In conversation after conversation with members of the Islamic community in Tri-Cities over the past few months, the same theme comes up: feelings of fear and abandonment as they watch their neighbors do so little to resist the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people.

Bonded through religion, and in many cases a shared experience of displacement by U.S. imperialism, there is a strong empathy among Tri-Cities Muslims for the Palestinians. For months, the Islamic community has shown up in a major way for Palestine, mobilizing for protest after protest and bringing their concerns directly to local and state officials. But as protests have gone on, Islamic community attendance has dwindled. There are several reasons for this, but one concern stands above the others: where is everyone else? Without the rest of the community joining in to match their energy and enthusiasm, local Muslims are left feeling exposed, a target painted on their backs, deep inside far-right Islamophobic territory.

So the question is: 

Why aren’t the Tri-Cities showing up for Palestine?


Palestine has been under Israeli occupation since 1948. The violent expulsion of roughly 750,000 Palestinians – half the Arab population of Palestine at the time – from their land to make way for the new state of Israel is called The Nakba (or ‘Catastrophe’) by Palestinians. Since the Nakba, which saw Israel’s seizure of more than three quarters of Palestine, Israel has continued to persecute and displace Palestinians. For decades, Palestinians have been subject to routine violence and oppression by the state of Israel, including mass incarceration, violent colonial policing, denial of access to drinking water and food, indiscriminate bombings, routine violations of international law and treaty agreements (including the continued settlement of Palestinian treaty lands), and more. Israel’s broad culture of anti-Arab discrimination — and its dehumanization of Palestinians in particular — has resulted in an apartheid state where Arabs are formally and legally second-class citizens, with no national rights and limited civil rights.

It is in this context that Palestinian resistance forces led a counter-offensive on October 7 of last year. Palestinians breached the walls surrounding Gaza — which has been called the largest open-air prison in the world by many historians and experts on genocide, including the Israeli scholar and political scientist Ilan Pappé — and launched an operation against Israel in an attempt to liberate Gaza. 

This act of resistance to apartheid and fascist-type oppression has been labeled ‘terrorism’ by U.S. politicians, echoing similar claims levied against the African National Congress when it took up arms against the racist, apartheid regime in South Africa. The U.S, the world center of imperialism and racism, is always quick to defend colonial violence and decry anti-colonial resistance movements. In the case of October 7, the U.S. state — including President Biden himself — was quick to repeat unsubstantiated narratives of alleged mass sexual assault and reports of “40 beheaded babies.” No widespread public apology or correction has been offered, even though the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have since had to admit under journalistic pressure that these stories are almost totally unproven and, in the case of the beheaded babies, completely fabricated. This behavior of running blindly ahead with propaganda and hearsay, while downplaying any later corrections, has been typical of the news for a long while, but particularly egregious over the last several months of conflict in Palestine.

In retaliation for the October 7 operation, Israel has launched a campaign of indiscriminate bombings in Gaza and an increase in settler, police, and military violence across Palestine. Over 65,000 tons of bombs have been dropped in this campaign. A report from December showed that 22,000 U.S.-provided bombs were dropped on Gaza in just 6 weeks. That is more bombs dropped in Gaza in six weeks than the U.S. dropped in Afghanistan in its three highest years of bombing (2010, 2018, and 2019). In addition to the indiscriminate bombing of neighborhoods, Israel has deliberately targeted hospitals, universities, and other civilian infrastructure in acts which can only be classified as war crimes. 

The bombings have been accompanied by calls from Israeli ministers and public officials — including Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant — for the ethnic cleansing of Arabs and Palestinians, referring to the Palestinians as “human animals.” Israel justifies its bombings by declaring civilian men, women, and children as supporters of Hamas, the de-facto government in Gaza, in violation of the Geneva Convention which forbids acts of collective punishment.

