Rome, May 17 (Arab News) – Thousands of people gathered over the weekend in squares in Italy’s main cities and elsewhere in the country to express solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Thousands gathered in Piazza dell’Esquilino, a huge square in Rome, waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans of support.
“We want to send a message to the world about the crimes committed by the Israeli occupation authorities against the Palestinian people, and the policy of racial discrimination, and expansion at the expense of the property and rights of the Palestinian people,” Youssef Salman, a Palestinian community leader in Rome, told Arab News.
Meanwhile, at the port in the city of Livorno, dockworkers belonging to an independent trade union organization refused to load weapons on a cargo ship after discovering that they were headed for Israel.
“Once we knew that containers with weapons and explosives headed for the Israeli port of Ashdod were loaded on the … ship, we decided not to carry on with our work,” said a spokesman for the Unione Sindacale di Base.
“We have no intention to facilitate the transportation of weapons and explosives that will be used to kill the Palestinian people, who are suffering so much and mourn hundreds of innocent civilian victims, including many children.”
Demonstrators also gathered in the city of Vicenza near Venice. “We want people to understand the situation in our land,” Rami Ayoub, a member of the local Palestinian community, told Arab News.
He said in Vicenza the Palestinian community is small — about 40 people — “but here there are people of many nationalities, and many Italians, in solidarity with us. We’re so grateful for this.”
He added: “Israel says we’re terrorists, but we’re only defending our land, our homes, our rights. We want to make people understand the difference between Israelis and Jews: It’s the state of Israel that occupies us — it’s not a question of religion but of politics.”
People also demonstrated at the Piazza San Lorenzo in the city of Florence. “The Israeli army is committing crimes against humanity in Palestine, against a people whose only fault is asking for freedom and justice,” Izzedin Elzir, the imam of Florence, told Arab News. “We’re all here to say clearly that we’re on their side, that we’re with them.”
In his speech to the crowd, flying a huge Palestinian flag that was then spread over the steps of the 14th-century basilica, Elzir called for the “support of the politicians for the Palestinian people.”
Thousands marched in the center of the city of Turin. Arabic music was played from speakers and the slogan “Free free Palestine” was chanted.
The island of Lipari, which has no more than 8,000 inhabitants, also hosted a demonstration in the square facing its port.
“As in other cities of Italy, we too wanted to express our indignation at the ethnic cleansing taking place in East Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank, and the bombing of Gaza,” Paolo Arena, president of local NGO Magazzino di Mutuo Soccorso, told Arab News.
“Once again, we find ourselves reading disconcerting news about Israel’s heinous attacks against the entire population of Gaza,” he added.
“We join all those who condemn without hesitation this new violence, and the death of defenseless and innocent civilians.”