Cultures and regions from all over the world are represented in New York, but the conflict between Israel and Palestine is specially perceived. While New York Jews comprise approximately 13 percent of the population, making it the largest Jewish community in the world outside Israel, New York's Palestinian community is also the largest in the United States, with nearly 250.000 members (equivalent to almost 4 percent of the American Jewish community).
American public opinion and voters are generally more sympathetic to the Israelis than to the Palestinians. Jews and evangelical Christians are among the most politically engaged groups and this is shown in political decisions. Historically, the alignment of the United States with Israel is understood as a counterattack to the Soviet alliance with the Arab countries. Annually, the United States gives Israel billions of dollars in aid, it permanently blocks UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel and backs every military offensive.
In recent years, the demands of the Palestinian community in New York have joined other social movements such as Black Lives Matter, generating synergies and increasing the number of people in protest actions. Behind many of them is a young Palestinian-American law student, Nerdeen Kiswani.
In line with the position of Ilhan Omar, the Muslim congresswoman from Minnesota who enfuriated Donald Trump and is part of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez current, Nerdeen is the founder of the Within Our Lifetime organization and has recently become one of the activism emerging voices. LPO interviewed her outside the headquarters of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) organization before a protest against the Gaza attacks.
Why gathering on IDF headquarters?
Organizations like friends of IDF finance genocide. The Israeli army kills Palestinian with impunity, 45 during the last weekend, 15 were children. They bomb the most densely populated area in the world, Gaza, incessantly. How many times do we have to stare at it? How many times do parents have to bury their children while they tear down their houses? We are here because the US support for Israel must stop.
Do you think that New York does not support Palestine?
I wonder how many times do we have to ask the world to look at the Palestinian suffering and take a stand against Zionist neo-colonialism and its institutions. New Yorkers live in the same city where there is the headquarters that seeks funds for this genocide. We cannot allow Eric Adams to be our mayor if he tweets that he is with Israel. Palestinians have the right to defend themselves. Palestine is not an exception and has the right to fight for its freedom. If you call yourself a progressive, you must support Palestine.
You got your University, CUNY Law, to issue a statement in support of the Palestinians and their allies after several attacks you suffered on campus.
At the beginning of my first semester as a law student, I was attacked: they tried to stop my speech at graduation. It is their way of intimidating those of us who fight for justice. I attended the CUNY to study the tools for my community and fight for justice. I wanted to learn with my colleagues, to fight for the liberation of black people, indigenous people and all those who live under neo-colonialism and imperialism, and against the structures of white supremacy. CUNY has been the first university in the United States to support Palestinian liberation in a statement. It is historic: freedom of expression for Palestinians has never been supported before. It is not just freedom of speech, we must firmly oppose the oppression of the Palestinian people. This is what I want to do every day at work, and this is the narrative that the Zionist are trying to ban, which is what they did by attacking me.
Why do you say that living in the United States means supporting Israel?
The dollars we pay in taxes fund this. Each one of us, whether paying annual taxes or buying things. Part of this money end up in bombs thrown at the homes of Palestinians. We do not want this to be done in our name. 72 years of genocide. We will fight and resist.
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