Organized in just a few days, a group simply calling itself Oklahomans for Peace in Palestine gathered on the south side of the Oklahoma State Capitol late Friday afternoon as tensions heated up in Israel and Palestine as Israeli forces began their bloody incursion into Gaza this week.
Holding signs reading #PrayforGaza, along with the green, red, black and white Palestinian flag, the sizable crowd listened raptly to speakers including Imam Imad Enchassi and anti-war, Democratic Senate candidate Connie Johnson.
And each speaker had some powerful things to say – Muslim and Christian alike – about the perilous situation that the Palestinian people face as the Israeli war machine makes things that much more miserable in Gaza.
The Rev. Constantine Nasr, an Oklahoma-based, Jerusalem-born, Antiochian Orthodox Christian, offered a powerful speech to the crowd asking where the local, state and U.S. leaders were when it comes to demanding peace in Palestine.
“We talk about the Holocaust … injustice done to the Jewish people, yes. But let me say there is Palestinian holocaust and nobody speaks about that. Children are dying. Homes are being destroyed. Big prison of Palestinians who have no rights. Where is the justice of America? Loving people who say ‘We love peace.’”
Continuing, Nasr (a Palestinian Christian) spoke forcefully about Zionism and its damaging impact not only on Palestinians but on Jewish Israelis as well, while noting the odious remarks made by some who see the Gaza invasion by the Israeli military machine as nothing but a “lawnmower cutting the grass.”
Said Nasr: “Injustice has been done to the Palestinians and these people of Palestine who – the Zionist movement, not the Jewish people – understand that Zionism, just like Nazism … they are the ones destroying the Jewish people too.They are destroying the existence of the state of Israel. I appeal to the spirit of America, to Preisdent Obama, to those who look for justice and equality for the Palestinian people, to have the right to seek a solution. ”
“Palestinians will never die!” thundered Nasr, as the crowd – young and old – clapped in approval.
Another who spoke was Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“We want to see change from here all the way to the Middle East,” Soltani said.
“We’re here for peace,” said Soltani. “As Oklahomans, as Americans. Standing for peace.”
“Maybe we can’t be like Rachel Corrie who went and defended those who were repressed and died in the process in Palestine. Maybe we can’t be Rachel Corrie. But at least we can stand up and defend the honor of her and people like her,” Soltani said, referring to the Olympia, Wash. woman who was run over in Gaza by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003 while defending Palestinian homes.
Chants of “Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry! Palestine will never die!” and “Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! The siege in Gaza’s got to go!” echoed through the Capitol plaza under the unusually cool July Oklahoma skies.
For more on this issue, please read Red Dirt Report’s latest editorial “Israel’s bloody invasion of Gaza will only bring more misery and death.”