You are reading

Large Pro-Palestinian Rally to Take Place in Sunnyside Saturday

A pro-Palestinian rally in Bay Ridge, pictured above, drew thousands last week (Photo: Within Our Lifetime/Facebook)

May 21, 2021 By Allie Griffin

A large crowd is expected to turn out in Sunnyside Saturday for a pro-Palestinian rally that comes after nearly two weeks of conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas.

The rally is being organized by Within Our Lifetime (WOL), a Palestinian-led, New York City-based group that put together a similar protest in Bay Ridge last week that drew thousands.

The event will take place following a cease-fire that went into effect Friday and was brokered by Egypt. The halt to hostilities comes after more than 230 Palestinians — including over 60 children — have been killed in Israeli airstrikes and 12 Israelis killed in rocket attacks launched by Hamas, the New York Times reported.

The Israeli airstrikes have also left thousands of Gazans without a place to live, and critics of Israel say its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank needs to end.

Meanwhile, pro-Israel supporters argue that the Israeli government is just defending its people from Hamas, which it deems a terrorist organization whose goal is to destroy Israel. Hamas fired 4,000 rockets into civilian areas of Israel.

Nerdeen Kiswani, the Chair and Co-founder of WOL, told the Queens Post that her organization has been flooded with calls from Queens residents calling for a rally in support of Palestine in the borough.

“People have been reaching out to us for a while now from Queens, from Staten Island, from the Bronx asking to bring the Palestinian cause to their neighborhood,” she said. “Especially Queens —the most diverse place in the world — and it’s always been the people of the world who support Palestine, so we know there’ll be massive support for people there.”

WOL is encouraging attendees to come to Sunnyside and bring flags, signs and keffiyehs to the rally at 1 p.m.

Many young, progressive leaders in western Queens have expressed support for the plight of the Palestinians in recent times, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani of Astoria and State Sen. Jessica Ramos of Jackson Heights.

Conversely, support for Israel is stronger among elected officials in central Queens.

A pro-Israel rally was held in Forest Hills last week attended by Council Members Barry Grodenchik, Karen Koslowitz and Jim Gennaro. They urged the public to stand with Israel, and speakers said that Israel has every right to defend itself from the onslaught of indiscriminate rocket attacks aimed at its civilians, reported the Queens Chronicle.

A number of western Queens officials will be attending the Sunnyside rally — dubbed Defend Palestine — Saturday.

Mamdani and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents western Queens, told the Queens Post that they plan to attend. At least five candidates running to represent the 26th Council District said they are going.

Mamdani, who attended the Bay Ridge rally as well as one in Manhattan, said he feels the tide is shifting in favor of the Palestinian cause.

“As somebody who got into organizing because of the issue of Palestinian solidarity, this moment right now feels fundamentally different from any one that I have been a part of in the past,” he said.

The recent uptick in violence in the Middle East — combined with the Black Lives Matter movement last summer — has led many Americans to voice their concerns regarding the Israel Palestine conflict, Mamdani said.

He said that a growing number of people are no longer afraid to speak out against the Israeli government. In the past, he said, people feared that there would be repercussions for doing so.

“Right now, we’re at a moment where that threat of consequence is losing its power,” he said, arguing that people are now speaking up now because there is this “a realization that if we do not speak up, then this will only continue to escalate.”

Mamdani, who is an ardent supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, said the vast majority of his constituents support the movement as well.


Some critics and pro-Israel supporters, however, have called the BDS movement anti-Semitic.

Mamdani said that charge is completely inaccurate.

He added that attempts to label BDS or any critique of the Israeli state as anti-Semitic are purely a means to silence any criticism.

“I can tell you that as somebody who has advocated for Palestinian rights for many, many years, I am sadly very familiar with this charge because it seeks to conflate any critique of Zionism, with a critique of Judaism,” he said. “And that is not those two things are not the same.”


Legislators, he said, are also more inclined to speak up on the conflict as well as on the U.S.’s role in aiding Israel.

“For a long time Queens elected officials marched in lockstep with pro-Israel propaganda and that era is over,” he said. “It’s not because we have a new crop of legislators that have their own ideas — it’s because we have legislators who actually reflect the values of their constituencies.”

Ocasio Cortez, whose district includes much of western Queens including Sunnyside, has boldly condemned the Israeli government in a series of tweets over the past two weeks.

She also introduced a resolution this week to oppose a $735 million sale of American-made weapons to the Israeli government.

A representative for Ocasio-Cortez was unable to confirm on Wednesday whether she would attend the rally.

Meanwhile Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who will be out campaigning Saturday for Queens Borough President, said he would stop by.

Van Bramer said he believes in a two-state solution, and condemned the Israeli government for bombing a building that housed the Associated Press newsroom and apartments.

“Israel and Palestine both have a right to exist and their people deserve to live in safety…,” he said in a statement. “Bombing the building that housed news organizations is wrong. Killing innocent people and dozens of children in Gaza is wrong, and it always will be.”

State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Assembly Member Cathy Nolan — both of whom represent districts in western Queens including Sunnyside — didn’t respond to inquiries asking if they planned to attend the rally.

