February , 2019

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(Photo by Heidi Levin)

Rabbi Michael Davis of Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, an Evanston resident, led a mourning ritual honoring lives of Palestinian protesters killed over past several weeks

Evanston, IL – Early Friday morning in Gaza, another four Palestinian protesters – including a 15-year-old-child – were killed by Israeli snipers while participating in the  ongoing #GreatReturnMarch. More than 30 have been killed so far by live fire, and thousands have been wounded.

Led by Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, a crowd of around 50 people gathered on Friday evening for a Shabbat vigil and mourning ritual urging Rep. Schakowsky to condemn what Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others have condemned as the Israeli military’s deliberate targeting of Palestinian protesters.

(Photo by Michael Deheeger)

Participants were overwhelmingly constituents of the 9th Congressional District. “We are here with a simple message – protesters should not be shot and killed, and Palestinians should be free,” said Lynn Pollack, decades-long Evanston resident and member of Jewish Voice for Peace, as she opened the program. “It is so crucial for Rep. Schakowsky’s voice, as a Progressive champion, to be heard clearly condemning Israeli military snipers’ deliberate targeting of protesters in Gaza.”

Lynn Pollack of Jewish Voice for Peace opening the program (Photo by Michael Deheeger)

The Great Return March is organized by a cross section of civil society, grassroots activists, and political factions to highlight the impact of Israel’s brutal military blockade and to re-center the issue of Palestinian refugees’ right to return to the homes from which they were expelled in 1948. On its very first Friday, March 30th, 19 unarmed Palestinian protesters were killed by Israeli snipers. Thousands have been wounded.

Rabbi Michael Davis, an Evanston resident and member of Jewish Voice for Peace’s Rabbinical Council, led participants in welcoming in Shabbat and reciting the Kaddish, the traditional Jewish mourning prayer for the dead, in honor of the Palestinian protesters who have been killed so far.

Rabbi Michael Davis of Jewish Voice for Peace leading mourning ritual in honor of Gaza protesters (photo by Michael Deheeger)

“I lived in Israel for 20 years and served in its military for three of those years,” said Rabbi Davis. “Human beings should not be gunned down as if they were dummies in a target practice. Palestinians have the right to demonstrate for their right to return to their ancestral villages, from which they were expelled in 1948.”

As of Friday, 4/20, more than 30 Palestinian protesters had been killed by Israeli snipers while participating in the Gaza #GreatReturnMarch.  Professor Ghada Talhami, a Palestinian-American resident of Evanston, read out loud each of the names that organizers had been able to obtain.

Professor Ghada Talhami speaking (Photo by Michael Deheeger)

“Thank you all for being here to bear witness to the humanity of Palestinians,” said Professor Talhami. “No one should be shot dead for demonstrating for their basic human rights.”

Lynn Pollack closed the program by pledging that Jewish Voice for Peace will return weekly through the end of the Great Return March, which is slated to culminate on May 15th, Nakba Day, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (“Catastrophe” in Arabic), the destruction of over 500 villages and forced displacement of approximately 750,000 Palestinians during Israel’s establishment in 1948, by armed militias that later coalesced into the Israeli military.

In the meantime, participants were asked to continue calling Representative Schakowsky’s office to urge her, as a Progressive standard-bearer, to join a growing number of her colleagues in the House as well as Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Dianne Feinstein in condemning the killings. Jewish Voice for Peace is also calling on her to affirm the rights of Palestinians to protest for their right to return home to lands from which they were expelled in 1948, and to uphold existing US law, which makes it illegal to provide weapons or training to the Israeli military that is used in human rights violations, and call for an immediate investigation.

(Photo by Michael Deheeger)

MORE BACKGROUND: On Friday, March 30th, an estimated 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza launched the #GreatReturnMarch. Organized by a cross section of civil society, grassroots activists, and political factions, this effort highlights the impact of Israel’s brutal military blockade and re-centers the issue of Palestinian refugees’ right to return to the homes from which they, or their parents and grandparents, were expelled in 1948.

The Israeli military responded with a brutal show of force – snipers opened fire with live ammunition in acts that Human Rights Watch denounced as “unlawful” and “calculated”. Amnesty International has condemned the Israeli military’s use of “excessive force” and assigned clear responsibility to Israeli authorities.

Israel’s government has made clear that it fully supports these deliberate killings. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has stated: “There are no innocents in Gaza.” The day after the killing of the first 15 Palestinian protesters on March 30, the Israeli military posted, then promptly deleted, the following tweet: “Yesterday we saw 30,000 people; we arrived prepared and with precise reinforcements. Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”

As of April 15th, at least 32 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,400 have been injured, including children and clearly-identified members of the press.

JVP-Chicago is the local branch of Jewish Voice for Peace (www.jvp.org), a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine. Jewish Voice for Peace has over 200,000 online supporters, over 60 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.

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