Pro-Palestine and pro-Israel rallies held on Thousand Oaks Blvd as protesters call for continued peace amid Israel-Hamas ceasefire

Leah+Orly+and+Gali+Reuben+show+their+support+for+Israel+at+a+protest+in+Agoura+Hills%2C+CA.+on+Sunday%2C+May+23%2C+2021.+The+protest+was+to+demonstrate+support+for+Israel+after+the+May+21+ceasefire+between+Israel+and+Hamas.+Photo+credit%3A+Ryan+Bough

Ryan Bough

Leah Orly and Gali Reuben show their support for Israel at a protest in Agoura Hills, CA. on Sunday, May 23, 2021. The protest was to demonstrate support for Israel after the May 21 ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

By Ryan Bough

After the May 21 ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict, pro-Palestine and pro-Israel protester’s rallied to have their voices heard, some calling for justice, others calling for peace. These voices found themselves in two locations near Thousand Oaks on Sunday afternoon.

On the intersection of Thousand Oaks Blvd and Westlake Blvd, cries for justice for what the protesters called a ‘Palestinian genocide’ echoed down the streets. On the opposite side of town at the corner of Thousand Oaks Blvd and Kanan Rd, there were also cries; cries for peace and to stop hate.

Ahmad Jomaa holds up a "free Palestine" sign
Ahmad Jomaa holds up a “free Palestine” sign during a pro-Palestine protest in Thousand Oaks, CA. on Sunday, May 23, 2021. The protest was to demonstrate support for Palestine after the May 21 ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

The pro-Israel rally was noticeably smaller than that of the pro-Palestine rally down the road; but where they lacked in size they made up in spirit.

Israeli songs and dancing filled the sidewalks as cars passed, by honking their horns in support.

American and Israeli flags flew side by side and signs were held calling for an end to Jewish hate and pledging support to Israel.

Moorpark residents Elisa Semel and Lisa Gailey attended the rally in-order to show support to Israel and the Jewish people.

“I support Israel and all the things that she does for our world because she makes it a better place,“ expressed Semel.

Gailey added, “Everybody has a right to survive and to live. That goes for both sides. But Israel doesn’t have any other place to go.”

Elisa Semel (left) and Lisa Gailey (right)
Elisa Semel (left) and Lisa Gailey (right) wave flags and signs demonstrating their support for Israel during a pro-Israel protest in Agoura Hills, CA. on Sunday, May 23, 2021. The protest was to demonstrate support for Israel after the May 21 ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

After a few hours, many of the participants picked up their flags, signs and speakers to move to a larger rally in Beverly Hills.

Meanwhile, just under four miles down Thousand Oaks Blvd, another rally was occurring. Hundreds of participants had gathered to show their support for Palestine and called for accountability in the civilian deaths during the 11 day confrontation between Hamas and Israel.

Crowds sang chants, brandished signs demonstrating their support to Palestine and waved flags as cars drove through honking in support.

Unlike the Pro-Israel rally, the Palestinian flags flew alone.

One of the reasons behind the absence of American Flags was pointed to the Biden Administration and past administrations lack of action towards the conflict explained Kimia Mohebi, one of the co-organizers of the pro-Palestine rally, who expressed her dissatisfaction with the United States’ actions.

“In the case of the United States, we have a lot of our taxpayer money going towards Israel and just like we can vote in certain elected officials, we can vote them out just as quickly,” stated Mohebi.

Omar Jubran
Omar Jubran holds up a “Don’t Support the Genocide” sign during the pro-Palestine protest in Thousand Oaks, CA. on Sunday, May 23, 2021. Hundreds of supporters gathered at the intersection to deliver their request for justice amid the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

The United States has been a long-time funder of Israel, dating back to 1948 when It was formed. In 2016, the Obama administration signed the largest-to-date aid agreement between the United States and Israel. The agreement pledged an overall package of $38 billion over the span of a decade.

In total, the United States has given Israel an estimated $146,245.109 million and it has given Palestine an estimated $5.2 billion since 1994. The United States remains the largest funder of both nations.

In April, the Biden administration vowed to restore up to $235 million in aid to Palestinians after the assistance was cut by the Trump administration.

Supporters of Palestine were not the only ones who were not satisfied with the administration’s response to the conflict.

Semel believed that President Joe Biden should do more to guarantee the defense of Israel.

“We’re very concerned. I definitely would like the Biden administration to be a little bit more proactive in terms of defending Israel instead of just saying, ‘Israel can defend itself’,” claimed Semel.