For a comparison which may make sense to readers in Washington, Gaza has roughly five times the population density of Spokane with only twice the square mileage. This small but densely populated strip of land has been subjected to a wave of bombing several times greater than much larger countries have experienced across much longer timelines. The purpose of the bombing is clear: permanent Israeli resettlement of the Gaza Strip, and the final elimination or displacement of Palestinians from it. As of February 11, 2024, over 27,700 Palestinians have been killed, more than 11,500 of them children, and an estimated 1.7 million people have been displaced in Gaza. Israeli security cabinet member and Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter has called this massacre “the Gaza Nakba.”

In response to this campaign of indiscriminate bombing, South Africa brought a case against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on charges of genocide. On January 26, 2024, the ICJ issued its ruling and ordered Israel to “take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article II of this Convention [on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide], in particular: killing members of the group [Palestinians], causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”

Instead, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu turned down a truce with Palestine, and on February 7 said the war would press on “until the end,” adding that “there is no other solution besides complete victory.” The “victory” in question is the complete elimination of the 1.5 million people now densely packed into the 25-square-mile territory of Rafah in southern Gaza, almost all of whom are refugees fleeing the bombing in the north. It is clear Israel has no plans to cooperate with the UN and cease its genocide.

Photos of Tri-Cities protests courtesy of PSL

The global resistance against genocide

Immediately following October 7, the world mobilized for Palestine. Protests were called across the globe in anticipation of a severe retaliation by Israel. In the months since, millions have taken to the streets all across the U.S. and the world, demanding an immediate ceasefire and an end of U.S. aid and arms shipments to Israel. On November 4, the then-largest demonstration for Palestinian liberation ever held in the United States took place in Washington, D.C, drawing a crowd of over 300,000 pro-Palestine protesters. On January 13, another National March — an even larger pro-Palestine demonstration — was held in D.C, drawing a crowd of 400,000. The next day, January 14, tens of thousands took to the streets in San Francisco in defense of Palestine. Every week for months, rolling ‘Shut It Down For Palestine’ actions have seen protesters flood the streets and called people of conscience to combat the genocide of the Palestinian people.

In Tri-Cities, these actions began on October 12, led by the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) in Eastern Washington. The PSL had previously held protests to defend Palestine in 2021 in response to an outbreak of violence in May of that year. Since October 7, PSL has been the only group in Tri-Cities (that this author is aware of) organizing demonstrations and educational events in support of Palestine.

During the first few of these protest actions, attendance seemed to steadily grow. At the peak in late October, these actions brought out around 100 people per protest, most from the Islamic community in Tri-Cities. In November, these actions began to face off against Pro-Israel politicians like Dan Newhouse, as people began demanding he endorse a ceasefire. As actions have continued, rather than growing in number like the rest of the U.S. movement for Palestine, the movement in Tri-Cities has died down. Even as the rest of the world is rising up to defend against genocide, Tri-Cities has stopped showing up for Palestine.

The question, again, is: Why?

Photo by Hosny Salah on Pixabay

The hypocrisy of Tri-Cities

At the very start of the bombings, there was already mass support for a ceasefire. A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted from October 12–13 found that 68% of Americans supported a ceasefire. As information from the front lines has spread across social media and through the rise of a major mass movement, that number has almost certainly grown in the intervening months. Even taking a pessimistic view of the Tri-Cities informed by its conservative tendencies and reactionary legacy, tens of thousands of people in Tri-Cities must still want a ceasefire.

This conservative streak is not unique to Tri-Cities; other cities in our region have just as much (if not more) right-wing reaction to contend with, yet have managed to show up for Palestine. Spokane, for instance, has had large demonstrations at least every week, including a successful campaign against Spokane City Council to pass a better resolution than the racist, pro-Israel one which was passed shortly after October 7. This is despite facing repression from Spokane police, which in 2021 laid claim to being the third deadliest police force in the entire U.S. Nearby Walla Walla also saw a major surge in activity on the campus of Whitman College, where students occupied the administration building in early November and demanded that the college divest from its ties to Israel. Walla Walla can be significantly more conservative than the Tri-Cities, and local belligerents have attempted to disrupt events there on multiple occasions, yet activity continues.

