At a New York branch of Israel’s Bank Leumi, eighteen protesters locked together as a human barricade across Fifth Avenue at 9am this morning. Covered in fake blood, the protesters lay piled in the street at the foot of a mock Caterpillar bulldozer. The act of civil disobedience referenced the murder of US peace activist Rachel Corrie by an Israel army Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza earlier this month.
Chanting “Occupation is a crime, from Iraq to Palestine,” the protesters shut down Fifth Avenue for over an hour, refusing to let New York go about its business while the US war on Iraq places the lives of Palestinians at greater risk than ever.
Police became stained with red liquid as they arrested the die-in participants. Sixteen protesters were roughly taken into custody, adding to the ranks of the nearly 1000 peaceful anti-war demonstrators violently removed from New York streets over the last several weeks. Video witnesses recorded police officers dragging protesters painfully across the street. Protesters were also subjected to violence from onlookers, who kicked, spat at and threw things at the peaceful protesters as they lay motionless in the street.
“This war is realizing the worst fears of Palestinians,” said protester Mark Field, a New York activist against the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. “While the world’s attention is focused on Iraq and Arabs are cast as the enemy, Israel has stepped up its assaults on Palestinian towns. Under cover of war, Israel is freer than ever to label every Palestinian a terrorist, to detain civilians indefinitely, to demolish civilian homes and seize additional Palestinian lands.”
“Bank Leumi is a pillar of Israeli finance, with $51 billion in assets. The illegal occupation of Palestinian towns and the killing of civilians are supported by Bank Leumi’s investments in the Israeli military economy,” said protester Rachel Fineberg, a Jewish human rights activist. “Enough is enough we’re shutting this war machine down.”
“We are human rights activists many of us have seen the incredible violations of Palestinian human rights first-hand,” said protester Lila Greene, a queer activist who visited the West Bank to support non-violent Palestinian organizing in 2002. “We refuse to allow Israel to remove us as witnesses to war crimes. The Israeli army killed Rachel Corrie, they killed Iain Hook and they regularly kill Palestinian non-violent organizers but they can’t bury the truth. Neither Israel nor the United States can commit war crimes in secret anymore. The whole world is watching.”