WASHINGTON (AP) — Supporters of Israel rallied by the thousands on the National Mall under heavy security Tuesday, voicing solidarity in the fight against Hamas and crying “never again.”
The Homeland Security Department designated the march a “level 1” security event, the highest classification in its system and one usually used for the Super Bowl and other major events, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press. The designation means the event required substantial law enforcement assistance from federal agencies, the officials said.
A succession of speakers took the stage, overlooking a sea of Israeli and U.S. flags, to denounce Hamas’ bloody incursion Oct. 7 and what the speakers said was a virulent spread of antisemitism internationally, “an embarrassment to all civilized people and nations,” in the words of Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who addressed the crowd by video.
After “the largest massacre since the Holocaust,” he said, “let us call out together, never again.”
“No one will break us,” he vowed. “We will rise again. … There is no greater and just cause than this.”
The FBI and Homeland Security sent a joint bulletin to law enforcement officials in Washington warning about the potential for violence or an attack inspired by the Israel-Hamas war, the officials said. But the bulletin said clearly that federal officials haven’t identified any “specific, actionable threat” to the march, they said.
The officials were not authorized to discuss details of the law enforcement bulletin publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Many of the demonstrators at the “March for Israel” wore Israeli flags wrapped around their shoulders, flowing behind them, or held small Israeli flags in their hands. Security was tight, with dump trucks blocking access to the mall and police dispersed throughout the area and on horseback.
“I hope that it shows solidarity” with Israel, said Jackie Seley of Rockville, Maryland, who came with friends from New York. “And I hope that it raises awareness for the hostages that are currently in danger.”
Melanie Lubin of Olney, Maryland, wore a flag half made up with the Stars and Stripes and half with Israel’s blue and white Star of David. Asked about the death toll in Gaza and criticism of the way Israel has conducted its military campaign, she said: “I think everyone is concerned about what is happening in Gaza and to civilians in Israel. Israel is doing its best. This is a war. Israel did not start this war.”
Hamas militants stormed into Israel from Gaza in the surprise incursion Oct. 7, killing more than 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages. Israel has responded with weeks of attacks in Gaza, which have killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
The show of support for Israel comes as condemnation of the conflict has grown worldwide, stoking anti-Israel sentiment, and as President Joe Biden urges Israel to moderate some of its tactics to ease civilian suffering in Gaza after voicing full-throated solidarity with the Israelis in the war’s early weeks.