March for Israel: Tens of thousands rally in Washington amid Israel-Gaza war

Washington DC - Tens of thousands packed a rally in Washington on Tuesday to pledge unconditional support to Israel and condemn antisemitism in response to weeks of largely pro-Palestinian and ceasefire demonstrations in the US.

Thousands of people attended the March for Israel on the National Mall in Washington DC on Tuesday, as the Israel-Gaza war enters its sixth week following the October 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas.
Thousands of people attended the March for Israel on the National Mall in Washington DC on Tuesday, as the Israel-Gaza war enters its sixth week following the October 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas.  © Drew Angerer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

With senior members of Congress addressing the event on the National Mall near the Capitol, the crowd rapidly swelled with people wearing the white and blue colors of Israel and waving placards calling on Palestinian militant group Hamas to free hostages.

The demonstration, dubbed the March for Israel, centered on combating antisemitism and calling for the release of the 240 hostages held by Hamas, according to the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, one of the organizers.

Hamas fighters stormed across the border from the Gaza Strip, killing around 1,200 people, most of them civilians, according to Israeli officials. Since then, the Israeli army has heavily bombarded Gaza and launched a ground invasion, killing more than 11,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Palestinian health authorities. The heaviest fighting has centered around Gaza hospitals.

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Speaking by video link from Jerusalem, Israeli President Isaac Herzog – who previously implied that the civilians being bombed in Gaza also bore responsibility for the Hamas attack – told the crowd they were "marching for the right of every Jew to live proudly and safely in Israel and the US and the world."

"No one will break us," he said.

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Mike Johnson also spoke, as well as family members of the hostages.

"America feels your pain," said Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the US.

Despite fierce controversy in the US over the intensity of the Israeli military response to the October 7 surprise cross-border attack by Hamas, rally goer Sergei Kravchick, said, "We of course support Israel.... We're doing exactly what we have to do."

The 64-year-old said he was "proud" to see the large turnout.

The demonstration comes after multiple large protests around the country – and in cities around the world – calling for a ceasefire and criticizing the Israeli military.

March for Israel goes on despite tight securtiy and stiff tensions

Marchers hold signs at the March for Israel on the National Mall in Washington DC on Tuesday.
Marchers hold signs at the March for Israel on the National Mall in Washington DC on Tuesday.  © ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

Security was tight in Washington for the March for Israel, reflecting the wider tensions. Police stationed snowplows as temporary roadblocks nearby and a military style armored vehicle was also deployed. Protesters' bags were searched before being allowed to enter the area.

In contrast to pro-Palestinian demonstrations from New York to Los Angeles that have focused on the suffering of civilians in Gaza, Tuesday's crowd turned its anger on Hamas.

Signs included "Annihilate Hamas" and "From the river to the sea, we support democracy," but also "Let Israel finish the job" and "From the river to the sea, Israel is all you'll see."

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Mark Moore, a Christian pastor from Chicago, said he considers Israel "the only bastion of freedom" in the Middle East and that although he wanted peace ultimately, "I'm praying for peace... secured through victory so it does not continue with this endless cycle of violence."

However, any suggestion of a ceasefire – deemed "outrageous" by House Speaker Mike Johnson – was almost universally rejected, with chants of "No ceasefire" breaking out several times during the event.

CNN host Van Jones' speech was drowned out by those cries, as well as some heckling, when he briefly mentioned his wish for peace and "no more bombs falling down on the people of Gaza."

Sharing the stage with the high-profile Democratic and Republican leaders was Pastor John Hagee, a televangelist and extreme Christian Zionist who in the past has said the Holocaust was God's punishment for Jewish disobedience.

Cover photo: Drew Angerer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

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