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Rio Grande Valley residents call on elected officials to demand ceasefire in Gaza

A Palestinian solidarity rally calling for a cease fire between Israel and Hamas on
Gaige Davila
A Palestinian solidarity rally calling for a cease fire between Israel and Hamas on Oct. 29. in McAllen's Archer Park.

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Hundreds of people have attended Palestinian solidarity events in the Rio Grande Valley in the last month, just as thousands of Texans have demonstrated in the streets, with university walkouts and, most recently, in a massive rally at the State Capitol, demanding a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Mutual aid organization Red Star Texas has organized two rallies in McAllen to express support for Gaza. The first rally brought more than 100 Valley residents to McAllen’s Archer Park, concluding with a short march through downtown.

The following week, on Nov. 5, about 20 bicyclists rode from that park north toward Bill Schupp Park, ending in a vigil where dozens more people participated.

One of several bicyclists who rode from McAllen's Archer Park to Bill Schupp Park on Nov. 5 in solidarity with Palestinians killed since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.
Gaige Davila
One of several bicyclists who rode from McAllen's Archer Park to Bill Schupp Park on Nov. 5 in solidarity with Palestinians killed since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.

Both rallies were in solidarity with more than the 12,000 Palestinians killed by Israel’s bombing campaign and ground invasion in response to Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel, which killed 1,200 people.

“We expect our representatives, and those who would like to be our representatives, to not only speak up on this issue, calling for a ceasefire, calling for an end to the dehumanization of Palestinians,” Jack Nieto, co-founder and organizer of Red Star Texas, told TPR.

The group has focused their organizing on Republican Congresswoman Monica De La Cruz and her 2024 Democratic opponent Michelle Vallejo, to demand a ceasefire in Gaza.

During the Nov. 5 vigil, organizers asked attendees to go to De La Cruz’s Instagram profile and post their wishes. The group also asked to do the same to Vallejo’s latest Instagram post.

Red Star Texas has criticized De La Cruz’s characterizations of rallies supporting Palestinians.

De La Cruz called worldwide rallies antisemitic and members of Hamas “barbarians”. She also co-sponsored a House bill condemning “support of Hamas and other terrorist organizations on college campuses.”

When TPR asked her about the demands for support of a ceasefire, De La Cruz reiterated her support for Israel.

On Oct. 7, Vallejo posted on X, formally Twitter, indicating support for Israel and condemning Hamas’ attack. But she has not posted about the issue since.

Red Star Texas has criticized Vallejo for receiving more than $25,000 from self-described pro-Israel political action committee (PAC) JStreet, which advocates for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

“We see this silence from Michelle Vallejo, we see a lack of ability to trust her,” Nieto said. “If she cannot speak up against the dehumanization of the people at the borders in Gaza, how will we trust that she can do the same and speak up effectively and advocate for the people being dehumanized right here in our community?”

When TPR asked her about the demands for support of a ceasefire, Vallejo declined to comment.

Social media users have criticized De La Cruz for supporting Israel's killing of Palestinian civilians.

Last week the congresswoman’s McAllen office was marked with graffiti that admonished her support for Israel, according to the congresswoman’s social media posts. The graffiti read “Monica Murders,” “Israel kills Jews too,” “You can’t escape your crimes Monica,” and “Israel is doing a genocide and you support it.”

De La Cruz attributed the graffiti to “pro-Hamas activists,” calling it retaliation for supporting the Valley’s Jewish community. Red Star Texas denied involvement with the graffiti when TPR asked officials about the incident.

Tamer Balci, a University of Texas Rio Grande Valley professor of modern Middle East history, said framing Palestinian solidarity protests as “pro-Hamas” is not correct.

“Many of these people protesting, they do not support Hamas,” Balci said. “Hamas is a small group. They don’t have much affiliation outside Palestine.”

Balci also said De La Cruz framing her defense of Israel as being an ally of the Valley’s Jewish community was problematic.

“Even if the people are protesting the state of Israel, one thing we need to separate is the actions of the state of Israel and the Jews living in the United States,” Balci said. “Not all the Jews living in the United States support the actions of Israel. So, I would expect politicians to learn these nuances and the actual Jewish politics. Jewish people are politically diverse as well in the United States.”

Rio Grande Valley residents march into Archer Park in McAllen on Oct. 30 in solidarity for Palestine.
Gaige Davila
Rio Grande Valley residents protesting Palestinians killed since Hamas' attack on Israel march into Archer Park in McAllen on Oct. 30.

Other Rio Grande Valley elected officials, including Democratic Congressmen Henry Cuellar of Laredo and Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen, expressed support for Israel.

Cuellar helped evacuate Laredo citizens out of Israel in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack. He also condemned comments made by Colombian President Gustavo Petro when the leader said that the country "does not support genocides."

Gonzalez joined De La Cruz in a House bill condemning Hamas.

Neither official responded to TPR's requests for comment.

Groups calling for elected officials to demand a ceasefire have grown across the state and U.S. in the last month, as more Palestinians are killed by Israel’s military and Hamas continues to hold Israeli hostages.

Four Texas legislators — Ron Reynolds of Missouri City, John Bryant of Dallas, Terry Meza of Irving and Ana-Marie Ramos of Richardson — sent a letter to the chair of the Texas Democratic Party asking him to request a ceasefire from the Biden administration. The Texas Democratic Party did not respond to TPR's request for comment.

Residents in San Antonio have called on Mayor Ron Nirenberg to end the city’s friendship status with Tel Aviv, Israel, or endorse a ceasefire. He declined to do either, saying only that civilian lives needed to be protected by Israel and “any other actor.”

Gov. Greg Abbott visited Israel earlier this month and met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Isaac Herzog. Abbott’s office pledged $4 million for extra security for Jewish organizations in Texas.

President Joe Biden told reporters at The White House last week that there was “no possibility” of a ceasefire in Gaza. He reiterated that sentiment after a summit with China's President Xi Jinping in San Francisco, saying he would not support a ceasefire because Hamas was “planning on attacking Israel again.”

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Gaige Davila is a journalist based in the Rio Grande Valley. He was TPR's Border and Immigration Reporter from 2021-2024.