The escalating violence in the Middle East and has sparked a series of pro-Palestinian protests in Louisville.
Last week, the Israeli government launched airstrikes that killed top Hamas military leaders in response to rocket launches that killed three civilians, and the conflict has approached full-scale war.
Several local peace groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Louisville Committee for Peace in the Middle East, have pointed out that over 90 Palestinian civilians have been killed thus far and that densely populated areas are being targeted by the Israeli military.
At least two protests have been held in Louisville, including one Monday at the University of Louisville.
Pro-Palestinian activist Ibrahim Imam has helped organize the local demonstrations. He says residents should be aware that the U.S. gives Israel $3 billion in foreign aid, and are therefore complicit in the country’s military actions.
“I want people to realize that the crimes that are being committed are being committed against Palestinians,” he says. “The Palestinians are the victims in this, and I want people to look deeply into this and not buy the cliche that are being fed to them. And Israel should not be rewarded for its aggression at the tune of $15 million a day.”
Other critics have said the attacks are motivated in party by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming re-election. But Jewish Community of Louisville spokesman Matt Goldberg says the strikes are in reaction to terrorists killing three Israeli citizens.
“The underpinning of this conflict is the fact there is a terrorist regime in charge of Gaza,” he says. “They’re the ones who are launching rockets at Israeli communities, Israeli cities, Israeli towns and Israeli homes. And they’re purposely launching their missiles at civilian populated areas.”
At least 750 rockets have been launched towards southern Israel this year, according to The New York Times.
A CNN survey shows 57 percent of Americans support Israel’s airstrikes against Hamas and that a majority sympathize more with Israel in the conflict, but that support differs depending on a person’s political affiliation.
The fighting has raised fears of a widening conflict, and the possibility of a repeat of Israel’s 2008 invasion of Gaza following similar rocket attacks by Hamas into Israel.
“Although most Americans think the Israeli actions are justified, there are key segments of the public who don’t necessarily feel that way,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Only four in ten Democrats think the Israeli actions in Gaza are justified, compared to 74% of Republicans and 59% of independents. Support for Israel’s military action is 13 points higher among men than among women, and 15 points higher among older Americans than among younger Americans.”
“I honestly don’t know why Democrats would be less supportive of Israel at this time in its actions against terrorism,” says Goldberg. “I will say that the U.S. and Israel share the very same values as far as dealing with terrorist activities. They will do everything they can to protect the civilian populations in their own countries and even in the countries that they’re attacking.”
But Imam says American news outlets and elected officials—namely President Obama—are bias towards Israel, and have ignored the economic blockade in Gaza that restricted imports and exports.
“The entire world sees this and the U.S. government, media and unfortunately are newly re-elected president still turns a blind eye and uses the same line that Israel has a right to defend itself,” he says. “Nobody talks about Palestinians right to self-determination, nobody talks about Palestinians right to a government and nobody talks about Palestinians right to a homeland that was stolen by Israel to establish itself in 1948.”
The escalating violence has been met with international concern, and mediators are hoping to have terms for Gaza cease-fire once the Israeli government and Hamas military leaders present their conditions.