Full rights for Palestine

NEW YORK--Hundreds of Palestinians and solidarity activists marched September 15 from Times Square to the United Nations headquarters to demand self-determination for Palestine. Despite cold and rain, the demonstrators, estimated by organizers at some 400 people, kept up loud chants and songs throughout the rally and march.

The demonstrators chose the date to coincide with the opening of the UN General Assembly session, where the Palestinian Authority (PA) is asking for a vote the recognition of Palestine as a state. But protest wasn't in support of the PA. In fact, one march endorser, the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, has bitterly criticized the statehood bid as a "distraction that unjustifiably and irresponsibly endangers Palestinian rights and institutions."

Prominent Palestinian activists such as Ali Abunimah and Joseph Massad have also argued that the bid, even if successful, will amount to official acquiescence to the establishment of a Bantustan on a fraction of historic Palestine--without real sovereignty, equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, or any right of return for millions of Palestinians living in refugee camps.

Organizers called the demonstration to send the message that these basic Palestinian rights must not be forgotten in the discussion of statehood. The Obama administration has publicly announced its intention to exercise the U.S. veto at the UN Security Council if a statehood measure comes to a vote.

In addition to sovereignty, equality and the right of return, the demonstration demanded an end to all U.S. aid to Israel and expressed support for the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Demonstrators handed out thousands of postcards explaining these demands to passersby and attracted cameras from numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera, CBS, Reuters, Associated Press, the New York Times and Democracy Now!.

The rally and march were sponsored by an ad-hoc Palestine UN Solidarity Coalition and endorsed by more than 53 community and solidarity organizations, including Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and Jewish organizations. Speakers included Palestinian-American poet Remi Kenazi; Riham Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel; Israeli professor and boycott activist Dalit Baum; and human rights lawyer Lamis Deek.