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'Palestine Will Be Free!': Pittsburgh Muslim & Jewish Groups Gather In Oakland To Condemn Violence Against Palestinians

A demonstrator holds a sign during a rally in support of Palestine in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood on Friday, May 14, 2021.
Kiley Koscinski
90.5 WESA
A demonstrator holds a sign during a rally in support of Palestine in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood on Friday, May 14, 2021.

Dozens gathered at Forbes Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard in Pittsburgh Friday afternoon to stand in solidarity with Palestinians. Political, religious and other cultural groups called on the Biden administration and Congress to publicly condemn and oppose the Israeli government's actions in Gaza.

NPR reports the recent violence has killed at least 103 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including at least 27 children, according to Palestinian health officials. Israeli officials say seven people in Israel have been killed, including two children.

Demonstrators condemned the ongoing crackdown at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, as well as Israeli plans to forcefully expel Palestinians from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

Christine Mohamed, executive director of the Muslim advocacy group CAIR Pittsburgh, said Friday's demonstration was meant to bring awareness to the violence.

"Palestine must be free, from the river to the sea!" Mohamed led in a chant with the crowd.

Across the street was a pro-Israeli demonstration of a couple dozen people.

"I came to support peaceful co-existence in Israel, the only state in the Middle East where Jews, Muslims, Christian, Druze, Bedouin and others are free to live together peacefully and practice their religions," said Rona Kaufman, an associate professor of law at Duquesne University and co-organizer of the gathering.

"We gathered to show solidarity with our Israeli brothers and sisters, Jewish, Muslim and Christian alike who had taken to Israeli streets to show their unity against the war. We also gathered in opposition to calls for genocide against Israeli Jews, calls in the form of “From the River to the Sea.”

The song Kaufman takes issue with is, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," a chant that was sung by pro-Palestinian protesters across the street. Some have claimed the song is anti-Semitic.

Across the street, demonstrators with the Jewish Voice for Peace Pittsburgh and other groups present held signs that read, "Zionism is not Judaism."

Wasi Mohamed, senior policy officer at the Pittsburgh Foundation and former executive director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, said that if the U.S. wants to be progressive, it must recognize the struggle of Palestinians. And to do otherwise is “an ethical and political contradiction.”

Pittsburgh’s protest is one of several taking place globally this week after the raids in Gaza.

This story was updated at 6:42 on May 15, 2021 to clarify the position of Rona Kaufman on the issue of a one-state solution.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at