Protests Saturday part of gatherings across the nation and around the world
By Art Van Kraft for Ashland.news
Dozens of demonstrators gathered on Ashland Plaza on Saturday to protest against Israel’s actions in Gaza in response to Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7 that killed more than 1,400 people. They joined tens of thousands across the country and around the world on Saturday, according to reports from the Associated Press, New York Times and Washington Post, calling for a halt to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and supporting a cease-fire.
What began as a small gathering of protesters in mid-afternoon slowly grew to more than 50 lining Main Street at the Plaza by late afternoon. Homemade signs and a 20-foot puppet drew honks and waves from passing cars.
The protest was a diverse crowd that included people from Israel, Palestine and Ireland.
Ashland resident Ryan Navickas, one of the first to arrive, held up a large sign and waved at motorists. He said the news Americans receive is slanted.
“All they are seeing is white corporate media,” Navickas said. “In terms of what we are seeing in Palestine, it’s white bombs and brown bodies.”
Crystal Plotner, a resident of Talent, has extended family in Palestine. She said she has been involved in activism around Israel and Palestine for two decades.
“I’m here supporting Palestine and the end of the siege of Israel’s bombardment on Gaza,” Plotner said, “and vocalizing that we don’t support our tax dollars being used by Israel to commit war crimes in Gaza and Palestine as a whole.”
She said the information most Americans get about the conflict is one-sided.
“There is a very heavy bias in American media,” Plotner said. “I’ve lived abroad and frequently the information you’re getting in other countries versus what you’re seeing in U.S. media has a glaring discrepancy.”
Ashland resident Avram Sacks stood on the curb and watched as passersby honked, apparently in support of the protest. He said he understands grief, as his mother fled Hitler and his grandfather died at Auschwitz.
“There is trauma on both sides, so our trauma comes from the Holocaust,” Sacks said. “When we see all these Jews being killed, we are triggered, so you want to lash out, to punish, to get revenge. But we need to understand the Palestinian Holocaust when Israel became a state. It’s a day of mourning in the Arab world when 750,000 Palestinians were driven out of Israel. So when they see bombing in Gaza, that’s their trauma, that’s their rage and they want to lash out and they want to punish.”
Sacks says the Israeli government and Hamas are like two dangerous mirrors.
“Some Israelis are saying, ‘you people are like animals, you’re the devil because of what you did,’” Sacks said, “so whatever we need to do to get Hamas, that’s OK, because we are just defending ourselves and if we have to kill 10,000 Palestinians, including women and children, that’s OK.
“Well, Hamas is saying what you’ve done to us, making us live in an open-air prison for 16 years with a blockade and every two years bombing our cities and killing thousands. So, Hamas and the Israeli government are just mirrors of each other. The vast majority of Israeli citizens don’t want to kill anybody, they don’t support what Netenyahu is doing.”
Sacks said the whole picture isn’t being told.
“A lot of the people that were killed by Hamas were peace activists whose relatives say, ‘don’t do this in the name of my relative who was killed, because they wouldn’t want this,’” Sacks said. “And most Palestinian people are just everyday people who are trying to survive. It’s a very small group of people on both sides who are creating all this violence.”
James Keigher is a native of Ireland who frequently travels to Europe. He said the protest against the war has prompted fundraising concerts in Ireland and he was impressed with the strong opposition against the war worldwide.
“Terrorism sometimes springs out of oppression,” Keigher said. “In my case (in Ireland) it was the long arm of the British Empire, that still exists to a lesser extent. That’s what created Hamas I’m pretty sure. I don’t support Hamas, but I do support the poor people who are suffering under oppression.”
“I want a cease fire first, then I’d like to see if something could be done about respecting the people of Palestine,” Keigher added. “I think if Hamas released the hostages right away it would make Israel stop right away. It looks like a genocide to me and it’s wrong. And that’s why I’m out here. Everybody should be out here and the American government shouldn’t be supporting Netanyahu, period.”
Eric Navickas and his brother Ryan held up a large sign and waved to honking motorists. Eric Navickas, a former Ashland City Council member, is no stranger to protest, having been involved in numerous community issues in Ashland in the past. He said he and his brother came out Saturday to stand in protest of Israel’s actions in Gaza.
“Seeing the situation in Palestine — we’re seeing escalation and bombardment of people within Gaza, I think we have no choice but to be out here on the streets speaking out,” Eric Navickas said. “This is being done in the name of the U.S. government that’s fully supporting an active genocide against people who cannot leave.
“We’re up against an incredible propaganda machine that’s supporting this war and that might be deterring some people from coming out, but I think any sign of protest is a powerful statement of solidarity with the people of Palestine.”
Ryan Navickas held up his half of the sign while explaining what he characterized as America’s “long history of colonialism.” He said the news Americans get is slanted.
“We live in a country where people believe in the righteousness of settler colonialism,” Ryan Navickas said. “We live on stolen land and our sympathies lie with settlers who are sometimes fleeing religious persecution, but that doesn’t excuse committing ethnic cleansing or genocide against the people whose land we’re colonizing. The world is beginning to see this Israeli project in the context of the 20th century history of settler colonialism. That population of people being colonized, the Palestinians, are dehumanized to maintain dominion of the land.”
The group plans to hold a candlelight vigil at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, at Ashland Plaza. They plan to have music and pay homage to the deaths of Israelis and Palestinians.
Art Van Kraft is an artist living in Ashland and a former broadcast journalist and news director of a Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate. Email him at email@example.com.
Nov. 6: Erroneous reference to Crystal Plotner as Palestinian removed.