Pro-Palestinian rally at Liberty Pole is among many around the world

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — As Israeli defense forces prepare an expected ground invasion of Gaza in the coming days, pro-Palestinian rallies have been cropping up across the globe, including in Rochester.

A rally at the Liberty Pole Friday was peaceful but the outrage expressed by the pro-Palestinian supporters was palpable.

Basem Ashkar, who was born in Palestine but now lives in Rochester, said that showing up at Friday’s rally was personal.

“Our religion, as Muslim, we respect all human beings. we aren’t against nobody. you could be a Jew. you could be a Christian. you could be a Muslim. we should just be equal,” Ashkar said.

It’s been nearly two weeks since a Hamas terrorist attack killed more than 1,400 people in Israel, prompting many in Gaza to flee their homes.

A ground invasion of Gaza by Israeli Defense forces is expected in the coming days and is a decision that Jewish Federation President Meredith Dragon said is the right thing to do.

“It’s a very, very difficult for Israel because the desire is to preserve innocent civilian life as much as possible but it’s complicated. So I think the ground invasion hopefully will minimize the loss of Palestinian life,” Dragon said.

After hearing about Friday’s pro-Palestinian rally in Rochester, Dragon said that she wasn’t surprised and stands for everyone’s right to free speech, but not violence.

“They have become very common, not just in Rochester, but across the United States. but I guess the issue I have with them is when they turn into anti-Zionist, anti-Israel rallies and bring that kind of rhetoric to these rallies,” Dragon said.

So while they may not see eye to eye with each other on the issue of the war, Ashkl said he’ll never stop supporting the people of Palestine

“I’m very proud to be an American. to give my voice to speak. because I ask Allah and he ask that I be voice of peace and justice for Palestine,” Ashkar said.

Supporters at the rally Friday rejected the idea of moving the Witness Palestine film festival from the Little Theatre to online. Dragon says she understands why the theater did so at such a sensitive time.