Even though a ceasefire in Gaza was in effect last weekend, protestors hit the streets of Hollywood on Aug. 16 to denounce the ongoing conflict in the Middle East between Hamas and the Israeli government.
Individuals from ANSWER Los Angeles, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Women Organized to Resist and Defend, Students for Justice in Palestine and others marched from Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street to the CNN building on Sunset Boulevard.
“We’re here to draw attention to the fact that even though the fighting has lulled and for the most part Israel is abiding by the ceasefire to stop the bombing and … extermination of the people in Gaza on a massive basis, we want people to remember that there is still a war against the people of Gaza,” ANSWER L.A. organizer Michael Prysner said.
According to the United Nations, the ceasefire ended at midnight on Monday. According to media reports, more violence soon followed.
However, the ceasefire was not necessarily beneficial for Palestinians, as a “crushing” blockade on Gaza prevented medical supplies, building materials, food and clean water from reaching victims, Prysner said.
“All the necessities of life are being choked out of Gaza, so really all that’s happened is, the people of Gaza are being subjected to a slow death rather than a fast death as they were under the war,” he added.
The conflict began at the beginning of July, when Israel launched an offensive to counter rocket strikes by Hamas. Throughout the military operation, the Israeli government has maintained that the country is defending itself.
Prysner, a U.S. Army veteran, said the country frequently uses a “rhetoric of reacting to things” when it carries out military actions.
“They have done this since the formation of Israel in 1948 through countless wars, countless massacres [and] massive crackdowns on the rights of Palestinians,” he said.
David Siegel, consulate general of Israel in Los Angeles, said Hamas violated an 11th ceasefire on Tuesday. He said the group is sending rocket after rocket into Israel.
“They keep violating these ceasefires, and they force us to attack in our self-defense,” Siegel said during a phone interview on Wednesday. “What country wouldn’t respond?”
He said Israel would like to open Gaza to the world and help rebuild its hospitals, homes and schools.
“Israel does not want to be there,” Siegel said. “We didn’t want this operation. We were fired at repeatedly.”
According to U.N. figures released on Monday, almost 2,000 Palestinians, including 459 children and 239 women, have been killed. Approximately two-thirds of the total has been civilians. About 10,000 Palestinians — one-third of them children — have been injured.
In comparison, 64 soldiers, two civilians and a foreign national has been killed in Israel, according to U.N. statistics.
Prysner said ANSWER L.A. started organizing demonstrations as soon as the violence erupted. He said the group has protested at the federal building in Westwood, Siegel’s office and in cities throughout the U.S.
“We’re witnessing a very dramatic and very important shift on the consciousness of the people, and it’s going to be the thing that helps bring this thing down, just like Apartheid was ended in South Africa,” Prysner added.
He said ANSWER L.A.’s protests of the war are tied to demonstrations against other wars, such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq. Prysner said they are also linked to the United States’ policies in Libya, Iran and Syria.
“All of these are part of a larger plan of regional domination by the U.S. government and by the U.S. military,” he said.
Siegel said there are “terrible” tragedies occurring in the Middle East, with minorities, Christians and women all being “terrorized.” He said the Middle East is replete with such suffering, and America has “little to do with it.”
“Israel is a pro-American country and support American’s global role,” Siegel said. “We see America being a force for good in the world.”
Prysner said the protest was held in Hollywood due to the area’s visibility.
“We want to bring this message to the hundreds and thousands of people that come to Hollywood,” he added.
One Israel supporter, Eva Meara, saw the protest and felt obligated to demonstrate as well. Holding an Israeli flag, she argued with some of the ANSWER L.A. protestors while LAPD officers kept a close watch.
“Everything that they’re saying is the wrong thing,” Meara said, asking why the protestors were not denouncing the genocide in Iraq and Syria. “[Those people] are dying. …Because it’s a Jew against an Arab, that’s why they’re demonstrating.”
She agreed that Israel is merely defending itself.
“[The Palestinians] could have an amazing life, but they choose not to,” Meara said. When asked about the children being killed in Gaza, she said, “What are they supposed to do? It’s OK for them to throw bombs into Israel cause people are not dying? They are making such a big deal. That’s what it is.”
She said the protestors seemed to be upset because there are not more Israeli casualties.
“So that’s what they want? Is that what people want?” Meara said, adding, “Long live Israel.”
While the conflict has proved divisive in Los Angeles and the U.S., an interfaith delegation organized by the Los Angeles chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace and American Muslims for Palestine visited the offices of U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Monday to deliver a letter denouncing their support of Israel’s action.
However, that effort also turned confrontational, as activists were arrested at Feinstein’s office for refusing to leave until the senator supported the U.N.’s calls for an independent investigation into the violence, according to a release.