Guest Commentary: Davis Silent Marchers Interrupt Farmers Market to Call for an End to Starvation in Gaza

credit: Megan Wilkinson.

By Yolo for Palestinian Justice

Around 120 marchers dressed in black and holding empty plates silently processed through Davis’ bustling farmers market on Saturday to protest Israel’s starvation of Gaza. Led by three Palestinian-American women carrying large placards with the words “Let Gaza Live,” marchers of all ages followed in a long column, holding up high empty plates decorated with many messages including “Famine is not self defense,” “Jews say no starvation in our name,” and “Ceasefire now.”

The procession made its way slowly twice through the market, prompting many shoppers and vendors to stop their weekly shopping and read the many signs and messages. Some of those watching reported being deeply moved by the solemnity of the march that brought the harsh reality of Gaza’s destruction into a weekly event that is widely loved in Davis. The march concluded with protestors gathering on the main green in Central Park, close to the “solidarity space” created in the wake of George Floyd’s murder to provide a community meeting point for social justice organizing in Davis.

After a two-minute silence to honor all the innocent lives lost so far in this conflict—and those yet to come, Deema Tamimi, a Palestinian American and Davis resident, noted how hard it was in the farmers market “not to think about how our bountiful privilege is so strikingly different from what Palestinians in Gaza are going through right now.” She said that one aid organization had reported how one closed route to Gaza would allow aid to reach a starving population in just ten minutes. “Take a moment and think about that. Imagine if all of Davis residents were displaced from their homes and we were all in tents, crowded into Central Davis and we had little to no food with mass starvation looming, and just sitting at the edge of town was all the bounty of this beautiful farmers market blocked by government and military powers from getting to us. That is exactly what is happening in Gaza to the more than two million displaced Palestinians, nearly half of them children.”

Tamimi welcomed the recent shifts by the US administration towards calling for a ceasefire, but asked: “Why did it take the tragic and horrific deaths of foreign aid workers to tip the scale? Why were the deaths of more than 13,000 innocent children not enough to sway our government?’ She also said that ‘the only way to ensure that Israel stops killing innocent Palestinians through their military aggression and their starvation tactics is to end the massive amount of funding and support that they receive from us.”

Speaking after her, a Davis resident born in Gaza recounted a story of the Palestinian territory that was the opposite of the devastating pictures that flood our screens, recalling memories of the coastal strip being like a giant farmers market, with wonderful food (strawberries, citrus, fresh fish) and beautiful flowers, where people looked out and cared for each other. He said his street, his neighborhood, his school were all no longer there, destroyed by bombs, but “what does remain? We remain, the Palestinian people. Our resistance and persistence, and desire for life will always remain.” He thanked all the Davis residents who have stood up for Palestine: “You represent the unhate. Your bravery and courage gives us strength.”

The speeches were followed by the reading of four powerful poems by Palestinian poets—Lina AlSharif, Hiba Abu Nada, Rashida Murphy and Refaat Alareer. Two of them (Hiba and Refaat) were murdered by Israeli airstrikes in the war on Gaza.

One of the readers, UCD student Sarah from Davis Graduate, and Medical, Veterinary, and Law Students, four Palestinians, shared the different ways people could support solidarity efforts including by supporting a fundraiser for the Middle East Children’s Alliance. Another reader, Nick Buxton, a Davis father of two said “I and so many people in this city do not understand why Congressman Mike Thompson and the Biden administration believe that any number of Palestinians can die as long as Israel says it is necessary for its security. Do they not believe that all lives are equal or that only Israeli or US lives matter? Their failure to demand a ceasefire – and to use the huge leverage the US has over Israel – shows a callous disregard for Palestinian life.”

The gathering concluded with a song led by Erica Ballinger from Jewish Voice for Peace, with everyone joining the chorus: “Raising our voices, higher and higher, Stop the Genocide, Let Gaza live.” Marchers then added their plates to the “Solidarity Space” fence along with flowers and candles.

The Davis march took place three days after President Biden for the first time called for an “immediate ceasefire” in the wake of the killing of seven employees of the international food charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) and after months of overwhelming international condemnation of Israel’s invasion of Gaza. Meanwhile, Israel’s blockade of large numbers of aid trucks—on top of six months of relentless and indiscriminate bombing—has brought Gaza to the point of imminent famine. The international community’s Integrated Food Security Phase Classification system estimates that 1.1 million people—about half of the Gazan population—face starvation.  More and more news reports are coming in of Palestinians making “bread” from animal feed ground into flour or “soup” from water and weeds. The UN’s most senior human rights official, Volker Türk, has said there is a case that Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza and therefore committing a war crime.

With the majority of US inhabitants supporting a ceasefire and with growing anger by Democrat voters in a key election year, the Biden administration has started to change its rhetoric on the war. However the US government continues to provide more than 69% of Israel’s imported weapons and has cut off funding for UNRWA, the main UN agency that provides humanitarian support to Gaza.

Tamimi said it was up to residents in towns like Davis to stand up and stop the starvation and end the genocide that has killed over 33,000 Palestinians: “We must demand a ceasefire and ensure that it actually occurs. We must insist on aid being allowed in unfettered. There must be consequences if Israel does not heed these calls. The people in Gaza do not have the luxury we have of being able to put pressure on the US government, which is the main state supporter of Israel, so we must use our voices and our power to amplify theirs.”

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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