ITHACA, N.Y.—Over 100 people marched peacefully across Ithaca Saturday to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.
The march, which kept to the sidewalks, stretched on for nearly a block and a half. Marchers waved signs, banners and Palestinian flags as they walked from the Commons to the bridge near the intersection of Meadow and Clinton streets.
The current chapter of the decades-long conflict has sparked dozens of local demonstrations, vigils, marches and other acts of civil engagement in Ithaca, including a recent installation at Cornell University featuring a row of empty baby carriages with posters displaying photographs and names of Israeli hostages.
An initial attack by Hamas militants on Oct. 7 resulted in roughly 1,200 Israeli casualties and 240 hostages taken. Israel’s counterattack has resulted in the deaths of over 13,000 Palestinians and the detention of hundreds of prisoners.
Protestors in Ithaca Saturday said they were particularly troubled that Israel’s counterattack has targeted civilian areas, like refugee camps, hospitals and schools. Israeli leaders said Hamas militants have used those civilian areas as “human shields” to conceal its military operations.
The event drew people of all ages, including quite a few parents pushing strollers or carrying young children. Several signs and banners drew attention to the large number of children who have been killed in the conflict. Up-to-date information is limited, but local officials reported at least 4,000 Palestinian children had been killed in the first month of the conflict — about 41% of total Palestinian deaths at the time. The United Nations reports that at least 29 Israeli children have died since Oct. 7.
Ayoub, a high school student, was among dozens of teens and children at the event. The Ithaca Voice has elected not to use Ayoub’s full name because he is a minor and there is a record of coordinated “doxxing” attempts targeting youth who show support for the Palestinian cause.
“There aren’t two sides to a genocide,” he said.
The vast majority of the casualties at this stage of the conflict are Palestinians, many of whom appear to be non-combatants. The bulk of Israeli civilian deaths occurred during the initial surprise attack by Hamas militants on Oct. 7.
“It is a two-sided conflict, but they’re both human and I just want to see people not being harmed anymore,” he added.
Ayoub said it felt refreshing to see the broader community speaking up about the decades-long conflict.
“They don’t like to talk about this subject in school, because it’s too ‘controversial,’” Ayoub said. “I keep talking to the principal because I feel like we need to let our voices be heard and actually talk about the subject.”
Ithaca College employee Sam Aldridge said he felt troubled by the role US funding has played in Israel’s counter strike in Gaza.
“We hold a lot of power in the United States,” Aldridge said. “We can make change happen from here. I have visited Israel, I visited Palestine, I am Jewish, and some of my family’s Armenian. I know what genocide does. And it’s happening now and it needs to stop.”
Aldridge said he had been a member of Jewish Voices for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine as a student at Columbia University. Columbia has since suspended both organizations. The two organizations also each have a chapter at Cornell University.
Cornell Professor Russell Rickford, whose words at an earlier protest sparked national news attention, also participated in the march. Rickford, who is currently on academic leave following the media uproar, declined to comment on record.
The march also drew people from further afield, like Israeli-American Dana Carmeli and her fiance, who both live in Cazenovia.
Carmeli, who said she is a descendant of Holocaust survivors and holds dual citizenship in Israel, said she felt it was important for someone with her background to speak out too.
“I think it’s important for people to hear that voice, because while obviously we want to center Palestinian voices right now, I think that the allyship is really important,” Carmeli said. “I think that Israelis and Jews who don’t condone this senseless violence should definitely speak out.”
Carmeli said she has been called a “traitor” and a “disloyal Jew” for speaking out in the past.
“I’ve always tried to bring it up in social conversation, just to mention to people, ‘Hey, listen, I know I grew up in Israel, but I’m incredibly ashamed of what my government is responsible for,’” Carmeli said. “But this time, I feel it’s different. It’s so much more intense. And I think that I could never see what’s happening and not speak up, especially now. I know someone living in Gaza. And I’m worried for his safety.”
Update (11/21/2023): This story has been updated to more accurately reflect comments by one of the participants in the march.