Palestinians and allies in N.M. renew calls for ceasefire in Gaza

Since Oct. 7, New Mexicans have held 14 protests calling for an immediate ceasefire

By: - November 13, 2023 4:30 am
A wide angle shot of people gathered beneath the water tower at the Santa Fe Railyard. An older Jewish man is speaking through a megaphone. The Palestinian flag and the flag of Veterans for Peace are flying. A sign made to look like the Palestinian flag reads: "PEACE PRAYERS PRESS"

Civil rights attorney, author and founding member of Santa Feans for Justice in Palestine Jeff Haas speaks during a rally calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza at the Santa Fe Railyard on Nov. 11, 2023. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

Each morning for the last five weeks, Sarah AlQirem has opened WhatsApp on her phone and waited. 

She’s waiting and hoping to see someone in her family’s group chat marked as active, open or typing.

“It hasn’t happened for the last 33 days,” said AlQirem, a 16-year-old Palestinian from Gaza and a student at United World College in Montezuma, N.M.

She was speaking alongside other Palestinians and their allies during a rally and march in Santa Fe on Saturday organized by the Santa Fe chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and Santa Feans for Justice in Palestine, to renew calls for an immediate ceasefire in the occupied Palestinian territories, and an end to the Israeli military occupation.

Her baby cousin, their mother and father were the first family members AlQirem learned had been killed by Israel’s recent airstrikes on Gaza.

“The child whose diapers I changed — and the people who changed my own diapers — dead, gone, buried,” she said.

Then the rest of her family in Gaza went radio silent and she stopped getting news from loved ones. She said they either made it out and can’t contact her, or they’re all dead.

On Oct. 15, AlQirem woke up to an Instagram story announcing her best friend’s death.

“How do you think it feels to wake up and see your people murdered on social media?” she asked. “The message that the media is sending to me is that I am worth less because I am Palestinian.”

Then on Oct. 23, she received the news that all 58 members of her family in the village where she grew up “were bombed, killed, slaughtered.”

“I have lost almost my entire bloodline,” AlQirem said. “I am one of the last people remaining. The only people I have left in Gaza were the closest friends that I had grown up with.”

Source NM could not independently verify her account.

New Mexicans have organized at least 14 other protests and actions calling for an immediate ceasefire since the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7:

  • Protests outside the University of New Mexico bookstore on Oct. 8 and Oct. 13.
  • Protests outside the offices of members of Congress in Santa Fe and inside senators’ Albuquerque field offices on Oct. 23.
  • YUCCA unfurled a 130-foot-long banner listing the dead on Nov. 1 outside the offices of members of Congress in Santa Fe. At that time, the count was more than 8,500 killed, but that number has since risen to more than 10,000. That figure is likely an undercount, according to a top U.S. State Department official.
  • A march in Albuquerque on Oct. 28.
  • A protest at the Santa Fe Indigenous Center on Nov. 3.
  • A phone zap to pressure New Mexico’s Congressional delegation on Nov. 3.
  • A protest and march at Robinson Park in Albuquerque on Nov. 6.
  • UNM students, staff, and faculty walked out of their classrooms and offices on Nov. 9.
  • UNM School of Law students signed a letter calling for a ceasefire on Nov. 9.
  • UNM Health Sciences Center students gathered in Albuquerque on Nov. 10.
  • A protest at the Taos Farmers Market on Nov. 11.
  • A protest at Robinson Park in Albuquerque on Nov. 12

Israel controls all entrances and exits to the West Bank, according to B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

Another Palestinian student at United World College, who asked to be identified by his initials, A.A., listed three members of his family who have been killed during his lifetime by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

The 17-year-old described the occupation and how Israeli checkpoints impacted his daily life.

For instance, his hometown of Bethlehem is less than 14 miles away from Ramallah, but due to multiple checkpoints controlled by the Israeli military, the trip took seven hours. He needed to visit Ramallah for an interview to study in New Mexico.

Most recently on Nov. 10, an Israeli sniper killed A.A.’s former classmate at Bethlehem High School, 17-year-old Mohammad Ali Mohammad Azya. Israeli forces prevented an ambulance from reaching Mohammad and prevented his father from driving him to a hospital, according to Defense for Children International.

“I can remember, in every single class, how smart he was — how he would help me with math problems,” A.A. said of Mohammad.

‘Deep pain of familiar violence’

Natasha Durel, an ally and activist with Palestinian roots, recently heard a crack in her mother’s voice that awakened in her a pain of familiar violence.

Durel has friends in Gaza, and she said her grandmother and grandfather were expelled from Bethlehem and the West Bank during the expulsion of more than 750,000 Palestinians from what became Israel in 1948. 

Palestinians refer to this expulsion using the Arabic term Nakba, meaning “catastrophe.”

“This deep, deep pain of familiar violence has rudely awakened in many of our bloodlines from a slumber to which we still can’t find peace,” said Durel. “From surviving the Nakba, living the horrors of the Holocaust, and violence that has happened on the Tewa lands that we are standing on today.”

A vertical photo shows people marching up Galisteo Street in Santa Fe. A person with red hair holds a sign that reads: "STOP KILLING Journalists, Physicians, Children, Destroying hundreds of trees, the land and water!"
Protesters calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza marched up Galisteo Street in Santa Fe on Nov. 11, 2023. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

The world has watched over the previous five weeks irreversible damage and crimes against humanity unfold, Durel said, including collective punishment, forced evacuations, and attacks on medical staff and journalists.

“I hope you’ll stand with me today to no longer hide, to at all costs refuse to live in a society that asks us to turn a blind eye and numb to the very things devastating us to our core,” she said.

The daily horrors and atrocities of children buried under rubble and elders forced to flee their homes are breaking people like Joanna Kaufman.

“We remember the Nakba was not that long ago,” Kaufman said. “That legacy is a stain on all people of conscience, and I’m here to say: Never again is now.”

Kaufman said she is a Jewish woman of Ashkenazi and Sephardi heritage whose family are survivors of thousands of years of exile, genocide, ethnic cleansing, persecution, pogroms, forced conversion, and murder of their children and elders. She said she was raised with the conviction that never again will there be genocide of their people, and Palestinians’ people are her people.

“Antisemitism and Islamophobia will never be eradicated unless we stand in solidarity, and today, that means calling for a ceasefire,” Kaufman said. “I stand with the Israelis who are begging for a ceasefire. I stand with the Israelis who survived the pogroms in their ancestry, in their families, most recently on Oct. 7, who are begging for ceasefire, that this war not be perpetuated in their name.”

Durel said the public will not make this much noise only to disappear.

“We have to recognize the power that they want us to forget, which is burning inside each and every one of us standing here today,” she said. “Together, we will continue to stand for a ceasefire.”

Above hundreds of people marching down Guadalupe Street flies the Palestinian flag, and a cardboard sign that reads: "Grief is an honoring."
Protesters calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza marched along Guadalupe Street in Santa Fe on Nov. 11, 2023. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.