Hundreds of people came together on May 15 and May 18 at the corner of Blackstone and Nees avenues in north Fresno, at River Park Shopping Center, to protest the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza that started on May 10. Israeli air strikes on Palestinian civilians and infrastructure have prompted outrage around the world resulting in many large protests.
The demonstrations also marked conflict over the recent appropriation of Palestinian homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem by Jewish settlers, and May 15 was the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe,” as Palestinians call their mass expulsion in 1948 from the newly formed Israeli state.
Reza Nekumanesh, executive director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, was one of the organizers of the May 18 protest. He said, “We’re out here first of all to stand with Palestine, with Palestinians who have been under siege and under attack their whole lives, who’ve been forced out of their homes, who’ve been forced to shut their businesses, who’ve been forced to live lives less than dignified, who’ve been kept away from equity and rights and human dignity and justice.
“And we’re also out here to ask the United States government, the Congress, the administration, to withdraw and withhold any support of the state of Israel that is used in the form of weapons or military against Palestinians.”
One banner at the Saturday action said: “U.S. Military Aid to Israel $38 Billion/Year > Gaza GDP $2.9 Billion/Year.”
Israel has deployed tanks, heavy artillery and hundreds of heavily armed soldiers along the Gaza-Israel border while carrying out its devastating air strikes nonstop against Gaza, a small piece of land where two million Palestinians live. Hamas has fired small rockets from Gaza into Israel, most of which have been shot down by Israeli defenses.
“Gaza is under siege by Israel,” said Mohammed, of Fresno, who handed out information about Israel’s attack on Gaza during the May 15 demonstration. “There is no food, no running water and only four hours a day of electricity in Gaza. Everything is under Israel’s control.”
It is an asymmetrical conflict, he pointed out: “There is an oppressor and oppressed people.”
Peace Fresno organizer Camille Russell, who helped put together the May 15 protest, said, “Palestinians in Gaza are trapped.”
At press time, a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel had held for four days.
Photos by Peter Maiden