Palestinian American tells his story at ceasefire rally in Peoria
CPS students inside of City Hall take part in a mass walkout protest demanding a ceasefire to the war in Gaza on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. Demonstrations like this one at the Chicago City Hall and the recent one at the Peoria City Hall give people like "Danny," interviewed in this story, hope that the truth about what is happening in his homeland is getting out across the country. | Jim Vondruska / Block Club Chicago

PEORIA. Ill  –  Danny moved to the United States from Palestine in 2002, during one of the most intense waves of islamophobia our country has ever seen. He has been paying taxes to the federal government for years while struggling to provide for his wife and children.

Despite the hardship, he was able to save up enough money to start his own family business. He has lived in New York, Chicago, and other cities in the US, and eventually settled down here in Peoria.

I met Danny in 2019 while stopping in his business. Danny is his anglicized name, he chose to maintain his anonymity during this story. Like many other American business owners, his business has been struggling since the pandemic started. With massive inflation, he is struggling to keep the lights on. But working in his community and sharing his charm and culture, Danny says his returning customers make him happy and keep his dream alive.

Today his dreams are haunted by the genocide affecting his family in Palestine, “I feel bad. Sometimes, I don’t sleep, I can’t eat, I stay awake all night watching the news. 80 percent of Gaza is sleeping on the ground. Why can’t Americans wake up?”

Danny and his family moved to the States to get out from under the thumb of the Israeli government. Like many other immigrants, members of the Palestinian diaspora came here in search of hope. As an American citizen, Danny and his family no longer have to move through countless military checkpoints, be subject to intense surveillance, navigate blockades, endure mandated calorie restrictions, or even be denied the right to leave – all by the state of Israel.

Freedom of movement

He and his family now have access to freedom of movement, freedom of speech, and the right to worship, all of which and more are denied to Palestinians by the Israeli government. Yet, despite Danny being the picture of the American dream, he and many others in the diaspora feel conflicted. Enjoying their homes and communities, achieving their goals and dreams, while paying taxes that are being used to bomb their homeland.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, there are currently 14.3 million Palestinians in the world. Today, more than 7 million Palestinians are scattered across the globe. Illinois is home to a large number of Palestinian Americans, with over 18,000 in Cook County alone, many longing to return to their homeland.

Since the beginning of Israel’s most recent assault on Gaza, the US has provided billions in military aid and American-made weapons. For months, we have watched as the world has cried out for a lasting ceasefire in Palestine. The US handling of the conflict has been a hard pill to swallow, as 61 percent of Americans want a ceasefire, but only 11 percent of US lawmakers support one. For months now, billions of people across the globe can tune in and witness the horrors Israel is subjecting on innocent Palestinian civilians, in real time.

The sense of righteous anger and restlessness is palpable. Activists in the US have worked tirelessly to slow shipments of arms into Israel, blocking major thoroughfares and commerce routes, showing up in droves to federal buildings, and pleading for our leaders to end the assault on Gaza. Many activists across the country have taken to their city councils, in hopes that a wave of cities demanding a ceasefire will spread the word that working-class Americans are ready to fight for what they believe in.

While some might say that a local resolution isn’t going to end the siege on Gaza, local ceasefire resolutions are an effort to set a precedent. They are an attempt to tell the powers that be that genocide will never be tolerated.

Activists in Peoria showed up en masse demanding a ceasefire resolution on the floor of their city council. On Feb 13, swaths of residents attended the meeting to show their support for the resolution and share their heartfelt opinions on why it should pass.

One Peorian spoke on how 15 of her family members had been martyred in Gaza. This lends credence to the widely disputed idea that a ceasefire in Gaza is, in fact, a local issue. Other Arab-American families have similar stories, leaving many of them feeling abandoned by their representatives. Their tax contributions are being used to end bloodlines, to such an extent that entire families have been struck from Palestinian civil registries.

In preparation for a possibly contentious council meeting, Peoria Mayor Dr. Rita Ali, had already shot down activists’ requests for a ceasefire resolution and encouraged the entirety of the city council to do the same. In a prewritten statement released following the meeting, she stated that “we sympathize with the loss of human life and pray for peace and conflict resolution. As city leaders, we must be neutral, yet compassionate, in this matter.”

The city council meeting was near maximum capacity, with two overflow rooms in use to accommodate the crowd. Over 30 Peoria residents addressed the council in hopes to appeal to their humanity, not knowing that the mayor had already penned her statement shutting down the resolution before she had heard the first of her constituents speak.

While the leadership of Peoria has turned a deaf ear to the cries for a ceasefire so far, the movement is growing, both locally and nationwide. More Americans than ever before are showing their solidarity with the Palestinian plight, and are coming to the realization that they may have more in common with an oppressed people in the Middle East than they do with their own elected representatives. For the last several months, humanity has seen thousands of violent images coming out of Gaza, while the ruling class is seemingly unaffected by the horror in the Middle East.

The Peoria City Council may not have heard its people calling for a ceasefire that night, but Danny did. He sat in and listened to what his community had to say about the US-funded genocide of his people. When speaking with Danny after the meeting, he seemed to sit with a renewed sense of pride. For decades, his people have been silenced. Now that US citizens are being made aware of the injustices against Palestinians, it is our duty to stand up against their oppressors. Over 71 cities have presented ceasefire resolutions to their local city councils, so far, and the fight for a Free Palestine rages on across the globe.

We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, please support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today. Thank you!


Miranda Bates
Miranda Bates

Miranda Bates writes from Peoria, Illinois.