Article Op-Ed

A Voice for the Speechless: Atlanta Rising Up For Palestine

A Voice for the Speechless: Atlanta Rising Up For Palestine


Author Alaa Elassar by

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Photo: Areej Taha

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Almost one year ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his armed forces to attack the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu’s stated objective? Protecting Israeli citizens from Hamas rocket fire.

But that objective was quickly revealed to be nothing more than a false pretense for wanton destruction, as Israeli ground and bombing raids ultimately killed 2,137 Palestinians, injured over 11,100 and displaced another 500,000.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health declared that at least 73% of the dead were civilians, a figure that has gone largely undisputed. The attack on Gaza also destroyed at least 63 mosques and damaged 150 others, despite evidence proving many of those houses of worship were utterly devoid of Hamas-related activity. Additionally, 41,240 homes, 17 hospitals, and 7 clinics were demolished.

Although some relief organizations have attempted to name every victim lost during the attack on Gaza, more than 1,500 still remain missing. Websites such as beyondthenumber.org give descriptions and photos of the thousands of voiceless victims.

It is also worth noting that, despite the grave threat Hamas supposedly posed to Israel, only three Israeli civilians were killed during the fighting. 63 Israeli soldiers were also killed during the course of combat with Palestinian forces, which were demanding that Israel (and Egypt, for that matter) ease its devastating economic blockade of the Palestinian people.2

In 2015, the UN recognized that the Israeli military violated international resolutions by murdering civilians and expanding settlements into the West Bank. Moreover, the violence ran afoul of the Oslo accords (resolution 242) and the fourth Geneva convention.

But right-wingers in Israel and around the world could have cared less.

Last Ramadan, some Israeli citizens brought chairs to hilltops in Sderot to watch bombs hit homes in Gaza. The hills shook with their claps as blasts were being heard from afar.4

Here in America, comedian Joan Rivers ranted that the Palestinians who died during the attacks deserved to die since “Palestinians who do not leave their homes are idiots” and “at least the ones that were killed were the ones with very low IQs.”

During the assault on Gaza, a very highly praised Israeli politician and parliament member, Ayelet Shaked, branded all Palestinians terrorists, specifically their mothers for “giving birth to little snakes.”

“They have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists," Shaked said, adding, "They are all our enemies and their blood should be on our hands. This also applies to the mothers of the dead terrorists.”

The violence against Gaza has led many observers to rightfully accuse Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government of engaging in state-sponsored terrorism. After all, it has used violence and intimidation to deliberately subjugate the Palestinian people for the sake of political supremacy. Right-wing government after right-wing government in Israel has attempted to push more Muslims, Arabs, Christians and otherwise non-Jewish-Israeli citizens off their own land.

One year ago, in response to such oppression, American Palestinians and American friends of Palestine took to the streets of Atlanta to peacefully protest the war on Gaza. The date was July 17, 2014.

Despite the bias of a media that refuses to acknowledge the horror of an occupation that has stolen the lives--and livelihood--of generations of Palestinians, hundreds of Georgians united to speak out for peace and justice. We were also met by hundreds who demonstrated against us with not only vulgarity, but violence.

Rather than breaking us down, the resistance uplifted us, and our protests made headlines across major media outlets. The importance of standing up for the oppressed, whether out of emotional connection with victims of Palestine and our fellow Muslims and Christians or out of basic human decency, is never a waste of time.

In fact, it’s more important than ever because, one year later, Gaza still suffers.

On May 26th, 2015, early Wednesday morning, the Israeli military raided the southern Gaza Strip with the intention of targeting four facilities. After launching sixteen rockets at supposed “terrorist locations” (civilian areas), the IDF stated that its assault was a response to a single rocket fired at southern Israel. This rocket fire was not initiated by Hamas, and no casualties were reported.

But Israel decided to respond with sixteen rockets, three in northern Gaza, two in Dier Albalah, seven in Khan Yonis, and four in Rafah.

There were no casualties but thousands were displaced from their homes. In light of last year’s casualty counts, it would be reasonable to expect more attacks on innocent civilians throughout Palestine.

As residents of Atlanta, which is home to one of America’s major media markets, we must find our voices and use them to speak out for the millions whose voices are stifled.

We must speak out for the Palestinians locked in prisons without due process or trial, for the Palestinian children who sleep in the rubble of their homes, and for the Palestinian mothers who bury their babies in rows of graves.

We must speak out, raising our voices loud enough until we make a difference.

And it starts right here, in Atlanta.

To check for upcoming protests in Atlanta, check and follow the following websites:


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