It is not as if the Tri-Cities has no history of sweeping movements for social change. Most recently, for example, the uprising for Black lives and against police brutality in 2020 drew thousands into the streets. For months on end, the Tri-Cities engaged in repeated community discussions and concerted protest actions demanding accountability from police and an end to racist violence. The lack of militancy for Palestine, then, is odd — numerous Black leaders have called attention to Palestinian solidarity with the movement for Black lives for many years, and especially in 2020; yet, that connection does not seem to motivate the Tri-Cities into action.

Perhaps it is the radical association, then, of pro-Palestine actions to a group (the PSL) which proudly labels itself as socialist that drives people away from these actions. In such a conservative region, maybe people are afraid of associating with ‘reds’ and other types of political dissidents. This framing also holds no water. The PSL were deeply involved in the 2020 uprisings, including hosting and planning many of the events alongside other Tri-Cities groups, and neither Spokane nor Walla Walla have had any trouble rising to the occasion even as PSL acts as a major driver in both cities’ movements. There is no reason why the Tri-Cities should be different. Our Islamic community — those who have the most to lose from associations with groups like the PSL — have not failed to show up and stand on their principles. There is also, perhaps, the most confusing element of all: if an association with socialism is the issue, why have no others risen to create and host their own actions, and build the movement on their own terms?

The reality remains that the numbers of active protesters are dwindling in the Tri-Cities. The result is that Islamic members of the community are feeling abandoned. The lack of mobilization from the rest of the Tri-Cities’ communities has left them feeling isolated, and fearful of repression they may face if identified with a movement the U.S. government paints as ‘terroristic’. Members of the Islamic community have shared in conversations that many Muslims in the Tri-Cities are worried about losing their jobs, being targeted for violence, or being accused of antisemitism or terrorism. Some who are here on visas, are pursuing citizenship, or are here as refugees are even worried they may face deportation for standing with Palestine. While the rest of the Tri-Cities fails to rise to the occasion, the Islamic community is left abandoned and scared. Again, we must ask: Where is everyone?

One last possibility exists. Perhaps the feeling among the people is that nothing can be done here in the Tri-Cities. If there are no concrete connections in the Tri-Cities to Israel and Palestine, then maybe, to most people, there are simply no reasons to struggle.

The problem is not that these connections don’t exist; the problem is that people don’t know about them.

Tri-Cities’ connections to Israel and Palestine

This perception that Tri-Cities has nothing to do with what is going on ‘over there’ in Palestine is probably a combination of several factors: the Tri-Cities area’s large and relatively young population of transplants, the tendency to look at bigger cities like Portland and Seattle as sites of ‘real’ political struggle, and the Tri-Cities’ role as a hub for secretive government contract work, to name just a few. But despite any perceptions to the contrary, the Tri-Cities have no shortage of connections to Israel and Palestine.

For starters, there are Palestinians living in Tri-Cities. According to the site ZipAtlas, which gathers census and demographics data, there are at least 150 Palestinians across the Tri-Cities. This number may be small when taken in view of the over 300,000 people living in the Tri-Cities metropolitan area, which covers all of Benton and Franklin counties, but these are real people with a direct connection to the displacement of their people, which has been ongoing since 1948. For those motivated to stop a genocide, we should be inspired and motivated to stand up for these members of our community.

There is also our Muslim community to consider. The Tri-Cities is home to nearly 1500 Muslims from all across the world, including many refugees or immigrants displaced by U.S. imperialism. It is clear from their widespread support of Palestinian liberation that the Islamic community in Tri-Cities is sympathetic to the experience of oppression and displacement. Standing against U.S. imperialism and racism in Palestine shows our Muslim neighbors we also care for them and their struggles. This solidarity can unite our community along a variety of positions, and shouldn’t be taken for granted or treated as a secondary concern. There are real links between the methodologies, technologies, and legal frameworks of surveillance, population control, policing, and displacement in Palestine with our communities right here at home — links the Black, Indigenous, and Latine communities in particular can relate to with our Muslim neighbors.

