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Protesters Mark 6 Months of Gaza Genocide With Vigils in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

“The United States supplies the guns, and Israel pulls the trigger,” said organizer Erez Bleicher.

Protesters gather outside of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. Activists are reading aloud the names of some of the victims of Israel's assault of Gaza.

Protesters gathered outside of the U.S. embassies in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Friday to demand an end to the U.S. and Israel’s genocide in Gaza, marking six months since Israel began the siege that has killed at least 33,000 Palestinians so far.

The “Say Their Names” gatherings, which doubled as both vigil and protest, were arranged by Israeli and Jewish activists, including members of left-wing anti-occupation groups All That’s Left, Free Jerusalem, and Radical Bloc. The rally in Tel Aviv was held Friday morning local time, while the Jerusalem gathering was held later in the afternoon.

Protesters gathered to mourn the Palestinians killed by Israel over the past months, to call on the U.S. to stop providing arms to Israel as it slaughters and starves Palestinians en masse, and to demand a ceasefire.

“Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu, we are standing in direct sight of the U.S. Embassy because we hold you and your governments directly responsible for the 33,000 Palestinians who have perished in the Gaza Strip and for the starvation policy and engineered famine taking hold even as we speak,” organizer Erez Bleicher said to the crowd in Tel Aviv. “The United States supplies the guns, and Israel pulls the trigger.”

Activists read aloud the names of some of the Palestinian victims of the genocide at both protests, which were attended by small crowds of both American and Israeli citizens. In Tel Aviv, activists hung a banner on a building across from the embassy that read: “Stop arming Israel.”

The protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were met with a strong police response, with officers attempting to disperse the crowd, confiscating megaphones and signs, and telling protesters they were disturbing a public space. Activists in Tel Aviv say they were also harassed by people in cars driving by the protest; in Jerusalem, video footage shows police arresting one activist.

Protesters face off against police in Jerusalem.
Protesters face off against police in Jerusalem.

In Tel Aviv, activists say they were only able to read about 300 names before police took the lists of the names that activists were reading from, ripping the papers straight out of activists’ hands.

“A police officer tore pages of names from my hands. What is so threatening about a name?” said Shira Wolkenfeld, a 27-year old Jerusalem resident who attended both protests, in an interview. “If the Israeli public and American diplomats and politicians are not able to even hear the names of Palestinians who have been killed, how long will they allow this to continue for? How many more names will be added to the list?”

Attendees emphasized their frustration with the U.S. government’s participation in slaughtering Palestinians, as well as their anger at Israeli officials carrying out the genocide in the name of Israeli citizens.

One activist said they attended the Tel Aviv demonstration because they had a Palestinian friend who was killed by Israeli forces in Gaza.

“Protest is one of few outlets I have for the grief and anger I feel following the murder of my friend and comrade Khalil Abu Yahia, his wife Tasneem and their daughters Elaf and Rital by Israeli pilots dropping American bombs,” said Yossefa Mekyton, 50, a resident of Israel and anti-Zionist Jew. “They were murdered trying to find refuge in the south of the Gaza strip after their house was bombed and destroyed.”

Several people at the protest knew Yahia, a scholar and activist who lived in Gaza City with his family before he was killed by an Israeli airstrike in October. Bleicher read aloud words that Yahia had written in a letter after Israeli forces destroyed his family’s home.

“I will not give up even if I am confronting the U.S.A. and Israel. I still have you and I have amazing, beautiful, lovely, sincere friends. I am sure that the hearts of my beloved friends will always be a shelter that can never be destroyed,” Yahia wrote, as Bleicher recounted.

“We hold his words in our hearts and will not give up,” Bleicher said. “As Khalil said, ‘When oppression becomes law, rebellion is a must.’”

Friday’s protests followed some of the largest protests in Israel since the current siege of Gaza began, with thousands taking to the streets last weekend to call on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign, in disagreement with his approach to the assault so far; Al Jazeera reported that many in the demonstrations, which lasted for days, primarily called for the return of the Israeli hostages and a potential negotiated temporary ceasefire in order to do so.

Left-wing protesters in Israel and Jerusalem have held rallies over the past months more explicitly rejecting the genocide and the Israeli occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, even as some reports have found police cracking down on pro-Palestine speech in Israel.

Isaac Johnston, a 27-year-old Jerusalem resident from Chicago, said that the protest in front of the U.S. embassies in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem held special significance as a citizen of the U.S. and Israel.

“I joined the protest vigil as an American citizen because my tax dollars are funding the ongoing genocide and devastation of the Palestinian people in Gaza,” Johnston said. “I joined the protest vigil as an Israeli citizen to underscore that revenge will not bring us safety… And I joined the protest vigil as a Jew to say loudly and clearly, ‘Not in our name.’”

Erez Bleicher, one of the organizers of the protests, contributed reporting for this story.