Puppies, babies, and discomfort: reflections on the Mass March for Gaza

me with a

On Monday, I took part in a march to a Hewlett-Packard conference to hold the company responsible for its complicity in Israel’s massacre in Gaza, as part of a contingent from Jewish Voice for Peace. I’m glad I went, but I had a lot of mixed feelings about the march. Here are some of my thoughts, in no particular order:

– I really, really, really love dogs, so I was excited to meet two sweet pups who attended the march along with their humans: Dory, the black lab mix pictured above, and her husky brother, Nicky. Dogs make everything better.

– There was a good turnout, which was heartening. And I got to meet Britni of Fiending For Hope and her infant daughter, Teagan. It’s great to meet people from the internet in real life. And, as someone who attended her first peace vigil as an infant, I always appreciate seeing babies representing at rallies.

– Marching past Boston’s Holocaust Memorial gave me chills. This is what “Never Again” means, in action.

– I am really not a fan of white college-age kids wearing keffiyehs.

– I was really uncomfortable with a good third of the things that were chanted during the march (when I could actually hear them–the chanting was often poorly organized, and some people would be trying to chant one thing while others were chanting another). One of them was “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which usually implies getting rid of Israel completely, and sometimes even kicking all Jews out of Israel/Palestine. The phrase “from the river to the sea” may sound pleasant out of context–like “from sea to shining sea”or “from the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters”–but within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no matter which side the speaker is on, it’s never a good thing.

– Another chant I felt really, really uncomfortable with was variations on “Long live the intifada!” “Intifada” is an Arabic word which means “shaking off” or “resistance,” and I’m fairly sure that the vast majority of the protesters were using it in that literal sense. But it also refers to multiple specific uprisings, including one in which Palestinian suicide bombers killed and traumatized civilians throughout Israel. I feel that it’s impossible to use the word without bringing up that association, no matter how it is intended, and I wish that the Palestinian solidarity movement would stop using it completely. Continue reading