This week, the international community has witnessed countless protests demanding the halt of Israel’s ground intervention and airstrikes on Gaza, ranging from populated demonstrations in London to violent ones in Paris. On Monday, Lebanon joined these demands.
Approximately 1,000 people gathered at Raouché’s Ramlet al-Bayda on Monday, holding a vigil for more than 500 Palestinians who have died in Gaza.
“We came up with the idea of a sit-in or a vigil in solidarity with the people of Gaza, with the people who died, to humanize everyone, basically. Individualize everyone who was killed,” said Thurayya Zreik, one of the vigil organizers.
Palestinian flags waved, white balloons with names of the victims were released into the sky, and a long string stretching along the sidewalk listed the names of those who died in Gaza.
The vigil occurred simultaneously with two other vigils in the Rashidiyye and Nahr el Bared Palestinian refugee camps.
As people screamed snippets of speech through a megaphone, many different opinions were voiced with fervor throughout the crowd– from calls for peace to calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
“We don’t want your bloody war! … Stop the killing, stop the hate!” said Shezza Abboushi Dallal, a student at Barnard College. “Occupation is a crime, from Iraq to Palestine,” she continued, referring to the United States’ war on Iraq. “Israel, Israel, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!”
“The Palestinians are under fire,” chanted another woman in Arabic. “To those who aren’t hearing,” she added, “listen, listen, listen, listen.”
But as the megaphone blared, Zreik’s main concern was to show the people in Gaza that she is supporting them.
“You have brothers and sisters standing with you,” she said. “You are not alone.”
Another demonstrator, Jinan, who preferred to be listed solely by her first name, also expressed her disappointment in the silence of the international community.
“People are getting killed and nobody is doing anything about it,” she said.
In contrast with Dallal’s call for the end of “Israel’s war,” however, Jinan voiced a desire for the “war on Israel” to persist until “historic Palestine” is free and pre-1948 borders are restored.
She also expressed her dissatisfaction with the Oslo Accords, where both the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization officially recognized each other.
“The people in Gaza are living in a huge cage, the people in the West Bank are living in a huge cage, and the Palestinian refugees that are living in the refugee camps in Lebanon are living a shitty life,” Jinan said.
Beit Atfal Assumoud, a non-governmental organization dedicated to helping Palestinian communities in Lebanon, setup donation boxes at the vigil. According to the event’s Facebook page, proceeds collected during the Ramadan holiday will be donated to Gaza.
Nessim Stevenson, a student at the University of Sussex, said he attended the vigil out of frustration. As he watched the news and kept up with the events unfolding between Israel and Gaza, Stevenson felt helpless.
“This is one of the very few things you can actually do,” he added.
People are much more active than in the past, whether through social media or by protesting on the streets, Stevenson said, exemplifying protests in the U.K., South Africa, and Turkey.
However, the Lebanese public is not as involved in comparison to other communities, which, according to Stevenson, can be attributed to the lack of willingness to talk about the Palestinian issue, as made evident by the number of protestors present at the vigil.
Dallal also voiced the importance in numbers of those who support Gaza, especially in Arab countries where most governments have refrained from political solidarity with the people in Gaza.
“It’s our responsibility as the social population of a country to demand, first, of our people to voice concern with the brutality that is being experienced in Gaza,” Dallal said, “and, second, to show our governments that perhaps the populous demands more than just silence.”