HOLLYWOOD — Hedab Tarifi was born in Gaza, Palestine, where she lived until the first Gulf War when she and her family immigrated to the United States. In the last few weeks, she says many of her relatives have been killed by the Israeli military.
“I have yet to mourn my family and loved ones who were massacred in this genocide in Gaza,” said Tarifi. “I can’t even afford the luxury of mourning them. How can I do that when they are still being killed.”
Tarifi was one of the hundreds of Palestinians, Jewish Angelenos, and allies gathered by Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow LA in the rainy streets of Hollywood Wednesday afternoon. They demanded President Joe Biden and Congress take immediate action towards a ceasefire in Gaza, and to stop funding the Israeli government.
Jewish Voice for Peace, grassroots organization of the U.S. Jews in solidarity with Palestinians, and IfNotNow, a movement organizing to end “U.S. support for Israel’s apartheid system, co-sponsored the event, perhaps their biggest yet, according to organizers who said more than 1,500 attended. A rally kicked off at De Longpre Park in Hollywood, where protesters listened to both Jewish and Palestinian speakers give their emotional accounts as to why they demand an immediate ceasefire.
The action comes in response to the ongoing conflict in Gaza. The fighting began more than a month ago after Hamas fighters broke through the barrier separating the Gaza Strip from Israel, and killed around 1200 Israelis. Israel responded with a bombing campaign against Gaza, and in recent weeks a ground invasion.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, more than 11,100 Palestinians (mostly women and children) have been killed by Israel’s attacks. While U.S. officials, including President Biden, have spread doubt about the number of people killed in Gaza, major humanitarian organizations like the United Nations, World Health Organization, and Human Rights Watch insist the numbers are accurate. Sources within the Israeli military have reportedly cited much higher numbers of as many 20,000 dead, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. According to the United Nations, 1.6 million Palestinians have been displaced within Gaza. Attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank have also intensified, according to NPR. The United Nations Security Council, which consists of 15 member countries has called for a humanitarian pause in the region.
Palestinian flags and keffiyehs could be seen in the waves of the crowd. Many people also held posters with drawings of watermelons. The watermelon has become a symbol for Palestinians, for when cut open the fruit resembles the national colors of the Palestinian flag — red, black, white, and green. The rain poured over people’s shoulders but that didn’t stop them from chanting at the top of their lungs.
“When I join the thousands of American Jews demanding that President Biden do everything in his power to implement a ceasefire I do it as an expression of my Jewish identity not despite it,” said Michal David, organizer with Jewish Voice for Peace.
“Ceasefire now!” exclaimed protest go-ers.
The crowd then marched from De Longpre Park to the intersection of Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave. where they met about 200 other protesters who were sitting in the middle of the intersection, actively blocking traffic. The sitting protesters wore black shirts with white text “Not in our name,” and held red flowers, some made of paper, and olive branches.
“Hollywood can be a place of imagination,” said David. “We’re here to say we want to create a future that is about justice and liberation.”
As the sun began to set, the neon lights from notable Hollywood buildings can be seen glistening in the distance such as the El Capitan theater and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! The rain continued to pour, hundreds of protesters gathered at the intersection listening to organizers make a few more speeches, some singing songs in their native language.
“Our elected representatives need to understand that we put them in power,” said Soraya, volunteer organizer with IfNotNow. “Their constituencies are mobilizing en masse and will continue to mobilize until they listen.” Soraya declined to give her last name for fear that as an organizer she might face retribution. Indeed, many people have faced professional and personal consequences as a result of supporting the Palestinians. And within the Jewish community, intergenerational rifts over the role of Zionism in Jewish life have split families.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and LA parking enforcement blocked the intersection a few blocks down to each street diverting traffic. The 200 protesters in the middle of the intersection, who were blocking traffic, were conscious that they could be arrested if LAPD decided to forcefully remove them. Organizers were prepared with legal support in case that occurred. However, LAPD confirmed Thursday that no arrests were made, according to LAPD officer Rosario Cervantes.