Tens of thousands of people have joined a rally in Washington, DC, to voice solidarity with Israel in its fight against Hamas and condemn anti-Semitism.
Tuesday’s “March for Israel” took place on the National Mall under heavy security, with senior members of Congress addressing a crowd of people waving the flags of the United States and Israel.
Many raised placards calling on the Palestinian armed group Hamas to free the at least 200 people taken captive during their surprise October 7 attack, which Israeli authorities say killed more than 1,200 people.
Israel’s response – weeks of relentless attacks on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, which officials there say have killed more than 11,300 people – has exposed deep divisions in the US, Israel’s most staunch supporter.
At the top of the mall, the top Democrats in Congress – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic leader Hakeem Jefferies – stood together on stage with Republicans Mike Johnson, the House of Representatives speaker, and Senator Joni Ernst from the central state of Iowa. They joined hands as Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the US, chanted, “We stand with Israel.”
But beneath the projection of unity, Democrats and the US itself are sharply divided over Israel’s course and its treatment of Palestinians.
The country has seen weeks of largely pro-Palestinian demonstrations amid growing calls for a ceasefire and President Joe Biden has toned down some of the full-throated solidarity with the Israelis from the war’s early weeks to urge more restraint.
A succession of speakers took the stage to condemn the Hamas attack and what they said was the virulent spread of anti-Semitism internationally.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog addressed the crowd via video from the Western Wall in Jerusalem. After “the largest massacre since the Holocaust,” he said, “let us call out together, never again.