Does anyone care about the six members of my family in Gaza?

The Movement for the Status of the Palestinians in the United States During the March for the Redemption of the Insurrection on Gaza

Washington was supposed to be a hub of protest. As dump trucks and police vehicles blocked Pennsylvania Avenue, protesters formed a line at the Museum of the Palestine People, which is close to the White House.

Saturday’s marches, organized in cities like New York, Nashville, Cincinnati, Las Vegas and San Francisco, have been calling for a cease-fire and lifting of the siege.

In a poll released by Quinnipiac University on Thursday, 84 percent of voters said that they were concerned that the United States would be drawn militarily into the Middle East conflict. Nevertheless, a majority of respondents supported aid for Palestinian civilians in Gaza and more aid for Israel.

The demonstrations on Saturday were poised to reflect the constellation of causes and groups that have long connected themselves to Palestinian politics, including student organizations, labor unions and antiwar campaigns.

Many people lifted up their banners before the protest started to raise awareness of issues, such as Let Gaza Live! There was a Palestinian flag covered coffin that lay on the ground not far away from where more than a dozen people stretched out another flag. A Muslim call to prayer was heard in the plaza around 1 pm.

The protesters on the edge of the demonstration sat on a ledge outside the White House Visitor Center to make their point. They held signs saying to stop U.S. military aid to Israel. One said, “You lost my vote.”

“I have a very strong affiliation with marginalized people — brown, displaced, refugees, Black,” Ms. Oliver recalled saying at the beginning of the conversation. “We usually hear the perspective of those in power, and our school is about amplifying the voices of the disempowered.”

Neither came with an organized set of questions, but each had goals. Ms. Minkin said she partly wanted Ms. Oliver to understand the justification of existence of the state of Israel and to recognize the role of antisemitism. Ms. Oliver was interested in how her views on racism and oppression of the Palestinians in the United States were related to U.S. support for the Israeli government.

Ms. Minkin thought that question was an oversimplification. Jews have historical ties to the land along with the Arabs, she said. She talked about decades of violent attacks against Jews in Israel.

“We have to acknowledge that the policies that have been applied this far have failed,” she recalled saying, expressing her hope for both groups to live in peace. I hope that at the end of this, the people who are supposed to be leading us cracked open some sort of large policy.

Ms. Minkin, thinking back to decades of collapsed peace talks, thought that idea was unlikely. “Do you really think they want to live peacefully in Israel?,” she remembered responding.

Ms. Minkin wanted to steer the conversation away from politics. She is no apologist for the current right-wing government and has always supported a two-state solution, she said.

An Emotional Witness for the Hamas-Carrying Insurgents. The Case of Mohammed Abujayyab

Ms. Oliver didn’t speak about her personal history. Her brother, Morgan, who had served in the Army in Afghanistan for years, died by suicide. She created the Morgan Oliver School to help honor him. The people who suffer most in wars, Ms. Oliver said later, are the poor and powerless — the soldiers who volunteer and the civilians who are considered collateral damage.

As she searched for ways to describe her own views, Ms. Minkin tried to emphasize her empathy for Palestinians. She noted that her sisters were both experts on the Middle East with close relationships with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Ms. Oliver nodded, but privately she recoiled. She was reminded of how white people used to say that they had a Black friend. “That doesn’t mean you are oppressed in any way at all,” she thought.

I have felt lost watching progressive friends, women’s rights activists, influencers and celebrities I admire stumble to find the words to condemn the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians, among them six of the human beings I love most in the world. I scroll through my news feed and cry out for the innocent Palestinians in Gaza, even as I think of my family and other Israeli hostages. I look at the face of Mohammed Abujayyab, a man in Los Angeles who was trying to save his grandmother in Gaza, and I see my own pain reflected in his expression.

An hour after discovering they were missing, I spotted some of my family on a TikTok video. They were being carted away, surrounded by machine-gun-carrying terrorists shouting “Allahu akbar.” The pain that I experienced at that moment and in many afters is so sharp that it’s hard to keep a straight face. Each morning, I wake up and realize my family is being held captive by terrorists.

Recently, my brother and I hung “kidnapped” posters of our family around Williamsburg in Brooklyn, a famously liberal community I’ve been part of for over a decade. Within a day, almost all of them had been ripped down. Posters with the slogan, “Honor the martyr,” replaced some of them. The behavior feels so useless and cruel, but it isn’t the type of behavior that makes me feel isolated.

I feel lonely when I scroll through IG and see friends and acquaintances from different faiths, reposting a protest image calling for peace between their fall foliage photos. These people who watch my stories but who don’t demand the release of the hostages, despite my desperate pleas for help and humanity, are the ones who have never shared the faces of my 3-year-old cousins. The silence is suffocating. To be able to have a different truth from the one I am carrying is something I would not give to not know.

It feels cacophonous and I haven’t seen anyone in a long time say a single word about me. I have watched former co-workers be quick to share false headlines for Hamas yet only say a few words of sympathy. They believe my suffering to be a result of some universal truth that they hold higher. Is it really impossible to hold these two truths at the same time — that both Israeli and Palestinian civilians are suffering at great cost? Or are they simply unwilling to express that publicly? I don’t know which is worse.

So maybe you can imagine my surprise the first time I heard my Israeli family called “white colonizers.” When did we become white? How could a family fleeing persecution be seen as colonizers? I have heard this description for years; perhaps I shrugged it off too easily. The loudest, most inflammatory voices and the phrase “I’m tired of it” haven’t made me feel betrayed. Rather, it’s those who have remained silent when they otherwise would never be, like the women who lifted up the #MeToo movement alongside me yet now refuse to cry out against even the violence against women or rape reported by an Israeli military forensics team.

At the beginning of all this, I promised I would scream to the ends of the earth for my family, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. The people in my extended family have joined me in demanding the safe return of our loved ones and all the hostages. For now, we have been told that my family is alive, and this will give us hope for the future. My aunt Riki, whose family has been reduced to four around a table with a mother crying, is trying to keep her head above water. People come and bring food, similar to when they were at shiva.

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