“Hands off Rafah” Rally at Israeli Embassy Disrupts DC

Palestine Rally

The Israeli Embassy on March 2 was the scene where earlier in the week 25-year-old active-duty Airforce Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Wing airman Aaron Bushnell immolated himself in protest of the ongoing genocide in Gaza. A massive protest, “Hands off Rafah” a worldwide day of action, took place as activists rallied and marched against the ongoing genocide that has seen 30,000 Palestinians killed by Israel.

Bushnell, who while live streaming announced that he was “no longer going to be complicit in genocide” and was going to perform an “extreme act of protest” against the ‘Colonizers” in Palestine, doused himself with a flammable liquid and set himself on fire and while engulfed in flames, twice called out “Free Palestine.” He later died from his injuries.

The Embassy’s exterior, which is ensconced with posters of Israelis kidnapped by Hamas on October 7 along with Israeli flags in memorial to those killed in Hamas’ invasion, was the backdrop for the protest that took place where several thousand activists demonstrated their support for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the looming Israeli attack on Rafah.

After a moment of silence for Bushnell “who sacrificed his life” outside of the embassy for Palestine, where a memorial was created with his photograph, flowers and candles, they honored the memory of “The over 30,000 martyrs in Gaza and the more than 140 martyrs in the West Bank” who have been killed since October 7.

Several speakers demanded that “One of the most documented genocides in history” be brought to an immediate end by a ceasefire while also calling for the release of all Palestinian prisoners and an “End to all U.S aid to Israel, to refund UNRWA.” They further demanded “…an end to the illegal military occupation imposed against the Palestinian people for almost 76 years.”

They also noted that this past Thursday, Israeli soldiers opened fire on Gazans as they attempted to retrieve flour from an aid convoy of trucks at four am in the morning killing 112 and wounding 700 others. They described the “flour riot,” as a “massacre” and “a planned execution” as those desperate to feed themselves and their families including “men, women and children were cut down by Israeli snipers and tanks while desperately trying to get food from some of the only aid trucks to be allowed into Gaza in months.”

The killings of Gazans who “are experiencing a man-made starvation” has been condemned by international aid groups, Palestinian supporters and people of conscious worldwide.

Another speaker recognized that in less than a week since “Aaron Bushnell’s self-sacrifice for the people of Gaza” that the main conversation of  news to date is “What’s going to happen in the election. We don’t care about your election! We are dying in Gaza, we are dying since ‘48, we are dying in the West Bank, we are dying here. Don’t talk to me about November.”

In noting that Israel is threatening an invasion of Rafah on the first day of Ramadan, the crowd vociferously shouted “Shame” at the embassy building after a spokesperson promised to never stop seeking  justice for Palestine, making a promise by  saying “We will never return to business as usual.”

Comments by Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of the group Neturi Karta International, Orthodox Jews United Against Zionism, were presented by a speaker as the Rabbi declined to use a microphone during Shabbat, He described “Judaism as a religion and Zionism as a political movement.” He went further in saying that “resisting Zionism in not antisemitic.”

At the conclusion of the rally, the massive crowd took over the streets disrupting traffic along the Connecticut Avenue thoroughfare while marching to Israeli Ambassador Mike Herzog’s residence. Their very presence carried their message of “Hands off Rafah” and their call for a permanent ceasefire in ending the genocide being unleashed against Palestinians in Gaza.

Photo and report by Phil Pasquini

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