On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds of people arrived at the Rhode Island State House in Providence to demonstrate their support for Palestine. Several speakers spoke to the audience for an hour at the state house before organizers from Rhode Island chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) led the protesters on a march across the city. Despite the rainy, miserable weather, attendants remained in protest for nearly four hours, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Among the hundreds who attended the event, many were of Middle Eastern descent. Others were Jewish, such as Joel Reinstein, a member of the Rhode Island chapter’s Jewish Voice for Peace. According to Reinstein, “There’s no military solution that can do anything but continue a cycle of violence… It’s absolutely imperative that everyone in the United States raise their voices to demand a ceasefire.” This solidarity between some American Jews and American Muslims has been on display at each of the many similar protests occurring across the country, a cry for peaceful negotiation as opposed to bloody conflict.
The march, led by Palestinian organizers as well as representatives from DSA and PSL, took protesters around the downtown area of the city before finally arriving at the Providence office of the Textron corporation. Textron is a defense company, and is one of many American defense corporations who has received a contract from the American government to supply weapons to Israel. This has always been a trend in America–when we become involved in a war, stock prices for defense companies surge. For example, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman have seen significant increases in share prices between Oct. 6, the day Hamas attacked Israel, and Oct. 13, a week later. Lockheed Martin’s stock shares increased by about $43, with General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman stock increasing by about $24, and $67, respectively. American corporations such as these profit immensely from war, as conflict generally means a huge investment from the American government. For example, Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin received a respective $25.4 billion and $44.5 billion contract for a combination of roughly $70 billion in 2022. These are just the top two companies that receive military contracts using American tax dollars. Compared to the defense corporations’ $70 billion, America offers the Agency for International Development (USAID) $58.5 billion. In the case of the Middle East, American funded weapons are often used to destroy the infrastructure that America then has to fund USAID to repair. In the case of Israel-Palestine, protestors at the march in Providence stood for many values, one of the most prominent being a condemnation of the American government’s use of their tax money to fund the bombing of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza strip. According to the United Nations, approximately 1,400 Israeli citizens have been killed since Oct. 7, while 5,087 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s retaliation. 62 percent of Palestinian deaths have been women and children, and another 15,273 people have been injured.
The Israel-Palestine conflict is incredibly complex and controversial. A number of Americans have been fired from their jobs for allegedly advocating pro-Palestinian sentiments. Such statements have often been described as anti-semitic. The film Israelism, produced by American Jews Eric Axelmen and Sam Eilertsen, explores the difference between anti-semitism and criticizing a government’s military occupation, particularly in the case of Israel. According to the filmmakers, criticizing Israel for its forced dispossession of land and other human rights violations of the Palestinian people is not anti-semitic and is an entirely necessary criticism. Within the landscape of such a controversial conflict, protecting free speech may be incredibly important if all perspectives are addressed as they should be.