New York City – On Monday, a large group of pro-Palestinian protesters marched through the streets of Manhattan calling for justice and better healthcare for Palestinians. The protesters, organized by the group Within Our Lifetime, specifically targeted hospitals and businesses they accused of complicity in alleged injustices against Palestinians.
The protest, meant to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, began outside the United Nations headquarters. Protesters held signs reading “Healthcare Workers for Free Palestine” and chanted slogans like “From Gaza to Jerusalem, occupation is a crime.” Their first stop was the renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which also serves as a pediatric hospital.
As hundreds marched past Sloan Kettering, they directed chants of “shame” towards the facility. Children undergoing cancer treatment could be seen watching through the windows. Protest organizers encouraged participants to loudly voice their criticisms so those inside could hear them.
The protesters accuse Israel of severely damaging Palestinian healthcare infrastructure. They claim Israel has killed 374 Palestinian healthcare workers, injured 342 more, and bombed 183 hospitals and clinics during recent clashes. With Gaza left with just a handful of functioning hospitals and ambulances, the protesters believe Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian people.
After Sloan Kettering, the march continued to Weill Cornell Medical Center, another prestigious Manhattan hospital. Protest signs expanded their criticisms from Israel alone to major multinational corporations like Starbucks and McDonald’s.
“Starbucks, you can’t hide, you make drinks for human genocide!” protesters chanted outside a Midtown Starbucks location. “McDonald’s, you can’t hide, you make meals for genocide!” they repeated at a McDonald’s restaurant.
Within Our Lifetime, the Palestinian liberation group behind the march, wants to highlight Israel’s alleged campaign against Palestinian healthcare. They hope to build international support through provocative demonstrations targeting institutions they associate with opposition to Palestinian rights.
This is not the first controversial event organized by Within Our Lifetime. Last November, they published maps marking the locations of Jewish-owned businesses in New York. Critics accused the “Know Your Enemy” campaign of promoting antisemitic tropes and intimidation tactics.
In October, Within Our Lifetime issued a statement supporting all forms of Palestinian resistance against Israel. They believe Palestinians have an unconditional right to use “any means necessary” in their struggle, including violent attacks on civilians.
Other social justice groups have distanced themselves from Within Our Lifetime over these extreme positions. Mainstream pro-Palestinian organizations typically advocate peaceful activism and diplomatic negotiations over violence.
While Within Our Lifetime’s provocative protests draw attention, their aggressive tactics have also alienated potential supporters. Hospital officials called Monday’s march appalling for traumatizing vulnerable young patients. Starbucks and McDonald’s have not responded to the group’s allegations.
As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues with no end in sight, advocacy groups on both sides are turning to increasingly confrontational protest methods. Their aim is to rally support by shocking people out of complacency. However, experts warn these polarizing tactics often do more harm than good by pushing people toward radical positions.