Besides community connections to Palestine and Israel, the Tri-Cities has many economic ones. The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is a Palestinian-led campaign to promote “freedom, justice, and equality” through focused economic action. On their boycott list, the BDS National Committee (BNC) currently lists HP, Siemens, AXA, Puma, SodaStream, Sabra hummus, Ahava cosmetics, and Israeli fruits and vegetables as directly supporting the Israeli project. You can read more about the list and its rationale by heading to

While some companies on this list are based primarily in Europe, most can be found right here in the Tri-Cities. For instance, many local sporting goods retailers carry Puma products. Puma sponsors the Israel Football Association, including teams in illegal settlements in occupied Palestine. Puma has recently decided to stop sponsoring the Israel Football Association in 2024, but claims it has nothing to do with the boycott of their products rising to new heights since October 7. Clearly, the boycott strategy gets results.

Other common products from the list sold in the Tri-Cities include: Sabra hummus, found at most grocery stores, such as Safeway, Winco, and Albertsons; SodaStream, sold by retailers like Target, Walmart, and Fred Meyer; Ahava cosmetics, sold at stores like Ulta, Macy’s, and Walmart; and Israeli fruits and vegetables like the Medjool Dates sold at Costco. Operating primarily in the EU, Siemens may at first glance appear to be of no concern to us in the U.S. But oil monopoly Chevron is a major partner with Siemens in the extraction of oil in Israel and occupied Palestinian lands. Avoiding Chevron at the pump is another way to support Palestine, which BDS has called out in their materials.

HP, purveyor of printers, computers, and other technologies, is also fairly easy to avoid at an individual consumer level; that is, unless you are a student at Columbia Basin College. The community college located in Pasco has a partnership with HP to handle the campus’s tech needs. This means student tuitions and our tax dollars are going to support the Israeli occupation through the school. A movement at the school to switch partners away from HP would be a major win in the Tri-Cities toward supporting Palestine. But as of yet, no student movement has risen to take on the challenge.

In addition to these companies named by BDS as a primary focus, there are also companies of a secondary focus. McDonald’s, for instance, was found to be supplying free meals to the IDF after October 7, feeding the footsoldiers of genocide. And coffee giant Starbucks is suing the union Starbucks Workers United over the union issuing a statement on social media saying “Solidarity with Palestine!” As a result, both companies have faced large-scale boycotts by pro-Palestine activists across the world. Even more companies have been identified for boycott by the movement, with lists circulating online.

But boycotts don’t happen in a vacuum. They take organizing. Besides word of mouth, things like pickets and other disruptions are necessary for breaking up people’s routines. The Tri-Cities must rise to this occasion and do more than silently boycott. It’s time to get organized, and get loud.

The Tri-Cities is also host to a number of industrial and governmental connections to Israel. Bechtel Corporation and HDR Inc. both have locations in the Tri-Cities — Bechtel in Richland as a contractor on the Hanford site for the construction of the Waste Treatment Plant, and HDR in Pasco as an architecture partner having worked with Mission Support Alliance. Both companies won a tender in 2022 to develop “water production, treatment, and distribution systems and facilities” over the next decade alongside Mekorot, Israel’s national water company.

Battelle Memorial Institute is a major industrial force and governmental partner in the Tri-Cities. Battelle manages the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and the specific nature of the contracts funded at the laboratory are largely a matter of speculation. However, according to Government Contracts Won, which tracks defense contract awarding, Richland has received over $383 million in defense contracts since 2000, with Battelle accounting for over $67 million of that total. While we cannot know the specifics of their work at PNNL, Battelle is more than happy to boast on their website:

Battelle delivers innovative, high-technology deployable equipment and engineered product solutions that increase the service life of fielded equipment, improve mission performance in extreme operating environments, and provide threat protection for our military. Our experts work with military clients across all stages of the product life cycle, from engineering to product development through to production.

Every person in the Tri-Cities also helps fund the Israeli military directly through their taxes. Washington state spends a whopping $118 million a year supplying the Israeli military. The Tri-Cities accounts for over $2.5 million of that budget. With the money Washington sends to Israel every year, we could be funding 14,000 households with public housing, giving free or low-cost healthcare to 41,000 children, or hiring 1,200 elementary school teachers, to name but a few of the ways this money could be spent to better society. Pushing for an end to this funding for the U.S.-Israeli war machine means creating opportunities to support our communities right here at home.

