Published On: Mon, Oct 9th, 2023
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As Pro-Palestinian, pro-Israeli protests sweep U.S., police worry about clashes

“There was an astonishing amount of police,” said Munir Atalla of the Palestinian Youth Movement, which helped organize the rally. “It was maybe more police than I’ve ever seen come to a protest.”

The Hamas attack caught the Israelis and the rest of the world by surprise. In the U.S., many people with ties to both regions found themselves rallying on the streets over the weekend, waving Israeli or Palestinian flags as they gathered with members of their communities.

Atalla, who said his family was expelled from Jerusalem in 1948 by “Zionist militias,” said he sees the Hamas attack as the culmination of years of frustration among Palestinians who say they are trapped in teeming Gaza by the Israelis, which maintains a blockade that has been condemned by the U.N. and more than a dozen human rights organizations.

“Palestinians anywhere, we’re all connected,” Atalla said. “And we have family, friends we worry about, as Israel is essentially bombing Gaza without any kind of regard for civilians.”

In Kirkland, Washington, police had to intervene Sunday after scuffles broke out between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

Omer Lichtig, an Israeli living in Richmond, Washington, said police had quelled the violence by the time he and his wife arrived to show support for Israel. But the anger was still there as dozens of police officers kept the two sides apart.

“We couldn’t just stand by after what happened, after seeing our people slaughtered,” said Lichtig, whose family lives outside Tel Aviv. “So we came with our flags, and they [the pro-Palestinian demonstrators] started intimidating us and provoking us.”

Lichtig said he has friends whose relatives were killed when Hamas gunmen raided a kibbutz near the Gaza border.

“I lost a few friends who were still in the service,” he said. “And it’s a very tough moment for us. Think about it. Like, almost each Israeli knows someone who got kidnapped, injured or murdered.”

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