Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vermont) became one of the latest members of Congress to call for a ceasefire in Gaza this week, citing powerful personal ties to the Holocaust as a reason she is backing an end to the Israeli forces’ carnage in the region.
In an op-ed in VTDigger published on Thursday, Balint began by expressing her sympathy for the victims of the attack led by Hamas on October 7, and said that her grief has only expanded as Israel has carried out its subsequent siege of Gaza. Palestinians in Gaza are now in a “dire crisis,” she noted, with at least 11,500 Palestinians dead and Israel’s blockade, bombardment and raids causing Gaza’s largest hospital to go out of service.
“What is needed right now is an immediate break in violence to allow for a true negotiated cease-fire,” Balint wrote. “It will be the first step in the difficult and critical work needed ahead — building Israel’s post-war government, determining who will govern the Gaza Strip, and negotiating long-term peace and security for both Palestinians and Israelis.”
Balint went on to say that her Jewish identity and family’s ties to the Holocaust informed her decision to fight for Palestinian lives.
“I’m one generation removed from the horrific trauma of the Holocaust, which impacted my family and reshaped the world. Like me, there are thousands of American Jews that share a deep emotional connection to Israel because of what it meant for the survival of the Jewish people in the face of extermination,” the lawmaker wrote. “This same history also drives so many of us to fight for the protection of Palestinian lives.”
The lawmaker’s words echo those of Holocaust survivor Marione Ingram, who has been protesting outside of the White House calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, as well as Holocaust scholars who have said that Israel has a clear intention to carry out ethnic cleansing in the region. They also echo the call of many Jewish organizations, thousands of Jewish protesters and a number of Jewish faith leaders who have called for an end to the violence.
Some Palestinians have said that the current siege is a second Nakba, the violent mass displacement of Palestinians 75 years ago that originally led to the establishment of the state of Israel; dozens of entire bloodlines of Palestinian families in Gaza have been wiped out since October 7.
Balint is now one of 33 members of Congress who have publicly voiced support for a ceasefire, a list that is growing each week as Israel’s siege has advanced to ever more brutal heights, with the military raiding hospitals and killing premature babies with their blockade on energy and fuel. Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D-New Mexico) also joined calls for a ceasefire on Thursday, saying, “We have lost too many innocent lives.”
Fellow lawmakers praised Balint for speaking up, noting that she is the first Jewish member of Congress to join the calls for a ceasefire.
“[Representative Balint] just became the first Jewish member of Congress to call for a ceasefire. Thank you for your leadership, courage, and advocacy. Together, we will save lives,” wrote Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri) on social media. Bush is the primary sponsor of House progressives’ bill calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) praised Balint for her courage in standing up.
“Rep. Becca Balint is now the first Jewish member of Congress to come out in favor of a ceasefire in Gaza,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “She is incredibly brave, taking a stance rooted in her commitment to human rights and protection of the innocent. Read her words. Support her. Proud to call her a friend.”
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