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Minneapolis protest demands end to collective punishment of Palestinians

By Jess Sundin |
July 10, 2014
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About 300 protesters demand end to collective punishment of Palestinians. (FightBack!News/Sam Wagner)

Minneapolis, MN - Hundreds of Palestinian community members and supporters gathered here July 8, outside the office of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, to demand an end to Israel’s recent campaign of collective punishment against Palestinians.

The majority of those present were Palestinian, and many of them were related to Muhammad and Tariq Abukhdair, two youth targeted with violence. According to Zacarias Abukhdair, “My cousin was brutally murdered in Shuafat. He was kidnapped in front of his father’s store and taken by a few settlers. He was burned alive and tortured. His body was found a few days later.”

Fueled by vengeful comments from Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli government officials, thousands of Israelis marched through the streets of Jerusalem July 2, chanting ‘death to Arabs.’ Muhammad Abukhdair was murdered that night. His murder sparked outrage and massive protests across Palestine.

Days later, his cousin Tariq Abukhdair was arrested and brutally beaten by Israeli police. Tariq Abukhdair is a 15-year-old Tampa, Florida, high school student, who was visiting family in Palestine for the summer; he is now confined on house arrest. Calls from around the country have urged U.S. politicians to investigate the attack on Tariq and to press Israel for his immediate release.

Minnesota is home to many members of the boys’ extended family. Many attended the protest wearing t-shirts with pictures of Muhammad, and carrying signs picturing Tariq and his injuries.

Israel has used the deaths of three young Israeli settlers as a pretext for a massive assault on Palestinians. Israeli settlers, backed by the full force of the Israeli state, have been on a brutal rampage across the West Bank. Gaza is being bombed yet again by Israeli war planes, killing at least 64 people. Protesters urged an end to this campaign of collective punishment.

Hussein Khatib of American Muslims for Palestine introduced several speakers, starting with young Iraqi poet Humom Abdulwahab. Rawan Abukhdair spoke, expressing the family’s outrage at the killing of Muhammad Abukhdair and the attack on Tariq Abukhdair . She described how police shamefully tried to pressure Muhammad Abukhdair’s father into falsely blaming the boy’s death on a family conflict.

Meredith Aby-Keirstead and Sabry Wazwaz, both of the Minnesota Anti-War Committee, also spoke.

Aby-Keirstead said, “We are here today to say no to Israeli settler violence and to the Israeli military’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. Neither would be possible without the significant support of the U.S. government. The U.S. spends $3 billion every single year on aid to Israel. In fact, Israel gets the highest amount of U.S. aid of any country in the world.”

She urged protesters gathered outside the senator’s office to demand an end to U.S. support for Israel. “Our tax dollars are fueling this war against the Palestinians and are subsidizing the Israeli government’s funding of settlement ‘defense’ throughout the West Bank.”

Protesters then took to the streets behind the banner, “Stop U.S. funding of the killing in Gaza.” They marched to the Star Tribune building to demand that mainstream media fairly and truthfully cover the crimes being carried out against Palestinian civilians.

After more than two hours in the streets leading chants, Sabry Wazwaz told the crowd, “While your brothers and sisters are dying in Gaza, some people are complaining that they’re hungry and thirsty during Ramadan. There are people dying, being burned to death, gasoline poured down their throats. Ain’t no time for us to be hungry and thirsty. Stand up, speak out and please always remember, free free Palestine!” The crowd energetically joined in, “Free free Palestine!”

The July 8 demonstration was initiated by the Anti-War Committee and the Coalition for Palestinian Rights, and included participants from American Muslims for Palestine-MN, Students for Justice in Palestine-UMN, Council on American-Islamic Relations-MN and Women Against Military Madness. Similar protests are being organized in cities across the U.S. and the world.