by Girard Mariano Lopez

Photo Credit: Emily Luy Tan

AN ESTIMATED 500 local and international community attendees converged at Daan Park, Taipei for a solidarity march with Palestine called “Taipei Peace Rally (台北和平集會)” with the theme of “Ceasefire Now, End Apartheid (以巴停火,反對封鎖)” last Saturday afternoon, November 25, 2023.

The two-hour event was organized by For Peace Taiwan (可以自由巴), with a brief forum about the current situation in Palestine and the importance of solidarity, and participants marching around the 64-acre park. Attendees hailed from the local Muslim community, artist collectives, human rights, anti-imperialist, and LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, as well as a diverse nationality of supporters including those from Europe, U.S., Middle East (Jordan, Egypt, Turkiye, etc.), South Asia, Southeast Asia (mostly Indonesian) alongside their Taiwanese & Palestinian counterparts.

Photo credit: Emily Luy Tan

Five main demands were declared at the beginning of the event, including a permanent ceasefire, a stop to the ongoing genocide of Palestinians, an end to the apartheid of the Israeli government in Palestine, returning freedom to Palestine, and calling unto the Taiwanese government to demand a ceasefire via diplomatic means. Leaflet zines were also distributed urging everyone to join the global “Boycott, Divest, Sanction” (BDS) movement”, an international effort aimed to stop buying from companies complicit to the ongoing genocide in Palestine. Corporations in Taiwan singled out to be boycotted were Carrefour, Puma, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Disney, McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza, Starbucks, and  Pizza Hut.

Paper watermelon popsicles, bearing a QR code leading to a Chinese language site with articles about the Palestinian plight, were also handed out. Placards and canvas artworks also bore faces of Palestinian children and civilians who have been killed, statistics of the current genocide, and slogans of “Taiwan Can Help Palestine”, a twist on the famous Taiwanese government international solidarity catchphrase “Taiwan Can Help” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo credit: Emily Luy Tan

The Taipei Peace Rally joins other international actions for a ceasefire in Palestine that were held on the same day in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Argentina, and more.

“Although Israel promised a temporary ceasefire for four days, it was only a false one. When hundreds of Palestinians tried to return to their homes in northern Gaza today, Israel opened fire on civilians, killing two, (雖然以色列答應了暫時停火4天,但這個只是一個虛假的停火。當今天幾百名巴勒斯坦人民,想要回到北部加薩的家時,以色列向平民開火,射殺了兩名民眾)” Lala, a representative of For Peace Taiwan, said during the event. “Gaza is now facing a serious humanitarian crisis, and the massacre of children, journalists, health care workers and the handicapped is in violation of international law. (當下的加薩正面臨嚴重的人道主義危機,對兒童、記者、醫護人員及障礙者的屠殺正違反國際法)”.

Photo credit: Emily Luy Tan

The day before the rally, the Israeli Economic and Cultural Office representative in Taipei published a statement against the Ceasefire Now rally held earlier last November 22, 2023 beneath their office, accusing protesters of ignoring the hostages & fatalities from Hamas’ October 7 attack. For Peace Taiwan responded that the indiscriminate attack on October 7 was a response to Israel’s long-standing 75-year oppression, and that while those in attendance express sympathy for those victims of the attack, such argument were being utilized to ‘rationalize the Israeli government’s war crimes as well’. Furthermore, they also point out the 101 UN staff, 53 journalists, 205 medical personnel, and 36 civil defense personnel that have been killed by the IDF, inquiring if the Israeli government regards them as ‘Hamas’ too.

“We are not denying [the Oct. 7 attack], and I totally understand the feeling of their families and friends. But what about mentioning that there are right now over 10,000 Palestinian “hostages” in Israeli prisons; over 500 of them are kids. These Palestinians have been denied sunlight, family, and freedom for years. These kids have to grow up in jail only because they are Palestinians!,” Maisam, an Arab social media influencer, emphasized in her address to the crowd, opening her speech by stating that she is not in support just because she is an Arab or Muslim, but because she is human.