And let us not forget our elected officials. In early February, the Washington State democratic Party Central Committee held a meeting in Bellingham where they approved an urgent resolution calling for the restoration of U.S. funding of relief aid in Gaza, and in support of a ceasefire. Despite this, Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats, have continued to support Israel. And it is no wonder they do: Murray has received over $681,000 in campaign contributions from the the Pro-Israel lobby (AIPAC) since 1992, and Cantwell over $265,000 since 2000. Both have also received generous funding from companies with ties to the U.S. war machine. Murray has received over $315,000 from Boeing and over $100,000 since 1992, and Cantwell has received over $192,000 since 2000. On October 10, Boeing rushed to deliver 1,000 bombs to Israel to help it ramp up the bombing of Gaza. Rather than listen to the democratic wishes of the people or even their own political party, our senators have shown they can be bribed into complicity with genocide.

Dan Newhouse, House Representative of Washington’s Disctrict 4, in contrast, barely needs a paycheck to support genocide. He has taken home a meager $38,250 from the Pro-Israel lobby since 2014. In that time, he has also taken $61,873 from Bechtel, $50,686 from Boeing, $43,998 from military contractor Honeywell, and $39,465 from Battelle. On October 11, Newhouse was one of 392 House Representatives who introduced a resolution to “stand with Israel as it defends itself against the barbaric war launched by Hamas and other terrorists,” as he put it. When questioned about his support for the genocide of Palestinians during a tele-town hall, Newhouse doubled down on his support for Israel. Despite having an office in Tri-Cities, Newhouse has rarely been in town since being elected, instead preferring to stay in D.C. and sending his aide to host a meeting with leaders of the Islamic community in Tri-Cities over his support for Israel — a staggering display of disrespect for his constituents. Predictably, the meeting went nowhere.

At the hyperlocal level, none of the Tri-Cities’ city councils have had anything to say about the conflict. Spokane’s city council was quick to pop off a far-right statement in support of Israel, but in the Tri-Cities, no such statement has emerged as of the time of the writing of this article. This could be because the city councils enjoy the relative lack of scrutiny they face from the public, preferring to keep people away from council meetings so they can go about their business unobserved and unbothered. Or maybe silence toward a genocide is a matter of political maneuvering, prioritizing career prospects in their respective parties over having any kind of democratic responsibility or moral backbone. Perhaps they’ve said nothing because they think the conflict has nothing to do with us, even though all aforementioned evidence shows that it does. Worst of all is the possibility that the councils find the genocide of Palestinians to be wholly unremarkable, as many of Israel’s establishment defenders do. Whatever the reasons may be, it is noteworthy that these councils have done nothing to join the more than 70 (and growing) cities across the U.S. which have passed ceasefire resolutions. Their silence rings loud.

Photo by Hosny Salah on Pixabay

Showing up for Palestine

The Tri-Cities have failed to show up for Palestine, but our community needs us to stand with them. Our Muslim neighbors need us to stand with them. The Palestinian people need us to stand with them. It is time, now more than ever, to join the struggle. Whatever reservations are holding you back, there is a movement awaiting you, desperately needing your energy and effort. Together, we can fight for a ceasefire, and eventually, a free Palestine.

You can use the information in this article to inform your actions, and even to plan events and bring people into the struggle. Together, we can reverse the trend of declining support here, and build a truly mass movement for the liberation of Palestine. The anti-apartheid movement in the U.S. played a major role in the success of the struggle for a free South Africa. Our actions here can have real impacts. But first, we must act.

For those who don’t know where to join in, the PSL is continuing to call actions in Tri-Cities and across the region. You can find actions on their instagram @psl_easternwa. You can also find actions or plan your own at the website

Mitchell Malloy is a community organizer with the Tri-Cities Liberation Center, you can keep up with the Center's work on Instagram: @tcliberationcenter