While U.S. policy has been staunchly pro-Israel so far, there has been growing pushback in congressional offices and the Biden administration, as well as among Democratic voters generally, over how the war has been unfolding and its toll on noncombatants, especially children.
Ritchie Torres, a Democratic congressman from the Bronx and one of the most pro-Israel voices in the House, warned in a speech early in the program that the “narrative has shifted against Israel.” He insisted, however, that a cease-fire with Hamas should be off the table, saying that it would be like America entering into a cease-fire with Japan after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
Mr. Fingerhut said the march was intended in part to remind the politicians in Washington that “the majority of the American people” support Israel’s actions, even if they disagree on other issues.
Many spoke of the surge of antisemitic incidents around the country in recent weeks. Both speakers and attendees talked of a newfound loneliness, as longtime friends took positions after the attack that seemed, to them, like barely concealed bigotry.
“I realized over the last month or so how often I don’t want to be seen as Jewish in public,” said Hallie Lightdale, 63, a psychiatrist from suburban Philadelphia. Coming to the Mall — to the largest crowd of Jewish people she had ever been in, she said — offered a reassuring sense of community. “I’m Jewish American — both Jewish and American,” she said. “I’m not one without the other. And Jewish Americans need our country to be with us.”
For many of those on the Mall, even those who disagreed with elements of Israeli policy, it was the rise in antisemitism in the United States, more than support for Israel, that had prompted them to join the march.
“It can be a step in the right direction, a show of unity on the basics, even if down in the nitty-gritty there are some fundamental disagreements,” said Max Nozick, 27, who said he had noted a frightening spike in antisemitic incidents in his community in the Maryland suburbs.
Some of his Jewish friends were reluctant to come to the march because they did not support Israeli policy, and he, too, has concerns about the Israeli government. But he said that denouncing the Oct. 7 attack — and anyone who endorses such violence — was not a complicated question.
“Oct. 7 specifically, I think we’re talking about terrorists,” said Mr. Nozick, who had a large Israeli flag draped across his back, like a cape. “I’m pretty comfortable picking a side there even if I don’t necessarily agree with all the policies of the country with the flag I’m wearing right now.”