Photo credit: Emily Luy Tan

Hazem, a Palestinian scholar in Taiwan, appreciated the surprising turnout and called on everyone to continue to spread awareness about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. He called on people to fight back against the misinformation online that “Palestinians want to kill Jews”, emphasizing that they do not resist Israel’s government for its religious identity, but resist it as it is a colonial and occupying force. “Palestinians need equality and our right to be free from oppression and the system of occupation. We don’t want the Israeli siege on Gaza to continue anymore. We don’t want the Israeli apartheid to continue anymore, we don’t want to see Israeli soldiers and military vehicles in our streets anymore. We don’t want them to control the air we breathe and the water we drink anymore,” he proclaimed in his address.

Meanwhile, other speakers included Leah Lin, representing the Taiwan human rights sector and Zheng Ping (鄭平) from the Taiwan Muslim youth who also called on Taiwanese to open their eyes towards the ongoing genocide and suffering in Palestine, and regretted the fewer proportion of locals in the event. Zheng Ping highlighted how people of different ideologies and backgrounds have come together to stand against a “massacre that threatens humanity itself”.

Photo credit: Emily Luy Tan

“The peace and freedom we enjoy here [in Taiwan] comes with responsibilities. How many more women and children need to be killed before we realize the severity of the situation?”, Zheng Ping declared. “Even Jewish individuals protesting the Israeli government for the Palestine people are accused of being ‘anti-semitic’ against other Jews. Is this argument reasonable at all?”

Lin pointed out the minimal attention given to the Gaza humanitarian crisis by Taiwanese media, lamenting that they “repeat Western media talking points”, and called upon them to publish more “independent stories” that included context about the historical displacement and oppression of Palestinians.

Photo credit: Emily Luy Tan

“Standing here I feel conflicted, we see a lot of our international friends [coming out for Palsetine] but not a lot of Taiwanese and even fewer Taiwanese NGOs here with us. I believe that they do care but they are still sorting out their own stance as our media is poisoned and our media is, in fact, American media,” Lin stated. “The whole world must stand together and not let any government come between our ‘people to people’ solidarity. I am calling unto our Taiwanese human rights advocates—we commemorate the 228 massacres, we commemorate our society’s historical injustices and murders, and now we are seeing another massacre happening in front of our eyes. I wish in the future more of us can all stand here together [for Palestine].”

Cultural worker Wei Lun from Taiwanese punk group “Suck Glue Boys” also unveiled their canvas artwork “Free Palestine“ (解放巴勒斯坦). They criticized the Taiwanese government for being silent and not condemning the attack on Palestinian civilians and hospitals by the Israeli Defense Force, urging everyone to recognize that the true “terrorism” happening is the ongoing mass killing in Gaza.

Photo credit: Emily Luy Tan

“When Hamas attacked Israel, the Taiwanese government immediately condemned this instance of ‘terrorism’. However, when the Israeli forces bombed hospitals, houses, mosques, and churches, the Taiwanese government didn’t say anything,” Wei Lun said.

Two brief confrontations between three remote Zionist counter-protesters and protest attendees occurred. As Zionist instigators shouted accusations of event attendees being “terrorists” and one expressing “joy about the suffering of the children in Gaza”, protesters raised their chants even further in response. However, both disputes were peacefully resolved as both authorities and ushers from the organizers intervened.

Photo credit: Emily Luy Tan

Artistic performances were also present in the event as Yvonne from For Peace Taiwan and another male participant read respective poems in Mandarin and English, respectively. The event concluded with an open mic, where a volunteer explained their canvas mural bearing the faces of 200 Palestinian children and civilians killed by the Israeli Defense Force, a Filipina student in Taiwan expressed the connection of resisting the “US war machine” and the ongoing human rights crises in Gaza and the Philippines, a Jordanian living in Taiwan recounting the experiences of her Palestinian grandmother, and solidarity speeches from other international attendees.

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