From Hamas and Al-Qaeda flags to references to the Rothschilds and Nazis, ralliers went well beyond just “from the river to the sea.”
By Andrew Bernard
January 15, 2024
(JNS) — Speakers at a “March for Gaza” in Washington on Jan. 13 promised that Israel would cease to exist and, to the cheers of thousands of attendees, accused U.S. President Joe Biden of supporting genocide against Palestinians.
Osama Abuirshaid, executive director of American Muslims for Palestine and the final speaker of the nearly four-hour event, promised that Palestine would be “victorious” and accused Biden of fueling Jew-hatred by supporting Israel.
“We’re not the antisemitics [sic] here,” he said. “It is you who are fueling antisemitism when you claim that Israel is the embodiment of Judaism, when you claim that the Israeli people are the embodiment of Jews. They’re not representatives of Jews.”
The march, which ran about three hours and 45 minutes in Freedom Plaza, a couple of blocks southeast of the White House, drew tens of thousands of participants. Nine organizations, including Abuirshaid’s, under the umbrella of the American Muslim Taskforce for Palestine co-sponsored the rally, which the Council on American-Islamic Relations claimed drew 400,000 people.
“If Jews were being massacred the way the Palestinians are being massacred, wallah, I’d be standing here speaking on their behalf defending them,” Abuirshaid said. (Wallah is Arabic for “I swear by God.”)
Abuirshaid did not mention Hamas’s terror attack on Israel on Oct. 7, which required Israel to defend itself. He concluded by promising to “dismantle” the Jewish state.
“Filistin will be free. Gaza will be victorious. we are not running away,” he said, using the Arabic for Palestine. “All people will live in peace when Israel, in its current form, as a current structure, will cease to exist.”
Other speakers at the rally included 2024 presidential candidates Jill Stein (Green Party), a physician who last ran for president in 2016; Cornel West (Independent), professor emeritus at Princeton University; and Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink. The only elected officials to address the crowd were Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) and Iman Jodeh, a Democrat and Colorado state representative.
Dr. Mohsin Ansari, a pediatrician and president of the Islamic Circle of North America, which was one of the march’s organizers, told JNS that he was pleased to see thousands of people march to the White House.
“It was a massive turnout, obviously. People from different faiths, they agree. The majority of the American population, almost 65%, support a ceasefire right now,” he said. “They are against the policies of our current government.”
While some polls have shown significant popular U.S. support for a ceasefire in general terms, other polling suggests that given a choice between an immediate ceasefire and a ceasefire only after Hamas is disarmed and dismantled, a strong plurality of Americans support the latter.
‘Biden should be worried’
Given their large populations in key swing states like Michigan, Muslim-American voters may play an important role in deciding the 2024 presidential election. Mohsin told JNS he thinks that Muslim-American opposition to Biden over his support for Israel increases the odds of former president Donald Trump’s re-election, but that doesn’t concern him.
“Biden should be worried about that. That’s his problem,” he said. “If he knows what is at stake, he should improve and he should listen to his voters. We all helped him to become the president, and he’s not ready to listen.”
Signs and conversations at Saturday’s rally indicated that attendees had come from as far afield as Seattle and Alabama to attend the rally in Freedom Plaza and subsequent march to the White House.
While the Palestinian flag was the most common banner on display, other signs were also ubiquitous, including “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” (The crowd chanted that slogan frequently.)
Even more blatantly genocidal messages were chanted and displayed conspicuously at the event. One attendee, his face fully concealed by a keffiyeh, walked through the crowd waving the green banner of Hamas, greeted with cheers, including by a family with small children.
Another attendee waved a Palestinian flag with the face of Abu Obeida, the masked spokesman of Hamas.
At least one black jihadist flag, most frequently associated with the U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, was also visible in the crowd.
Over several hours, only a few unblemished American flags could be seen, as most were covered in fake blood. The flags of American antagonists, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, Cuba and Russia, were also visible.
Among the more obviously anti-Jewish signs was one carried by a woman in a niqab (a full face veil) that stated “Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews,” a reference to the Muslim prophet’s conquest of Jewish tribes in the seventh century, which Islamic extremists invoke frequently. (The full phrase about Khaybar, which is in the northwestern Arabian peninsula, ends with “the army of Muhammad will return.”)
Another stated: “Free Palestine and cleanse the earth,” with Israeli flags in a trash can.
Still others combined Nazi imagery with anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian messages.
A group that stood beside a banner proclaiming “Queers for a liberated Palestine” held a variation of the “Silence = Death” poster from the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. The group had replaced the pink triangle used by Nazis to denote gay concentration camp inmates with the Palestinian watermelon symbol—apparently linking Israel, the Nazis, AIDS and queer liberation.
Other hateful signs included an Israeli flag with the Star of David replaced by a swastika and a sign that read, “End the Palestinian Holocaust.”
Members of the Neturei Karta, an anti-Israel sect that is seen as outside the mainstream Chassidic community, wore its signs rather than carrying them since the rally was held on Shabbat. Other Jews wearing yarmulkes, who also appeared to agree with the ralliers, moved about the crowds seemingly without incident.
Some of the protesters were aware of and sought to conceal antisemitic sloganeering in their midst.
Early in the day, a protester confronted a man holding a sign that said “Children die for Rothschild, Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan” with Stars of David and swastikas. As JNS observed, he told the man to put the sign away, as it could be construed as antisemitic. He said he had no problem with the front of the sign, which read “Capitalism is Zionist/Nazi coalition.”
Speakers and the crowd also expressed support for the Houthis in Yemen who have been launching ballistic missiles towards international ships in the Red Sea for months, including hitting a U.S.-owned ship off the Yemen coast on Monday.
“Who would have known that the mighty people of Yemen would challenge the empires of the world?” said Taher Herzallah, director of community outreach and organizing for American Muslims for Palestine, to loud and sustained cheers.
There was no visible violence during the main program of the event at Freedom Plaza or during the march to the White House. Most attendees headed home shortly after reaching Lafayette Square, immediately north of the White House.
But images and video later circulated on social media showing a core group of the protesters that remained after sunset, battering temporary security barricades that were set up outside the main White House gates. Some of the protesters threw water bottles and other small objects at the officers. (In recent years, the White House raised the height of the main fence around the complex and included technology that purports to make it harder to scale.)
Fox News reported on Saturday that some members of the White House staff were “relocated” as a precaution and that the aggressive protesters damaged some of the security fencing though didn’t cause damage to the White House itself. The Secret Service reportedly made no arrests, and the president was at Camp David at the time.