WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected to gather Tuesday afternoon on the National Mall in a forceful show of support for Israel and to condemn antisemitism in the wake of increased bias incidents across the U.S.
A “March for Israel” in Washington, D.C., comes as the war between Israel and Hamas enters its sixth week, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejecting calls for a cease-fire but suggesting Sunday there might be a possible deal to release hostages Hamas took from Israel last month. Palestinians also face a humanitarian crisis while they evacuate from Gaza amid heavy fighting as the death toll climbs, hospitals crumble and resources like fuel, food and power remain scarce.
Organizers of Tuesday’s event said they not only are calling for the return of the hostages, about 220 people, but also want to underscore “Israel’s right to remain free from violence and the right of Jewish communities in North America and around the world to live free from hate.”
“There’s no place for such an ancient form of hate,” said Gil Preuss, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, a chapter of the Jewish Federations of North America, an event organizer.
He added that Hamas’ surprise ambush on Israel, which left hundreds dead, should be an opportunity for peace-seeking Israelis and Palestinians to seek the eradication of the militant group.
“I firmly believe that Israelis and Palestinians need to be able to live in freedom and security, and it is the goal that both populations would like to have,” Preuss said. “The question is how do we get there?”
With such a large-scale rally set to draw busloads of supporters from throughout the Northeast, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday that the National Guard will coordinate with local police.
In addition, the event’s security level was raised to the highest designation under a system communicated by the Department of Homeland Security, typically done based on crowd size, expected attendance of members of Congress and perceived threat level.
Organizers expect congressional leaders, actors, activists and family members of the hostages to be among the speakers.
The event, while it is billed as a “march,” is expected to stay within the National Mall rather than spill out into the streets, as organizers have said upward of 60,000 people may attend. A march through the streets of Paris against antisemitism attracted about 100,000 people Sunday, and it was supported by representatives of the major political parties.
At least one pro-Palestinian group, the Washington chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement, asked its supporters on Instagram “not to engage” with Tuesday’s pro-Israel event. Since the fighting began on Oct. 7, pro-Palestinian organizations have held their own rallies in cities across the U.S. and globally.
Demonstrations have also roiled college campuses as schools struggle to contain escalating rhetoric and threats of violence. They include an Arab Muslim student at Stanford University who was struck in a hit-and-run that authorities are investigating as a hate crime and the arrest last month of a Cornell University junior accused of making online threats to Jewish students.
The Anti-Defamation League said Monday that in the month since the war between Israel and Hamas began, it has documented 832 antisemitic incidents of assault, vandalism and harassment across the U.S., a 316% increase from the same period last year.
“As we have seen repeatedly, when conflict arises in the Middle East, particularly when Israel exercises its right to self-defense, antisemitic incidents increase here in the U.S. and around the world,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the league’s CEO, said in a statement.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations also said it has seen a sharp rise in bias incidents since Oct. 7. Since then, the group said, it has received 1,283 “requests for help and reports of bias,” a 216% increase from an average period last year.
Corey Saylor, the council’s research and advocacy director, said it was the largest wave of Islamophobic bias the group has documented since the Trump administration implemented an immigration ban.
“Both Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism are out of control in ways we have not seen in almost 10 years,” Saylor said in a statement.