While the movement to free Palestine has re-entered the public spotlight amidst bombings in Gaza, President Joe Biden falsely confirmed visual evidence of beheadings of Israeli children by Hamas. Widely reported misinformation and propaganda coming from Israel shares commonalities with disinformation campaigns conducted during the Gulf War. As Israel plays a strategic position as an arm of western imperialism, the rhetoric supporting the destruction of Palestine and the slaughter of its people draw comparisons to false justifications made for both foreign wars and oppression homebound to the United States.
Yesterday, the Palestinian Youth Movement led a protest as a show of solidarity with Palestinians currently undergoing a genocide in Gaza as 6,000 bombs have been dropped over six days. The figure far outnumbers tallies of bombs dropped by the US any year between 2013 and 2018 of the war in Afghanistan. As the death toll climbs, demonstrations showing unity with the people of Palestine have seen massive numbers across the country.
The Dallas demonstration saw hundreds of supporters. Protesters marched down Elm St. as the crowd stretched out to over half-a-mile and continued their path through the city in a show of solidarity for Palestine and criticism for United States imperialism and the State of Israel. Even more began to join the protest for Palestinian liberation as they continued their march through Downtown to return to Akard Plaza at City Hall. The Dallas Police Department provided assistance and protection to the growing mass of solidarity protesters as they were led by a convoy of trucks and motorcycles.
“It’s an amazing turn out and it warms my heart to see the people come out to show support,” Protester Joel Vasquez said. “I’m half of native descent, so I truly connect with the Palestinian movement because they are indigenous to their land and they’re being colonized and kicked out. Any people who have been oppressed in the world should stand with Palestine.”
Before beginning their march, protest leadership shared a quote from Assata Shakur’s autobiography, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
A representative of the Palestinian Youth Movement commented on the need for action and advocacy for Palestinians suffering among Palestinians and Arab peoples at-large. “As Palestinians in the diaspora and Arabs in the diaspora, we see our role as rising up when our people rise up and continuing this commitment to liberation,” the representative said. “We’ve been doing protests for years and we see that as a [testament] to the steadfastness of our people.”
Among those advocating for Palestine, a common concern among them was the strongly biased reporting by mainstream news media orienting Palestinians as the chief aggressors in the conflict despite a long history of abuse and oppression.“We’ve seen an unprecedented amount of propaganda and biased reporting by the media. And to that we demand fair reporting. Unbiased media reporting, ethical journalism,” the representative said. “We think that’s a big part of the misinformation.”
Aturi, a Palestinian-American veteran of the US Army, was in attendance at the demonstrations. When asked for his comments on the conflict, he said:
“I was in the US Army and the question that was raised before I signed my commission was ‘If we go to Palestine and you find your brother coming against you, would you shoot him?’ I said I refuse,” Aturi said. “I took the oath to defend the United States if an attacker comes to our land, not to go be the aggressor and go kill my brother. They said, ‘Thank you for your cooperation, you are not suitable to be a second lieutenant.’ That was in the 70s and now history repeats itself.”
The United States government has gradually offered more support to Israel following the establishment of the state in 1948. Nineteen years after, the Six-Day War was waged and is now known as one of the most devastating conflicts the region has ever seen with as many as 18,200 Arabs killed and 413,000 Palestinians displaced. Variably, Israel suffered casualties of around 980 with 20 civilians killed.
“It happened in 1967, it happened in 1984, and it is happening now,” Aturi said. “And we have not seen any evidence of beheading children and raping. And I’m very disappointed that the president I voted for did not go back and retract his statement on that. On the other hand, Hamas is part of the Palestinians and they have been suffering. Gaza has been described as an open-air prison. It’s not an open-air prison. It’s a 21st century concentration camp. Israel controls the water, they control the electricity, and it was that way even when I lived there.”
Per prior legislative action, Palestine has been subject to increasingly limited resources over the course of Israel’s occupation. The region has been subject to power outages, strict rationing, and limited access to phones and internet over the years. “They used to give us once-a-week water,” Aturi said. “And no telephone landlines were allowed. My mother died and I didn’t get a chance to talk to her on the phone because I was here studying.”
As the vast power difference between Israel and Palestine has continued to foster the oppression of the latter, many Americans are skeptical of major news coverage. Reports of child beheadings and widespread violence committed by Hamas have been frequently debunked, drawing similarities to disinformation campaigns conducted in 1990 when it was falsely claimed that Iraqi forces were removing babies from incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital prior to US involvement in the Gulf War.
The protest attracted supporters from across ethnicities and faiths, including the Brown Berets, members of the Black Muslim and Christian communities, Anti-Zionist Jews, and Arab-Americans of all backgrounds. Some Black protesters spoke on the importance of solidarity between the civil rights movement and the liberation of Palestine. Ramon Henry, a community member who attended the protest, spoke more regarding this:
“I’m very vocal about civil rights in general, especially about Black people. But now I feel like it’s time now to put more focus on what’s going on in Palestine. To me, it’s the same thing,” Henry said. “They’re getting killed, pushed out, and they don’t have their own rights. I just want what’s right for everyone. And I do think it’s important for Black Americans and Black people in general to stand up and be with our brothers and sisters in Palestine. [The Coverage] makes me angry, to be honest. It’s very one-sided. And it’s exactly how they’d cover it [in the news] as if it were about Black people.”
Disinformation campaigns have been common throughout the civil rights movement of the United States, as both our government and mainstream media have spread narratives both incomplete and false to discredit the Black community and to foster mistrust between ethnic groups.
Another community member going by the name SOMB (pronounced “psalm”) said of Black solidarity with Palestine: “There’s a long history [connecting the movements], both are focused on fighting oppression. The Black Lives Matter movement, the entire civil rights movement of this country, was driven by speaking out against what is wrong and fighting for change. The movement for the liberation of Palestine has had a connection with civil rights dating back to Malcolm X’s time.”
Malcolm X very notably supported Palestine’s liberation and made several comments on Israel’s occupation of the region. Prominent figures in the civil rights movement such as Muhammad Ali, Assata Shakur, Angela Davis, and many others have voiced support for Palestine throughout history.
As the demonstration came to a close around 3 pm, a call for a Muslim prayer was made at the center of the protest with its return to Akard Plaza. Voices quieted as core leadership gathered to offer both condolences to the lives lost in the conflict and hope for those struggling to survive.
When asked about the impressive turnout, protest leadership offered thanks to allies who came to support the cause. “Free Palestine historically has been a cause for all people of consciousness,” the Palestinian Youth Movement stated. “We have a huge number of people who support Palestine and youth orgs who support Palestine. We’re thankful and truly honored.”