Wrapped in Israeli flags, thousands of demonstrators and elected officials gathered on the National Mall earlier this week. Disturbing images from the bipartisan rally in support of Israel’s genocidal attacks against Palestinians are still haunting me. “Let Israel Finish the Job,” read one sign that went viral on social media. The crowd of people interrupted multiple speakers, chanting “No ceasefire.”
The rally featured John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, who once said that “God sent Adolf Hitler to help Jews reach the promised land.” Hagee was joined by both Democratic and Republican leaders who held hands in front of the United States Capitol: New House Speaker Mike Johnson, who has attacked trans health care and opposed gay marriage, was joined by Sen. Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the U.S. Both spoke at the rally alongside Hagee.
The rally was loud in its claim that Israel has the unconditional support of the U.S. government. But the U.S. people do not support Israel’s attack on Gaza, which Holocaust scholars have deemed a genocide. Recent polls show that over two-thirds of the U.S. public support a ceasefire, and less than one-third support sending weapons to Israel.
For the past month, I have watched videos of unthinkable devastation and loss. Israel has bombed Palestinian schools and hospitals. Israel has told Palestinians to leave their homes, only to bomb them in transit. At the time of writing, more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza — one in 200 residents of the open-air prison. Thousands of the Palestinians who have been killed are children.
In the face of this terrible devastation, millions of people across the world have come together to act in solidarity and oppose this genocide.
For the past month, thousands of other Jews and I have joined Jewish Voice for Peace to take action to stop U.S. support for Israel’s genocide in Palestine. First, outside Senator Schumer’s house, where I was arrested with more than 60 others calling for a ceasefire and an end to U.S. military aid to Israel. Then, in the rotunda of the House office building, I joined more than 300 rabbis, Jews and other people of conscience who were arrested for protesting U.S. support for the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people. The following Friday evening, thousands of us descended upon Grand Central Terminal, filling the Grand Concourse with echoing chants of “ceasefire now!” Just last week, hundreds of us boarded ferries to Liberty Island and brought our voices to the Statue of Liberty, making our message seen and heard across the world.
Our movement is strong, and it is growing. Millions of people across the world are calling on their governments to stop supporting Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people. Indigenous activists have used canoes to block boats carrying bombs headed for Israel. War resisters in Missouri have shut down weapons factories. Belgian and Spanish unions have said they will not load ships carrying weapons to Israel. The day after D.C. police attacked a vigil being held outside the Democratic National Convention building, protesters shut down major bridges in the Bay Area, Montreal, and Boston — and this was all just in one day. For the past month, public squares, bridges, and train stations across the world have been filled with Palestinian flags and calls for justice. The tactics and targets have been diverse but the goal unified: free Palestine.
These brave and crucial actions are showing people that we can take action together. We can wield our collective power. We can join our voices together and work for a world without apartheid, without genocide, without bombs falling on people in their homes, in schools and in hospitals.
Shutting down the infrastructure that supports this war is a way for all of us to reclaim our agency. It is how we say loudly and fiercely, “Not in our name.” As we watch Palestinians persevere through the worst of humanity, it’s the only way I know how to find hope.
I grew up Jewish in the U.S. I was steeped in Zionist propaganda for most of my childhood. I was told that my grandparents’ history of surviving the Holocaust was why we needed a Jewish state.
In high school, my dad and I hesitantly attended a Jewish Voice for Peace meeting, where a woman who had spent time in the West Bank shared what she witnessed in her travels. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that Israel would build segregated highways, demolish people’s houses and restrict Palestinians’ access to water. At first, it was hard to accept these facts for what they were. Years of indoctrination made it hard to let go of a narrative about Israel that was not true.
Letting go of this false narrative required opening my mind to new voices and ideas. By listening to the stories of Palestinians, I learned more about the history of Zionism and the Nakba, the forced expulsion of more than 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948. I had to accept a paradigm shift. I let go of fearmongering that told me that the only way for me to be safe was for another group of people to suffer. I let go of a sense of pride and protectiveness over a country that is founded on forced displacement, and returned to the values of freedom and justice for all.
I didn’t learn all of this on my own. Through talking to other anti-Zionist Jews, I became committed to the idea that Israel does not have a monopoly on Judaism. Together, we created new Jewish communities, ones that hold resisting Zionism as a fundamental part of being Jewish. My anti-Zionist Jewish communities host shabbat dinners, study Torah, celebrate holidays and dream of a better future together. We read poems by Jews in the diaspora, sing songs written by friends and create new traditions. By building these alternative communities, I started to think of my grandparents’ stories of the Holocaust as a reason to oppose any nation that aims to expel, oppress and wipe out another group of people.
From working alongside Palestinians, I have learned how to have hope, how to be brave and how to lead with heart. Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian who was arrested and detained by the Israeli army at the age of 16, put it strongly. “I’m not the victim of the occupation,” Tamimi said. “The Jew or the settler child who carries a rifle at the age of 15, they are the victims of the occupation. For me, I am capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. But not him. His view is clouded. His heart is filled with hatred and scorn against the Palestinians. He is the victim, not me. I always say I am a freedom fighter. So I will not be the victim.”
The Palestinian solidarity movement requires that each of us listen to the Palestinians on the ground who face brutal repression and asks us to garner an ounce of the courage they display every day. Standing in solidarity in Palestine requires that we defy the drumbeat of war and cry out for justice. Supporting Palestinian liberation offers each of us the opportunity to bravely and fiercely stand for what is right, and for the dignity and humanity of all people. While it can mean making ourselves vulnerable to doxxing, harassment, loss of employment or police-perpetrated violence, we know that using our voices and our bodies to stand with Palestine is the only way to stop the atrocities that Palestinians are forced to endure.
We know that continuing to speak out and take action is the only path towards hope. No one of us will be able to end this injustice on our own. But together, we can march towards a better world, and build it one step at a time.
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