A group of Jewish elders chained themselves to the White House gates on Monday, calling for the Biden administration to stop funding Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza and to support a permanent ceasefire.
The action came hours before a planned Menorah lighting at the White House for Hanukkah.
Members of Jewish Elders for Palestinian Freedom also attempted to read out the names of the 17,000 Palestinians who Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have killed since October, beginning with 93-year-old Mahdiya Abdullah Abdul Wahab Halawa, a survivor of the 1948 Nakba.
Eighteen members of the group were arrested for their action, which was organized in part with Jewish Voice for Peace. The group members were charged with federal trespassing crimes.
In statements shared with Truthout, demonstrators explained why they felt compelled to take action.
“The U.S. is arming and funding this massacre of Palestinians — not for Jewish safety, but for its own interests,” said 65-year-old Sarah Schulman, a Guggenheim fellow. “Biden, stop using us. Palestinians should be free.”
“Don’t let them tell you it’s complicated. Palestinians are being slaughtered,” said 70-year-old Karen Ackerman, a former political director of the AFL-CIO, who noted that Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians includes methods of starvation. “It has never been more important that we act.”
“My ancestors survived the Holocaust, so I know the price of silence. I refuse to be silent now,” said Deborah Kaplan, a 69-year-old reproductive justice expert and maternal child health advocate.
The U.S. recently skipped over the usual congressional approval process to approve sending Israel more than 14,000 shells for its relentless bombing campaign against Gaza. The IDF has already used more than 22,000 bombs provided by the U.S., including white phosphorus bombs in attacks against Lebanon in the north — an action that human rights advocates say should be investigated as a war crime.
Also on Monday, around a dozen people took part in a “die-in” outside of the White House, saying they “have a responsibility” to speak out against the globally recognized atrocities being waged by Israel.
The protest, organized by Humanity Lab founder and activist Hazami Barmada, was also held in support of administration officials who may support a ceasefire but fear speaking their views.
“We’ve actually heard now from staff in the administration that us being out here has helped put pressure on them, which is, for us a sign of success,” Barmada said.
Both protests took place hours before a Hanukkah reception at the White House. Nearly 800 guests were expected to attend the event, including Holocaust survivors, ABC News reported.
As of Monday, Israeli forces have killed at least 18,000 Palestinians in Gaza, including 7,729 children. Israel’s siege has also injured 50,000 Palestinians and dismantled critical health systems in Gaza.
Calls for a ceasefire and an end to the occupation have surged in recent weeks, with hundreds of thousands of Americans taking to the streets in solidarity with Palestine. But despite widespread support for a ceasefire among U.S. voters, politicians on both sides of the aisle have remained staunch in their support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza. Last week, the U.S. was the only country in the 13-member UN Security Council to vote against a resolution calling for the immediate release of all Israeli hostages and a ceasefire, thus vetoing the resolution.