Between 1,500-2,000 Jewish protesters, activists, and allies with IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace blocked multiple entries to the White House yesterday, calling for a ceasefire and an end to the Israeli occupation of Gaza and Palestinian land. At least 30 activists have been arrested and are currently awaiting arraignment. [Editor’s note: Police and law enforcement arrested a Prism staff member who was a part of the protest alongside other activists.]
IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace organized the protest in response to the Israeli apartheid state’s escalating genocide in Gaza. On Oct. 9, Israeli officials declared war on Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement) after fighters broke through the concrete barrier wall imposed by the occupying government and launched a coordinated attack in Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 260 civilians, taking hundreds more as hostages, and demanding the return of incarcerated and unlawfully detained Palestinians being held by Israel’s apartheid state. Yesterday’s protest was one of many that have happened across the country in response to the conflict in the Middle East.
“We need everyone to join our call to lift the siege on Gaza and immediately end the bombing,” said Eissa Ibn Malik of the Palestinian Youth Movement in a press release, calling what is happening “a call for genocide of Palestinians by Israel. The people of Gaza are being slaughtered in real time while the world is watching. It’s been 75 years of ethnic cleansing, 75 years of massacres, 75 years of horror.”
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, as of Oct. 17, Israel’s relentless bombing of the densely populated area has killed at least 3,000 Palestinians and injured at least 12,000 people, most of them civilians, including 1,000 children in the last 10 days. With Israel controlling and bombing designated safe passages for civilians and aid, Gazans are largely trapped and running out of water, which the occupying government cut off access to last week. In an interview with Democracy Now!, Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, declared that “Gaza is running out of life.”
“I’ve already lost a cousin, his son, and his granddaughter. Wiped out by one Israeli bomb,” said Wael Buhaissy, a Palestinian who has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 30 years. “Another cousin is texting us, ‘It’s total annihilation, there’s a massacre every few minutes, and there’s nowhere for us to go.’ When I don’t hear from her, I worry she’s been killed too. We are seeing a genocide in action. They are committing genocide against my family, my people.”
The bombings in Gaza have evoked strong reactions from people across the globe. Many Jews of color in particular have spoken out in support of Palestinian liberation. Some have drawn comparisons between the treatment of Palestinians and the experiences of people of color across the U.S.
“My entire life I have been told that Israel exists to keep me, a (paternal) Jew safe. Even as it has laws on the books that give me right of return but would not recognize me as a Jew. I am Jewish enough to help them colonize, but not to be treated as a first class citizen,” one person shared on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. “I grieve the friends of friends who are now dead. I grieve the many Palestinian deaths I have read about for decades. It cannot be undone. I refuse to treat one set of losses as if they are more important or more significant.”
President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Israel this week as overwhelming Islamophobia costs the lives of Palestinians on U.S. soil. On Saturday, in an Islamophobic attack, a Plainfield, Illinois, landlord killed 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume and stabbed his mother more than a dozen times. Advocates have warned of rising Islamophobia, and many are calling on Biden to divest funding to the State of Israel and cease aiding in the genocide of Palestinian people. The war has drawn the ire of anti-Zionist Jewish communities that rallied outside of politicians’ offices, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s, on Friday afternoon.
“Every Jew must oppose the slaughter being committed in Gaza today,” said Ellen Brotsky, volunteer leader for Jewish Voice for Peace-Bay Area. “These crimes, just the latest in a decades-long occupation, are being sanctioned under our name, under our values, and we must stand up loudly and say: Jews are not a monolith, Jews are not genocidal, and we demand the U.S. cease supporting genocide by Israel.”
Nationally, more than 2,000 Jewish people and allies protested in front of the offices and homes of elected officials in Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles on Friday to demand action to prevent the genocide of Palestinians. The protesters included elected state officials, descendants of Holocaust survivors, students, and rabbis. Eighty protesters were arrested across the five cities as they blockaded the pathways to the homes and offices of elected officials while thousands more supported them singing Jewish songs of resistance and peace. More protests are planned for tomorrow and throughout the rest of the week in Washington D.C. and in cities across the U.S.
Wassim Hage, the case manager and community outreach coordinator for the Arab Resource and Organizing Center in San Francisco, said people should call their elected officials, get involved with grassroots campaigns, and donate to organizations like Middle East Children’s Alliance or the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund. Additionally, people should challenge Islamophobic narratives at the workplace and in schools. If people are being harassed or facing discrimination at work because of anti-Palestinian or anti-Arab racism, there are organizations like Palestine Legal, which offers legal support.
“This cycle of violence will not end until the occupation of Palestine ends and there is a free Palestine from the river to the sea,” Hage said, “and a place for all people to live in dignity and freedom.”