A little over a month after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, tens of thousands of protesters gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on Tuesday to show support for Israel, call for the release of hundreds of hostages, and condemn a rise in antisemitism. The march, organized by the Jewish Federations of North America and Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, was advertised as “an opportunity for all Americans to come together in solidarity with the people of Israel, to demonstrate our commitment to America’s most important ally in the Middle East.” It was also an opportunity to present a broad pro-Israel coalition that was nonetheless divided on some key issues such as growing calls to end the fighting and how to respond to the agonizing humanitarian crisis in Gaza as a result of Israel’s bombardment and ground invasion.
“We are here united,” Democrat Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said upon taking the stage, “Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, to say we stand with Israel.” He said there were no words to describe the “horror” of the Hamas attack, which led to an estimated 242 hostages and 1,200 dead, and that it was reminiscent of darker days. “Let us not forget history,” Schumer said. “History shows that when the world ignores antisemitism, in the last century, it led to the worst catastrophe in human history: 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.” He then reiterated the United States’ support for Israel, leading chants of “USA, USA, USA!”
Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson followed, also alluding to pro-Israel support. “There are few issues in Washington that can easily bring together leaders of both parties and both chambers,” Johnson said of the “survival of the state of Israel.” Johnson also called the demands for a ceasefire “outrageous.” In response, the crowd carrying signs of “Bring Them Home” and photos of those who had been kidnapped erupted in cries against a ceasefire. Johnson added: “Israel will cease their counteroffensive when Hamas ceases to be a threat to the Jewish state.” Also in attendance was controversial Pastor John Hagee, who once claimed that God sent Hitler to help the creation of Israel.
Earlier, CNN political contributor Van Jones was interrupted by chants of “No Ceasefire!” after saying, “I’m a peace guy, I pray for peace. No more rockets from Gaza, and no more bombs falling down on the people of Gaza.” Tuesday’s march comes after another large crowd rallied in the Nation’s Capital earlier this month to voice support for Palestine and call for a ceasefire.
Van Jones at the March for Israel: “I’m a peace guy, I pray for peace. No more rockets from Gaza, and no more bombs falling down on the people of Gaza.”
The crowd breaks out into a “NO CEASEFIRE” chant shortly after pic.twitter.com/2gHEXicK9b
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) November 14, 2023
As my colleague Julianne McShane wrote earlier today, dissent is growing within the US government concerning the policies on Israel, with hundreds of federal officials from 40 agencies signing a letter asking President Joe Biden to call for an immediate ceasefire. “We call on President Biden to urgently demand a cease-fire; and to call for de-escalation of the current conflict by securing the immediate release of the Israeli hostages and arbitrarily detained Palestinians; the restoration of water, fuel, electricity, and other basic services; and the passage of adequate humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip,” a copy of the letter obtained by the New York Times read.