Activists in US replace Thanksgiving with fasting over Gaza war

Activists in US replace Thanksgiving with fasting over Gaza war
The fast comes as pro-Palestinian activists from across the US have sought to continue pressuring the US government to change its pro-Israel stance as Israel's bombardment of Gaza continues.
4 min read
23 November, 2023
Pro-Palestinian protests have been occurring across the US since the start of the war on 7 October [Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu via Getty Images]

Indigenous and pro-Palestinian activists in the US have replaced Thanksgiving celebrations with a fast in a show of solidarity with the victims of Israel's bombing and siege of Gaza.

Freedom to Thrive, a group focused on prison abolition in the US, organised the 'Fast For Gaza' to stand "in solidarity with the people of Gaza" as part of wider campaign "in solidarity with the right of colonized people to resist."

According to the group, "we have chosen November 23rd, the fourth Thursday in November, in recognition that the ongoing genocide in Gaza is a continuation of the same setter colonial violence experienced by Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island."

"Since 1970, Native folks on Turtle Island have marked the day with grief, protest, and public recognition of the long history of Indigenous genocide, theft and erasure that has shaped the United States," the group added.

Turtle Island is the name used by some Indigenous Americans to describe the North American continent.

Speaking to The New Arab, Freedom to Thrive organiser Karim Golding said the idea to do a collective fast was first and foremost inspired by his own religious beliefs.

"I'm Muslim, something I share with many Palestinian people. For Muslims, it's sunnah (habitual practice) to fast on Mondays and Thursdays, and, coincidentally, the National Day of Mourning in America also falls on a Thursday. So what better occasion to mark the memory of one genocide, that of Native communities here on Turtle Island, while standing in solidarity and compassion and bearing witness to another—Gaza?" he said.

"We Muslims are one ummah (community), and if one human suffers, we all suffer. This is a religious belief and also a political one."

He revealed that as many as 250 people and 20 community organisations had signed up to the campaign, adding that these numbers were still growing.

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Golding spoke of the growing bond between indigenous activists and pro-Palestine activists since the start of Gaza's war, applauding indigenous activists' calls for a ceasefire and their direct action in delaying US warships heading to the Middle East.

"The relationship between the two groups has definitely deepened. There has been a ton of support and solidarity, both in words and actions, from indigenous communities who recognise the events in Gaza for what it is — settler colonial violence, a genocide."

"We are fighting for freedom from past an ongoing colonial violence, the world over."

The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights is another organisation that is taking part in the 'Fast For Gaza'.

In a press statement, the group's Executive Director Ahmad Abuznaid stated that "every hour, we mourn Palestinians massacred, and the survivors will continue to live through genocide even once the bombs pause. We remember Indigenous activist Tortuguita killed protesting Cop City in Atlanta. We watch our US government normalise the genocide of Indigenous peoples here while enabling another Genocide in Gaza."

The organisation added that they "envisions a liberated future in a world without racism or oppression. A future where Palestinian people, and all people, are free."

The action by the groups, taken on a day of mourning for Indigenous Americans, comes alongside efforts by Indigenous Americans to stand against what has been described by genocide scholar William Schabas as a "serious risk of Genocide" in Gaza by Israel.

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On 26 October, Indigenous American organisation The Red Nation wrote and signed a letter condemning Israel's actions in Gaza.

Signed by 132 Indigenous activists, artists and intellectuals, the letter was written in support of "Palestinian liberation and their right as an oppressed people to resist colonialism and genocide."

The letter also called for a number of demands to be met, including a ceasefire, an end to the siege, protection for medical facilities, the facilitation of safe passage for the injured and displaced and an end to foreign military aid to Israel.

The US has experienced a number of major protests across the country against Israel's military campaign in Gaza, with notable protests being held in Washington DC, in New York's Grand Central Station and near a Boeing Facility in St Louis over arms sales to Israel.

Since the start of Israel's bombardment, siege and ground operation in Gaza, 14,854 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory, including 6,150 children, according to Gaza authorities. A further 36,000 people have been wounded by the Israeli assault.