Pro-Israel protesters hold signs and flags in support of Israel during a protest in Agoura Hills, CA. on Sunday, May 23, 2021.
Pro-Israel protesters hold signs and flags in support of Israel during a protest in Agoura Hills, CA. on Sunday, May 23, 2021. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

In an attempt to stay neutral between the two conflicting parties, Biden vowed that the US would help rebuild Gaza and also restock the Israeli missile defense system, known as the Iron Dome.

Through the chanting and honking, a similar message emerged from the two different rallies. A call for peace.

Daniel Ruben, an attendee at the pro-Israel rally, explained that although there is a difference in options between the pro-Palestinians and the pro-Israelis, they do not see each other as enemies.

“This side is by no means against the Palestinian people or their ability to be able to govern themselves. We’re all for it, you know, for peace, to live side by side, for us to be able to exist and for them to be able to exist separately, equally, peacefully,” said Ruben.

Co-organizer Mohebi echoed a similar statement about the pro-Palestine rally.

“We are simply advocating for human rights, our children that are dying,” explained Mohebi. “In no way was this protest, anti-Semitic. No one said anything about Jewish people. We’re talking simply about the Government of Israel.”

Pro-Palestine protesters hold signs and flags in support of Palestine during a protest in Thousand Oaks, CA. on Sunday, May 23, 2021.
Pro-Palestine protesters hold signs and flags in support of Palestine during a protest in Thousand Oaks, CA. on Sunday, May 23, 2021. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

The cease fire began on May 21, but not before an estimated 242 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children. Civilian casualties were not just in Gaza as 12 Israelis, including two children, were also killed in the days of rocket fire.

The United Nations Security Council convened to issue a statement on the 11 day conflict.

In the statement, members of the UN expressed that they “mourned the loss of civilian lives, resulting from the violence,” and called for a “full adherence to the ceasefire.”

Due to the large loss of innocent civilian lives, Nina Haq, a co-organizer of the pro-Palestine rally, believed that issue is a humanitarian one now.

“If you’re not supporting Palestine or for Palestine, it sounds like you’re anti-humanity, because people are dying. It shouldn’t be political. It should just be the fact that no one should die. Israelis shouldn’t be dying. Palestinians shouldn’t be dying. No one should be dying,” expressed Haq.

With the rise of the Pro-Palestine movement, a dark shadow follows in its wake in which many Jewish Americans and Israelis know all too well. A rise in antisemitism.

While not directly related to the Pro-Palestine movements, some believe that Anti-Semitics are using it as platform to spread hate. At the pro-Israel rally, Ruben spoke about his fears of the rising anti-Semitism that he has seen.

“It’s really frightening how there’s a whole turn to anti-Semitism. Again, I’m a student of history. And it’s something that’s repeated itself. It’s just something that’s so embedded,” said Ruben.

Ben Schiftan
Ben Schiftan holds up a large Israeli flag during a protest in support of Israel on Sunday, May 23, 2021 in Agoura Hills, CA. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

The Anti-Defamation League released preliminary data showing a drastic rise in what it described as anti-sematic incidents, showing 193 incidents were reported in the week of the conflict start, up from 131 in the previous week.

Haq heard about the rising fear that Jewish hate may be following the pro-Palestine movement but ensures their message is not anti-Jewish, it’s anti-war.

“If you’re a pro-Palestine, it doesn’t mean you’re anti-Semitic, doesn’t mean you’re anti-Jewish, any of this,” explained Haq. “I think when people are like, oh, pro-Palestine, you’re anti-Semitic, it’s, it doesn’t make sense because we’re just here to support and say, No one should be dying in the Middle East anywhere.”

Mohebi mirrored Haqs message regarding Palestinians liberation and anti-Semitism.

“I think a lot of people conflate anti-Semitism with Palestinian Liberation. And I think that that’s a propaganda tool and tactic on the part of a lot of global countries and Israel to, you know, get us to shy away from our message, but in no way is anti-Zionism, anti-Semitic,” said Mohebi.

A protester hangs out of a car window waving a Palestine flag during the pro-Palestine protest in Thousand Oaks, CA. on Sunday, May 23, 2021.
A protester hangs out of a car window waving a Palestine flag during the pro-Palestine protest in Thousand Oaks, CA. on Sunday, May 23, 2021. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

As of May 25, the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel continues to hold. The Israel-Palestine conflict itself, has been going on for nearly 53 years.