Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Racial Justice and Social Equity

Palestinians urge San Diego officials to take action as Israel-Hamas death toll rises

Mayor Todd Gloria posted Wednesday night to his personal Instagram that the city stands with Israel. On Thursday morning, a coalition of Palestinian supporters gathered outside the county administration building to urge San Diego officials to condemn the siege on Gaza.

Summer Ismail, a Palestinian American student at UC San Diego, said the mayor’s post is “dangerous.”

“Now us in the community, we don't feel safe because we see our mayor and our city turn a blind eye to all Palestinians in every single war crime that Israel has committed against us,” she said.


The mayor said Thursday in a prepared statement that he does not tolerate acts of hatred in San Diego against anyone, called for mutual respect and condemned Hamas.

“The bloodshed in Israel was perpetrated by Hamas terrorists whose mission is to attack civilians and destabilize any possibility of peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” he said. “While this conflict continues, we cannot allow it to divide us here at home. We should all unite against terrorism. Both Israelis and Palestinians have suffered at the hands of Hamas.”

The Palestinian supporters issued three demands to public officials across the county:

  • “Issue public statements condemning Israel’s occupation of Palestine, the siege on Gaza, and egregious violations of human rights.
  • Acknowledge Palestinian human rights, namely their basic rights to education, healthcare, movement and above all — the rights of Palestinian refugees to return and live dignified in their homeland
  • Endorse federal resolutions and bills that condition, limit and end US. military funding to Israel”
Rola Abushaban speaks in support of Palestine outside the San Diego County administration building on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023.
Matthew Bowler / KPBS
Rola Abushaban speaks in support of Palestine outside the San Diego County administration building on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023.

San Diegan Rola Abushaban said most of her family lives in Gaza on a street bombed by Israel in the counter-attacks to Hamas. Many of them lost their homes, she said. She lost contact with them two days ago.

She said the fear in her aunt’s and uncle’s voices still rings in her ears from their last communication: “We are alive, but we’d rather die because no one feels what the Palestinians are living here ... We are innocent people. The people they’re looking for are not here.”


On Wednesday, the Israeli government cut off water, food, electricity and fuel to Gaza, where 2.3 million people are trapped inside borders the size of Philadelphia, behind joint military blockades run by Israel and Egypt. Almost half are children.

Abushaban said she sees support around her only for Jewish people. She wants people to widen their eyes, she said.

“I’m not asking to stand by Hamas,” she said. “I’m not asking to say, ‘Yes, we are pro-Palestine. I’m asking to be fair as a human being. Palestinians deserve to be acknowledged as humans, not animals.”

Many Palestinian supporters who spoke at Thursday morning’s press conference echoed this sentiment — that they only hear support for Israel. That children and innocent Palestinians are dying. That it’s genocide. That disinformation and lies are being spread by Israeli supporters.

They are the same sentiments expressed by Rabbi Devorah Marcus of Temple Emanu-El, but from the other side. Why are people supporting Palestinians and not Israelis? Children and innocent Israelis are dying. It’s genocide. Disinformation and lies are being spread by Palestinian supporters.

Marcus said Palestinians are also paying the horrible price of war, but that it doesn’t justify the actions of Hamas, who slaughtered hundreds at a music festival near the Gaza-Israel border.

Rabbi Devorah Marcus stands in her office at Temple Emanu-El on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023.
Matthew Bowler / KPBS
Rabbi Devorah Marcus stands in her office at Temple Emanu-El on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023.

Marcus and many of her congregants have relationships with people in that area, she said.

“It's been horrific,” she said through tears. “And every day, as we find out more of the families who've been killed and seeing the faces of people who we know or our friends know and love — it’s inexcusable ... For anyone who wants to try and rationalize and justify and say that that is a legitimate war campaign, then I challenge back: Are there no more rules of engagement for war?”

Hamas and the Israeli government are not the collective people of the Palestinian territories and Israel, thousands of whom have been killed since Saturday.

Everyone KPBS spoke with, Jews and Palestinians, pleaded for help. They all said they didn’t feel heard.