Hundreds of Jewish protesters were arrested during a demonstration in the Capitol building on Wednesday after demanding that Israel commit to a ceasefire in its relentless indiscriminate military campaign against Palestinians in Gaza.
The demonstration was organized by the anti-Zionist groups Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, and was part of a weeklong effort to mobilize thousands of American Jews — including students, rabbis and Holocaust survivors — against Israel’s ongoing genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. The groups called for U.S. lawmakers to demand an Israeli ceasefire and an end to Israel’s total siege of Gaza, which blocks food, water, medicine, electricity and humanitarian aid from reaching the 2.3 million Palestinians in the region.
The hundreds of demonstrators who gathered outside of the Capitol on Wednesday held signs, sung songs in support of peace in English and Hebrew, and chanted slogans including “ceasefire now” and “not in our name.”
At the same time inside the Capitol, around 400 protesters gathered in the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building, singing, chanting, and demanding an end to the siege on Gaza. Twenty-five rabbis took part in the demonstration, reading testimonials from Palestinians who have been devastated by the war.
Since Israeli forces launched their massive bombing campaign against Palestinians in Gaza on October 7, they have killed over 3,500 Palestinians, more than 1,000 of whom are children. (For more of Truthout’s coverage on Israel’s war against Gaza, click here.)
The U.S. is Israel’s staunchest ally, providing it with $3.8 billion in military aid each year.
Participants in the demonstration cited their Jewish faith, values and history in their demands for an end to the genocide.
“Where there is no justice, I have to be a voice for justice,” Rabbi Linda Holtzman told The New York Times.
Hannah Lawrence, a protester from Vermont, said the Biden administration must demand a ceasefire immediately.
President Joe Biden “really is the only one that has the power to pressure Israel right now and he needs to use that power to save innocent lives,” Lawrence told CBS News.
Media reported that Capitol Police arrested around 300 of the demonstrators at or inside the Capitol during the protest. According to Jewish Voice for Peace, closer to 500 people were arrested. Protesters are legally allowed to enter the Capitol complex, but Capitol Police are given wide discretion to determine when to arrest people, a police spokesperson told ABC News.
Among the 500 people arrested were two dozen rabbis, a press release from Jewish Voice for Peace said. Capitol Police also grabbed protesters’ signs and ripped them apart.
In spite of the harassment and detention of demonstrators, participants were steadfast in their calls for a ceasefire.
“There has not been a moment in my lifetime where it has felt more urgent for our Jewish community to rise up, to speak out, to bring our grief, fear, pain and outrage — and mobilize with everything we have,” said Jewish Voice for Peace executive director Stefanie Fox.
Earlier in the week, a protest also organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow took place at the White House, where participants engaged in similar acts of civil disobedience, including blocking entrances to the White House grounds. Around 30 people were arrested.
On its website, Jewish Voice for Peace condemned Israeli and American leaders for “dehumanizing Palestinians” by using “vitriolic rhetoric that calls to mind the most hysterical days of Bush’s War on Terror.”
“The Israeli government is on the brink of genocide against Palestinians,” Jay Saper, a JVP member, said in a press release preceding the Wednesday demonstration. “It has never been more important for Jews and all people in the U.S. to rise up with literally everything we have — the way that we would have wanted others to rise up for our ancestors.”
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