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26 Dec, 2023 10:19

Pro-Palestinian protesters ‘cancel Christmas’

A rally in New York City was marred by clashes with police and shouting matches with Israel supporters
Pro-Palestinian protesters ‘cancel Christmas’

Pro-Palestinian supporters in the US attempted to “cancel Christmas” on Monday, stating that there can be no celebration amid the ongoing Israeli military operation in Gaza. The event was marred by clashes with the police later in the day, with the NYPD issuing a mobilization of extra forces.

The protest in Manhattan was meant to inspire public solidarity with Palestinians who are being attacked by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Israel is retaliating for the deadly incursion from Gaza by the militant group Hamas on October 7, in which it also took scores of hostages.

The reported civilian death toll in Gaza has since surpassed, by an order of magnitude, the loss of life in that triggering attack. Officials in the enclave reported last week that some 8,000 children are among those killed in the enclave, estimated to be at least 20,000 people. The initial Hamas attack on southern Israel claimed 1,200 lives, according to its tally.

In downtown New York on Monday Pro-Palestinian activists marched to denounce the administration of President Joe Biden, which remains supportive of the Israeli operation, despite criticizing the death toll it has taken on civilians. Some demonstrators carried a mock nativity scene in which baby Jesus was replaced with a fake child’s corpse in a body bag. “No Joy in Genocide,” the slogan above the prop read.

“While U’r Shopping Bombs are Dropping,” a sign quoted by The New York Post declared. The newspaper described a crowd as “mobbing” the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree as revelers gathered there to celebrate the holiday.

Videos from the scene show passions running high, particularly when persons voicing opposing views on the crisis in Gaza confronted the activists. In one clip, a woman can be seen denouncing them from the sidewalk for supporting “the rape of babies.” 

Pro-Israeli sources claimed early in the conflict that the Hamas attack involved particularly gruesome brutality against Jewish children and that this supposedly justifies the overwhelming reaction.

In another video, a pro-Palestinian activist is shown chanting “Long live Hamas” at a group of counter-protesters carrying Israeli and IDF flags, the two factions separated by a police barricade.

Sporadic moments of violence were reported throughout the day, with clashes between some of the activists and the police erupting in the evening. The NYPD issued a Level-3 mobilization of officers – the second-highest action of this type – and arrested several people near Grand Central Station and Union Square.

In linked pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the Washington DC metropolitan area, activists targeted the homes of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and of National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. The senior White House officials are, the protesters declared, directly involved in the support of Israeli action in Gaza, and there can be no “Christmas as usual” for what they described as “war criminals.”

The Biden administration claims to be pressuring Israel behind closed doors to change its tactics in Gaza in order to reduce civilian casualties. Former and serving Israeli officials have argued that Hamas is ultimately responsible for the high death toll. Ex-prime minister Naftali Bennett called the group’s action “self-genocide” in an interview with MSNBC.