Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Palestinian marchers and Israeli counter-protesters flock Cambridge City Hall

Arthur Mansavage
A pro-Palestinian protestor holds up a Palestinian flag during a march in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Tensions escalated in Cambridge on Monday afternoon as a pro-Palestine rally came up against Israeli counter-protestors outside Cambridge City Hall. Palestinian and Israeli flags waved amidst loud chants and cheers from either side, amplified by bullhorns and microphones. Honking horns echoing down the gridlocked street only intensified the chaos as Cambridge Police officers stood in the road separating the two protesting groups.

The rally was hosted by The Palestinian Youth Movement to raise support for Palestine in its ongoing conflict with Israel, which was inflamed over the weekend when the Palestinian militant organization Hamas launched the most devastating incursion of Israel in half a century, killing over 700 Israelis within the first 24 hours. The protest began at 4 p.m. and lasted an hour before the Palestinian supporters began to march through Cambridge. 

Their destination was The Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square, just a few blocks from City Hall. 

Elbit Systems, a technology company “engaged in a wide range of defense, homeland security and commercial programs throughout the world,” opened The Cambridge Innovation Center in December of 2021. In late July, Elbit Systems was awarded a $60 million contract to supply artillery shells to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), making it a “premier artillery supplier” to the IDF.

Lea Kayali, one of the event speakers, said Elbit Systems is one of the largest Israeli weapon manufacturers on the East Coast. Kayali believes protests are necessary because more passive forms of resistance have not been successful in spreading the Palestinian message.

“We’re here to support the Palestinian people, especially the people of Gaza, who are refusing to die quietly,” she said in an interview with the Beacon. “Something we want to make really clear is the moral responsibility for everything we see unfolding, lands at the feet of the Zionist colonial war machine.”

Kayali emphasized that now is the time to show support for Palestine and raise Palestinian voices. 

“Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been murdered, thousands more have been imprisoned, and Palestinians have tried to curry favor with the global north for decades for no avail,” she said. “Two years ago, the international community did not show up for Palestine the way that Palestinians on the ground did. We’re here to show support for those Palestinians.”

Soon after the Palestinian protestors congregated at the steps of City Hall to hear speeches, a contingent of Israeli counter-protestors gathered across the street waving flags and chanting. 

“I think what’s happening in Palestine today is going to be in our history books as an example of a liberation struggle,” Kayali said regarding the counter- protesters. “And Americans might not be comfortable with that, but it’s the truth and we’re here to stand on the right side of history as it unfolds in real time.” 

Chants of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free,” “Jewish People, Yes. Zionism, No,” and “Hey, Hey. Ho Ho. Israel has got to go,” came from Palestinian protesters led by the event’s speakers. 

“When an oppressed people fight back against their oppressor I don’t call that violence, I call that intelligence,” Suhaio Pukar, a UMass Boston alumni and member of the Boston South Asian Coalition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation, said in a speech to the crowd.

Pukar shared his reaction to the weekend’s events with the Beacon in an interview.

“I think it’s horrific that we see this violence,” he said. “It’s like a pressure cooker that explodes again and again as a result of this overwhelming oppression of the Palestinian population.”

A common consensus among protestors was that their cause was misunderstood.

Naureen Mowla, 38, brought her young daughters with her to the event. One of them held a sign that read, “Land you have to kill for is not yours. You have to die for it. #FreePalestine.”

“I have four girls and I want them to learn to speak out when they see injustices in the world, wherever it is,” Mowla said.

Mowla said the reactions of the media and the American public to the situation in Palestine has not been proportional to their responses to other global crises.

“In recent history, we’ve been calling out Russia for its violations … [we have to] call the government of Israel out for its violations and give them consequences,” Mowla said. “I would do the same for my kids. If they did something wrong, there’s always going to be consequences.”

26-year-old Cambridge resident Jenan Adu said the misunderstanding of the Palestinian cause starts by calling Palestine’s relationship with Israel a “conflict.”

“It’s not a conflict, it’s one country colonizing another country and that’s where the misunderstanding leads,” she said. “People think it’s like a religious conflict or … fighting over land but if you actually see what’s truly happening … the big story is that there’s one oppressor and one oppressed. All [The Palestinians] are doing is resisting colon[ization].”

Adu believes that these interpretations can be found in Western media especially.

“[The American media tries] to attack the Palestinians rather than understanding their point of view. It’s just ridiculous,” she said.

23-year-old Watertown resident Fatima Benmimoun sees the weekend’s events as a historic step toward Palestinian liberation. She compared the Hamas attacks to the Haitian Revolution.

“Haitians were under French occupation and they were able to fight back as slaves and it was a historical moment,” Benmimoun said. “I think that is mirroring what Palestinians did.” 

Across the street, the group of pro-Israel counter-protesters waved Israeli flags and shouted at Palestinian supporters, many calling them terrorists, and shouting, “Shame on you, Shame on you” and “Save the Jews”. 

As the minutes passed, more and more people appeared on both sides causing the crowd to get more rowdy. By the time Palestinian protesters began their march, over a hundred counter-protesters had appeared.

Cambridge Police confirmed no arrests were made at the gathering, and were unable to share if there was need for back-up, according to Robert Goulston, CPD’s Director of Communications & Media Relations.

Neil Myer, a 35-year-old Israeli immigrant, was among the counter-protestors.

“It’s a complete tragedy what happened in our land … It’s time to take off the gloves … We’re not the weak Jews that we were in the Holocaust. We have the means. It’s time to end this,” Myer said.

Some counter-protestors believed in a more peaceful solution to the problem.

“Our side wants peace. When your side is ready to talk about peace, Israelis will be ready,” said Josh Kahn, a 30-year-old Israeli American citizen and counter-protester, on what he would say to the Palestinians across the street.

Israel formally declared war on Hamas this past Saturday. 1,200 Israelis have died since then, while over 1,100 have been killed in Gaza according to Palestinian authorities. 

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About the Contributors
Sam Shipman
Sam Shipman, Assistant News Editor
Sam Shipman (He/Him) is a freshman journalism major from Natick, Massachusetts. He currently is a Staff Writer for the Berkeley Beacon. When he's not reporting he can be found listening to music or spending time with friends.
Bryan Hecht
Bryan Hecht, News Co-Editor
Bryan Hecht (he/him) is a freshman journalism major from Havertown, Pennsylvania. He currently serves as an assistant editor of The Berkeley Beacon News section. Bryan also contributes to WEBN Political Pulse and hopes one day to work in broadcast news media. As a member of the Emerson Cross Country team, Bryan can likely be found on a run around the Boston area when he's not writing for the Beacon.

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