However, several candidates running for to represent the 26th Council District, will be attending.

Candidate Badrun Khan, a first-generation immigrant and the daughter of Bengali parents, said she plans to attend Saturday and is urging her family and friends to join her.

“I am promoting this event to all my family and friends because I believe this is an important cause,” Khan said in a statement. “I’m glad people are finally starting to take notice of these humanitarian crimes.”

“Hundreds of innocent Palestinians have died, Israel is using our [military] resources to target media outlets, schools, and hospitals,” Khan said. “We know this is wrong and we must stand for justice. We have a responsibility to protect human rights.”

Amit Bagga, who is also running to represent the 26th Council District, said that he will participate in the rally Saturday. He issued a statement about the conflict.

“Both things can be true: Israel has a right to exist, and the Israeli State’s occupation of the Palestinian people has never made it safer,” he said. “Israel’s only path to the peace and security is to comply with the legally binding U.N. Article 242 of 1967 (which led to its own peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan), and to end the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank immediately.”

Candidates Jonathan Bailey, Emily Sharpe and Steven Raga also confirmed that they planned to attend.

Raga, who lived in the Middle East in 2009, said he saw the devastation in Palestine firsthand while there.

“The images and videos coming out of Palestine have been heartbreaking,” he told the Queens Post. “I’m glad we have this opportunity to demonstrate our solidarity for the people of Palestine right here in Queens.”

 

email the author: [email protected]
No comments yet

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

‘Where do we go now?’ Michaels set to close its doors in Fresh Meadows next month

The Michaels located at 187-04 Horace Harding Expwy. in Fresh Meadows will be permanently closing its doors on Feb. 23. The announcement that Michaels will be leaving the Fresh Meadows Shopping Center has led to an outpouring of reactions from many community members.

“We know this is disappointing to our customers in Queens, but we hope to continue to serve them at our other locations in New York City or online at Michaels.com,” a spokesperson for Michaels said in a statement to Patch.com.

Queens senator holds Lunar New Year celebration at Tangram in Flushing

Hundreds of revelers joined state Senator John Liu for a Lunar New Year celebration Friday night at Tangram in Downtown Flushing. The event featured free food from 25 local restaurants, as well as musical and cultural performances and giveaways.

Liu was joined at the event by several local leaders, including Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, Councilwomen Sandra Ung and Linda Lee and many more. Many of the leaders spoke about the importance of this celebration to the Queens community as they celebrated the start of the Year of the Rabbit.

These Queens eateries are participating in the upcoming NYC Restaurant Week

NYC Restaurant Week is underway, so nix that skillet and bring family and friends to your favorite neighborhood spot, or get inspired and break bread somewhere new and different. During this special citywide culinary event, food-lovers will enjoy curated menus and prix-fixe prices that are easy on the wallet.

Bookings began on Jan. 17 and are available until Feb. 12, and you can reserve a table at 30 participating Queens restaurants, along with hundreds more across the five boroughs.

Flushing BID launches free online raffle to support local businesses in the community

The Flushing Business Improvement District (BID), on Friday, Jan. 20, announced the launch of Lucky7, a free online raffle to celebrate the Lunar New Year, promote local businesses, and bring shoppers from other regions to downtown Flushing. 

“This event is to celebrate the culture in Downtown Flushing. The food culture, shopping culture, but most importantly to celebrate the Lunar New Year culture in Downtown Flushing,” said Dian Yu, executive director of the Flushing BID. “This is a unique opportunity for people not familiar with Downtown Flushing to truly experience the food and fun that’s only available in Flushing.”

Queens lawmaker reintroduces legislation to make Lunar New Year a federal holiday

As the Asian American community prepares to begin celebrating Lunar New Year on Sunday, Jan. 22, Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng on Friday reintroduced a package of legislation to commemorate the holiday. 

Meng’s legislative Lunar New Year package includes the Lunar New Year Day Act, which would establish Lunar New Year as the 12th federal holiday recognized across the United States. It also includes a resolution, “Recognizing the cultural and historical significance of Lunar New Year,” that commemorates the long history and explains the cultural importance of the holiday. 

Lunar New Year ‘special celebration’ held at Queensborough Community College in Bayside

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz joined Councilwomen Sandra Ung and Linda Lee on Wednesday, Jan. 18, for a special celebration in honor of the Lunar New Year at the Student Union Building at Queensborough Community College in Bayside.

Ung escaped the Cambodian genocide as a child, and her family emigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old. Now she represents Flushing with its enormous Asian American population. She said she is proud to see how many Lunar New Year celebrations she sees around the city compared to when she first arrived in Queens.

BP Richards, local leaders speak with small business owners in Flushing in effort to improve the neighborhood

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards joined several Queens leaders Wednesday morning for a walking tour through Flushing to get input from the community on how to improve the neighborhood.

The Jan. 18 tour comes in the wake of public safety concerns in downtown Flushing. While crime was a main concern among the business owners Richards spoke with Wednesday, there were other areas they wished to see improvements in across the area, including traffic and sanitation issues.