Hundreds of thousands of people gathered at the National Mall in Washington DC this afternoon (Tuesday) for the ‘March for Israel,’ a rally in support of the Jewish State following the Hamas massacre of over 1,400 people on October 7 and the subsequent wave of antisemitism in the US.
The event was organized by the Jewish Federations of North America and Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which stated that “the March will be an opportunity for all Americans to come together in solidarity with the people of Israel, to demonstrate our commitment to America’s most important ally in the Middle East, to condemn the rising trend of antisemitic violence and harassment, and to demand that every hostage be immediately and safely released.”
Marchers held up signs that read “Our love is bigger than their hate,” “Either you stand with Israel or you stand with terrorism,” and “Free hostages, Support Israel, Combat Antisemitism.”
The main rally was preceded by a student-led rally. Congressman Ritchie Torres (D-NY) spoke at the earlier rally.
Rep. Torres stated that the US-Israel relationship is not just a Democratic or Republican value, it’s not just a progressive or conservative value, it is an American value encoded in our national DNA.”
He opposed attempts to impose a ceasefire on Israel, saying that “not everyone who’s calling for a ceasefire wants Israel to cease to exist, but everyone who wants Israel to cease to exist is calling for a ceasefire.”
The main rally began at 1 pm local time with remarks by Jewish actress Terri Sue “Tovah” Feldshuh and CNN political commentator Van Jones, who noted the support given to the Civil Rights movement by the US Jewish community and the rise in antisemitic incidents in the US over the last five weeks.
One of the first speakers was former Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky, who compared the unity displayed by world Jewry in the wake of the Hamas massacre to the support Soviet Jewry received from their Jewish brethren during the Cold War.
“Dear friends, together we’ll fight against those who try to give legitimacy to Hamas, we’ll fight for Israel, we’ll fight for every Jew, we’ll fight against antisemitism, we’ll fight for [our] values and against the corruption of those values which are at the center of our Jewish identity and American identity,” Sharansky said. “We defeated the Soviet Union, we’ll defeat our enemies today.”
Israeli President Isaac Herzog addressed the rally by video from the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where he also praised US Jewry for its steadfast support for Israel in the aftermath of the massacre.
US Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt told the demonstrators that “when protesters chant ‘Peace and glory to the martyrs,’ that incites more hatred, more deaths. It is a danger to the values and underpinning of the stability and decency of any society anywhere in the world. Hate is not a zero-sum game, hate and violence directed at any member of our society because of who they are is un-American and wrong.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Americans and Jews “must not forget history,” including the Holocaust, previous attempts to destroy the State of Israel, and the violent history of antisemitism.
Schumer led the crowd in several chants, including “never again” and “bring them home,” in reference to the hundreds of hostages being held in Gaza.
Rallygoers also heard from Orna Neutra and Rachel Goldberg, the mothers of two hostages who are being held by Hamas in Gaza, Omer Neutra and Hersh Goldberg-Polin.
Rachel Goldberg asked: “Why is the world accepting that 240 human beings from almost 30 countries have been stolen and buried alive?”
“What the world needs to start thinking about today is, what will your excuse be?” she said.
Alana Zeitchik, who has six cousins who are being held by Hamas as hostages in Gaza, said that “for too many in the West, the suffering of hostages’ families like mine has become a footnote, collateral damage in service of some perceived higher universal truth.”
“For too many, it feels like to care about one family, to love one child, is to diminish the suffering of another. But the simple human truth is that you don’t have to choose. You can abhor the suffering of Palestinian families and the suffering of Israeli families like mine,” she said.