of the Native Americans in the United States.

Rebecca Miles of the Nez Perce tribe says that differences in culture and religion, along with adverse political views, means that Indigenous people are often deprived of the right to use resources that they have known to have accessed for thousands of years.

“When it comes to Palestinian issues, there is no difference,” wrote Miles for Mondoweiss. “ It is another Indigenous group of people being kept from their own waterways, resources and ways of life.”

This process of colonization has been the cause of millions upon millions of Indigenous people across the world being killed and driven from their lands for their resources, says Miles.

Ghannam hopes that the rally on Saturday will help influence more Americans to be concerned and take action around the situation, because the U.S. supports Israel economically.

According to the Congressional Research Service, since the Nakba in 1948, the United States has provided Israel $146 billion (current, or non inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding. At present, almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although from 1971 to 2007, Israel also received significant economic assistance.

On Sunday, the day after the anniversary of the beginning of Nabka, a second rally will be held in downtown Tampa, at Curtis Hixon Park.

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Tampa May 16th Protest FlyerCode Pink

The event is hosted by Code Pink, a grassroots, women lead, organization that stands up to U.S. wars and militarism.

“We recognize the Nakba itself to be an ongoing catastrophe, not a completed one,” Code Pink wrote in a statement on their website. “The colonization of Palestine and the forced expulsion of Palestinians continues.”

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I write stories about Florida politics, environmental issues, interesting people and music. I strive to shine a light on issues that are still in the dark, as well as help to give voice to the voiceless.

Tampa, FL
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