Carrying the Palestinian flag and handwritten signs for peace, more than 100 Jewish protesters gathered outside the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party headquarters in St. Paul on Friday to demand a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to what they called genocidal Bombings of innocent Palestinian civilians by the Israeli government.
“I am a descendant of Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust,” said Iris Brilliant, 35, of Minneapolis, as the crowd around her began a song of peace. “The Palestinian genocide doesn’t make me feel any safer.”
The protesters – organized by the Jewish advocacy group If Not Now and the progressive anti-Zionist organization Jewish Voice for Peace – called on state DFL Chairman Ken Martin to condemn the bombings that killed around 4,000 Palestinians, including more than 1,000 children We are working to curb US military aid to the Israeli government.
On October 13, Israel alerted the more than one million residents of the northern Gaza Strip that the bombing would begin the next day. Giving a civilian population the size of Manhattan 24 hours to evacuate their homes was cruel, and Martin – a likely contender for a role in the national party – did not announce these measures, said Brandon Schorsch, a former Minnesota program director DFL.
Martin “says he knows these problems because he has visited the West Bank before, and he has Jewish friends and Jewish family,” said Schorsch, 32, of Minneapolis, shouting into the microphone. “Well, we do that too. …Ken, will you learn from us?”
The protest underscores a growing divide among U.S. Democrats struggling to bridge the divide in Israeli-Palestinian relations, particularly felt among the younger and more progressive wings of their own party. While Democrats have long counted on the support of prominent Jews like the late U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the party’s increasingly ethnically and ideologically diverse base has criticized far-right Israeli leaders like Benjamin Netanyahu for their treatment of the Palestinian people.
Innocents died on all sides.
The Gaza airstrikes followed attacks by Hamas – the Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip – on October 7 during an Israeli music festival that killed more than 1,200 Israelis, the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. Another 200 hostages were captured. The United States, Canada and the European Union all consider Hamas a terrorist organization.
On October 12, advocates for the Twin Cities Democratic Socialists of America said in a statement: “Congress is preparing to fund genocide. Instead of seeking de-escalation, the ruling class spends its time insulting those who recognize the humanity of the Palestinians and the true cause of this conflict: apartheid. We will not be intimidated in the fight for peace and liberation.”
Martin, the DFL chairman, reacted strongly to the Twin Cities DSA statement, posting on Terrorist organization that decided to specifically target innocent men, women and children and murder them in cold blood. Facts. Check them out, then GTFO.”
Protesters pointed out on Friday that the US already gives Israel between $3 billion and $4 billion in military aid annually, and US President Joe Biden has called for billions more. Brilliant said the Israeli government, with U.S. financial support, “weaponized Jewish grief over the events of October 7 to justify genocide against the Palestinians.”
When asked to respond to Friday’s protest, a DFL spokesman provided an excerpt from Martin’s Founder’s Day speech last Saturday in which he said that Hamas wants a bloody conflict and that all innocent victims should be mourned.
“We can unequivocally condemn these attacks by Hamas – a terrorist organization – while remaining true to the belief that the Palestinian people deserve their own free state in a two-state solution. That the Palestinians have a right to self-determination. “There is no path to lasting peace that does not include a secure, democratic Israel and a self-governing Palestine free from the kind of violence that Hamas practices,” Martin said.
Behind Brilliant, speakers on Friday led the protest crowd in the funeral prayer, a Jewish prayer for the dead, while a woman held up a cardboard sign reading “Jews against genocide in Gaza.”
“Your people are my people,” they sang.