By Charles Sercombe
On Saturday, Hamtramck joined a number of other cities across the U.S. in rallying in support of Palestinians and demanding a ceasefire in Israel’s military war in Gaza.
About 1,000 people, a number of them from outside the city, gathered at Veterans Park and then marched through town, ending up in front of city hall, where Mayor Amer Ghalib spoke.
Punctuated throughout the rally were various chants and slogans, including the familiar, and controversial, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
The rallies being held nationwide were also in protest of Israel and its ground war grinding along in Gaza.
Israel invaded Gaza in retaliation for a Hamas attack in Israel on Oct. 7, where about 1,400 people were killed, and over 200 people were taken hostage, including Americans.
It’s been reported that over 10,000 Palestinians have since died, including some 4.000 children, although that number has been disputed by some.
President Biden has come under attack for his administration’s support of Israel, although Biden has implored Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to suspend hostilities in order to provide humanitarian aid to civilian Palestinians who are trapped in the Israeli military operation.
Netanyahu has rejected that plea until Hamas releases the hostages, and has also said that a ceasefire would allow Hamas to regroup and re-attack Israel.
It appears that Biden may pay a political price for his support of Israel, although Republicans are just as supportive.
Occasionally, some yelled out “Genocide Joe has got to go,” in reference to Biden.
One speaker, Khaled Turanni, an American-Palestinian activist, said that, unless Biden reverses course, Arab voters and others opposed to Israel’s occupation of Palestine will “swing Michigan,” and that “We have options.”
It isn’t clear what exactly those options are, politically.
Turanni also said that the federal aid package that Congress approved, $14 billion to Israel, is coming out of taxpayers’ wallets.
“They’re stealing your tax dollars,” Turanni said.
At city hall, co-organizer of the rally, City Councilmember Khalil Refai, said that those who showed up are a “blessing,” and that Hamtramck being a majority-Muslim city with an all-Muslim city council and mayor is also a “blessing.”
Mayor Ghalib echoed what others were calling out for: “We want an immediate ceasefire.”
Ghalib went on to say how he would react if his family came under attack.
“I was raised as a quiet kid who doesn’t like to yell and scream,” Ghalib said. “But if someone came to my house and tried to evacuate my family from the house, and take my land, I would respond screaming and yelling.”
He continued: “If you start killing my children in front of my eyes, then I will use every means available for me to resist. I don’t care what names you would call me.
“If you classify a person as a terrorist, other people in different parts of the world consider him as a freedom fighter. So not everyone agrees with our government. …”
The U.S. government classifies Hamas as a terrorist organization.
People identifying themselves as Hamas leaders have recently said on Arabic media outlets that they will not cease hostilities until Israel is annihilated.
Ghalib said that Biden and Netanyahu “are leading a campaign of lies and deception” – especially in their remarks that Hamas beheaded babies and raped women “but… couldn’t show any evidence.”
Those initial reports have come under question as to their reliability.
Asked earlier on the day of the rally about his comment on Hamas’s role in the war with Israel, Ghalib told The Review:
“The root cause of all the problems there is the occupation. This conflict will continue for generations to come and this war is only making it more difficult to solve.
“A terrorist for someone here is called a freedom fighter for someone else in different part of the world. Not everyone shares the same view that our government believes in.
“I do believe, like millions of people around the world, that as long as there is no justice, there would be no peace in that part of the world. The power of the truth would outlive the military power.”
The Jewish organization Anti-Defamation League (ADL) took exception to Ghalib’s response to the actions of Hamas.
(According to its website, the ADL mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.”)
“The fact that when asked about Hamas, Mayor Ghalib did not distinguish the difference between Hamas – a terrorist organization — and innocent Palestinians, who are suffering at the hands of Hamas, tells the real story,” said Carolyn Normandin, Regional Director of ADL.
“On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists breached the Gaza security fence, entered Israel, and massacred more than 1,400 people — raping, burning, mutilating, and torturing their victims, including infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and disabled people.
“They also took more than 220 hostages back to Gaza. Anything that glorifies or justifies the barbarism of Oct. 7 cannot be seen as a righteous or thoughtful way of advancing a solution for the Palestinians or for Jews in the State of Israel.”
Posted Nov. 10, 2023
Updated on Nov. 15, 2023 after several people who attended the event pointed out that there were more than “about 200” who attended the event. Critics of the report insisted that the true number was about 1,000.