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Protesters march in Raleigh to support Palestinians as global conflict escalates

Rañia Masri, co-director for organizing and policy at the N.C. Environmental Justice Network speaks at the protest in Raleigh on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023.

A sea of protesters holding Palestinian flags and signs marched through downtown Raleigh on Sunday afternoon, calling for a cease-fire in the war between Israel and militant group Hamas.

Over 1,300 people convened in Moore Square in solidarity with Palestinians to "end Israel's racist siege" of Gaza. The attendees listened to a handful of speakers, holding signs with statements like "There's no both sides to a genocide" and "Land you have to kill for is not yours. Land you have to die for is."

Supporters took to East Hargett Street after the speeches concluded in Moore Square, chanting as they marched around the North Carolina State Capitol. Protesters standing in the bed of a pickup truck decorated with Palestinian flags led the march. 

The Raleigh event was co-sponsored by organizations including Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Voices for Justice in Palestine and the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

“I have been terrified and I have been crying hearing news of my friends who have been killed in Lebanon or in Palestine, but despair is treason,” Rañia Masri, co-director for organizing and policy at the N.C. Environmental Justice Network, said to the crowd.

Nasser Shahin, a Palestinian who came to the United States in 1995, raised a large Palestinian flag at the protest.

He said he was born in a refugee camp and moved throughout the country because of Israeli attacks when he was growing up. 

Shahin's grandfather used to own 200 acres of land that he says was lost due to the Israeli occupation.

“I’m Palestinian and my parents were Palestinian,” he said. “That land belongs to us.”

Raleigh Police was at the scene, but officers did not engage with the protesters. There was no counter-protest present. 

The protest is among many events happening across the United States after the escalation to war between Israel and Hamas. Counter-protesters were present at many of these demonstrations, including at UNC

On Oct. 7, in a coordinated effort, Hamas militants attacked towns and villages near the Gaza Strip, taking around 150 people hostage. The next day, the Israeli government declared war on the organization and began bombing the strip, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying “the enemy will pay an unprecedented price.”

According to reporting by The Washington Post, 1,400 people have been killed in Israel and 2,778 people have been killed in Gaza. The recent conflict marks the most significant escalation in the region in several decades, according to the Global Conflict Tracker

The Rev. J. Mark Davidson, executive director of Voices for Justice in Palestine, attended the UNC demonstration as well as the Raleigh protest.

He said he believes pro-Palestine protesters feel a great sense of urgency regarding the violence in Gaza.

According to the Associated Press, Israel cut off the flow of food, water, electricity and medicine to Gaza, as well as conducted airstrikes on the strip. An estimated 1 million people have been displaced in Gaza since the escalation. The Israel Defense Forces issued an evacuation warning for Palestinians in the northern portion of Gaza, which has been controlled by Hamas since 2007. 

On Saturday, Israel Defense Forces said it is preparing for "significant ground operations" after the Hamas attacks.

“It looks to me that everything’s in place for Israel to take over the northern part of Gaza, occupy it and then confine the remainder of the Gazan population into half of the space that they were in before,” Davidson said.

He called for an immediate cease-fire followed by humanitarian assistance for the civilians in Gaza. The world “can’t just let this genocide happen,” he said. 

He said he, along with the World Health Organization and other international groups, believes the current situation in Gaza is a human catastrophe.

On Saturday, the World Health Organization said it “strongly condemns” Israel’s orders for the evacuation of 22 hospitals, which were treating over 2,000 patients, in northern Gaza. 

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Masri said she believes Palestinians have tried to resolve conflict peacefully throughout history, but she feels that their human rights have continued to be violated. 

But Masri said the only way to resolve the conflict is to have Israelis and Palestinians live together – a compromise she says people have wanted for 75 years.

“The only solution to the horror that has been happening is a one-state solution where Jew, Christian and Muslim live side by side, where how people choose to worship God becomes irrelevant to the way they’re treated by the state,” she said.

The official U.S. policy on the conflict has been to attempt to find a two-state solution — where Israel and Palestine coexist in the region as two separate countries. 

President Joe Biden has condemned Hamas and made his support for Israel clear. Biden will travel to Israel on Wednesday to show solidarity with the country.

In an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday, he said that there should be a Palestinian Authority in the region and that there "needs to be a path to a Palestinian state."


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