In light of the attacks in Gaza starting May 9, 2021, thousands of Arab-Americans protested in the streets of Dearborn, Michigan, during the same month. The crowd protested in response to President Joe Biden visiting the city to tour a Ford Rouge Plant. The protesters criticized the Biden administration’s U.S. foreign policy toward Israel and the response to recent attacks in Gaza during the eleven days of fighting, which caused the most destruction of any attack since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. Through their protests, participants hoped to draw attention to the Israel-Palestine conflict and the importance of supporting Palestinian rights.
“We are here today to make sure that President Biden knows that the Dearborn community and the Arab American community and all of Michigan, that we are not going to stay silent while he waltzes into our city while saying he is giving unwavering support to the Israeli government,” Palestinian-American attorney Amer Zahr said outside the Dearborn Police station to a crowd during the protest.
The words may sound harsh. Although, some have argued that his attitude and general lack of urgency in the pursuit of brokering peace talks in Israel and Palestine is problematic when it comes to supporting Palestinian rights.
Human Rights Violations in Palestine
Palestinian families suffer many human rights violations. Many Gazans don’t have access to clean water. Palestinians are not free to travel; they are frequently detained at the border and imprisoned. For example, according to The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (B’Tselem), at the end of September 2020, there were 4,184 Palestinian security detainees and prisoners being held in Israeli Prison Services (IPS), including 254 from the Gaza Strip. 545 Palestinians were in IPS prisons in 2020 alone for being in Israel illegally.
Palestinians have different passports (that limit movement), and their cars have different license plates. This blog post by Jewish-American Palestinian activist Anna Baltzer, shows photos of the discrepancies on Palestinian Authority vehicles.
Palestinians are at risk of losing their land to Israeli settlers. Israeli settlers have been accused of harassing Palestinian children on their way to school. Israeli settlers, perhaps correctly, point out that what the Israeli settlers do to Palestinians is not nearly as bad as what was done to Palestinian families in the 1948 formation of Israel.
In 2021, the United Nations criticized Israel for insisting on internally probing its own war crimes, refusing to take accountability for its actions in the Palestinian territories in international courtrooms. It’s no longer a question whether supporting Palestinian rights is important; it is becoming a question of what is being done to drive awareness. The protest in Dearborn, Michigan, is one example.
Anger and Hurt on Both Sides
“The anger that is being sustained in Dearborn toward Biden is (due to) his sheer disregard and lack of attention to what’s happening right now in real time in Palestine,” Sahar Faraj, an organizer with the Palestinian Youth Movement, told the Detroit Free Press in May 2021. “For the people of Dearborn, for Biden to approve the sale of $735 million in weapons funding for Israel, then come to the largest population of Arabs in America? Yeah, he’s going to hear that.”
According to The Detroit Free Press, protestors held signs that read: “Joe Biden loves genocide” and “Not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for Israel’s crimes.”
Biden has repeatedly defended Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas. But what of Palestinians’ right to security from the far great attacks Israel inflicts on Palestinian families (attacks committed with American support; families who were made refugees in the founding of Israel and are kept as refugees from their homes to maintain a Jewish majority)?
U.S. House representative Marc Pocan (who has historically been critical of Israel’s actions in the Palestinian territories and highly publicized his visit to the West Bank in November 2021) supported U.S. funding of the Iron Dome. He claims that Iron Dome has the potential to de-escalate rocket fire that could come from Hamas. If Israel has the means to defend itself, perhaps it can ultimately prevent another war from happening — like the attacks that occurred in May. But is there an equivalent effort to give Palestinians defensive weapons to protect Palestinian families from the far, far more lethal Israeli jets and rockets?
Enough Is Enough
When supporting Palestinian rights and judging the actions of each party in the Israel-Palestine conflict, the hurt runs deep on both sides. At the rally at the police station in Michigan, former Detroit health director and former governor candidate Abdul El-Sayed told the crowd that as a public health expert, he was upset to see Israel attack a COVID-19 testing lab in Palestinian territories.
“As an American, I am unwilling to watch my country, watch my tax dollars get spent for that any longer,” El-Sayed told The Detroit Free Press. “Today, we are standing up…to say that enough is enough, that if you believe in human rights, you better stand for human rights… Today, the rights of the Palestinian people are being denied. Who knows who it’s going to be tomorrow.”
A Network of Activism Around the U.S.
The Michigan protest calling for the recognition of Palestinian human rights violations is one of many country-wide protests that have occurred since May 2021 in cities like New York, Houston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Portland. About 60 pro-Palestinian protesters marched in Detroit alone. Speakers at the rallies planned protests and more political activity in 2022.
To learn more about supporting Palestinian rights and the conflict in Israel and Palestine,
visit The Promised Land Museum.
Consider hosting an exhibit.
Plus, to gain a better understanding of Palestine, check out these top resources.