WASHINGTON – Following a week of rocket fire and nonstop violence in Israel and Palestine,about 200 Palestine supporters protested outside the Israeli Embassy Friday,seeking an end to the fighting.
Organized by CodePink,a peace and social justice organization,protesters chanted for peace in Palestine and slammed Israel for reportedly increasing its use of rockets near Gaza.
Standing on a black bin,dressed as the grim reaper and wearing a plastic scythe and sign reading “Israeli Apartheid Kills” was Jose Rodriguez,64,a former Washington resident who used to protest outside the White House on weekends.
Rodriguez,a gardener who now lives in Mexico,was advocating against violence in the Middle East,but didn’t take a side. While protesting overseas,the veteran protester said he has had rocks thrown at him by Palestinians and has been shot at by members of the Israeli Defense Force. He also has family on both sides.
“An image is worth a thousand words,and since I don’t write well,I just do the image,” he said.
Rodriguez said that,aside from the mass killings,one reason the fighting is unfortunate is because the sides are so similar.
“They both smoke like crazy,they both talk with their hands – the Arabs and the Israelis. They both eat the same foods,they both tell the same stupid jokes,they both have the same prophets,and yet they’re at each other’s throats,” he said.
The rally was flooded with D.C. police officers for traffic control and Secret Service agents because the protest was near several embassies.
One Secret Service sergeant,who said he was not allowed to provide his name,said their presence is required at any protest with at least 25 to 50 people and they usually know about it from several days to 10 months in advance. He said the CodePink rally was the first protest he had seen related to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
About a dozen people,mostly Palestinian,spoke to the crowd and told stories of family who have been involved with the violence,including Hakeim Abu Kheir,24,cousin of Tariq and Mohammad Abu Khdeir. Mohammad,a Palestinian teenager,was killed after the three Israeli teenagers were found dead. Tariq is the teenager who was beaten up by Israeli police last week.
“It’s a great way for us to get our message out there to people who might be unaware of what’s going on,” Abu Khdeir said. “If we don’t stand up for what we’re supposed to be doing,were no better than the people who did the crime.”
Near the beginning of the protest,one reporter from an alternative news source in Baltimore was arrested and placed in handcuffs,but was soon released with a citation.
Friday’s protest outside the Israeli Embassy was the first in of three to that took place over the weekend. On Saturday the group protested outside the White House,and on Sunday the group protested in Columbia Heights,a popular shopping area about 3 miles north of the White House.
Reach reporter Xander Zellner [email protected] or 202-326-9867. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.