First US Jewish congress member to call for ceasefire in Gaza

First US Jewish congress member to call for ceasefire in Gaza
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
17 November, 2023
In a piece the congresswoman penned, she detailed her concerns over the continued violence in Gaza and the need to stop the bombing to prevent further casualties. She also connected the Jews' history of trauma with the need to protect Palestinians.
The first Jewish member in US Congress has called for a ceasefire in Gaza. [Getty]

Representative Becca Balint of Vermont has become the first Jewish member of the US Congress to call for a ceasefire in Israel's war on Gaza.

On Thursday, 16 November, in an opinion piece the congresswoman penned that appeared in the Vermont publication, Vtdigger, she detailed her concerns over the continued violence in Gaza and the need to stop the bombing to prevent further casualties.

"What is needed right now is an immediate break in violence to allow for a true negotiated cease-fire. One in which both sides stop the bloodshed, allow critical access to humanitarian aid and move towards negotiating a sustainable and lasting peace," the congresswoman 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," the congresswoman continued.

This is a change from her previous position, with Balint saying until recently that she did not support a ceasefire. In her piece, she explains how the continued violence as well as hearing from her constituents have influenced her new stance.

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"I understand that many Vermonters feel as I do — deeply distraught by this conflict. We want to see an immediate end to the violence and the realization of Palestinian self-governance, including economic and physical security," she wrote.

It is also possible that she was influenced by recent discussions with rabbis who visited her office from different parts of the US. On Monday, she met with more than 40 rabbis, who have been advocating for a ceasefire.

"I'm so grateful to see congresswoman Balint speaking up for a ceasefire. I want to acknowledge the leadership of the courageous rabbis who took action on Monday and spoke with the congresswoman and helped encourage her," Jay Saper, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace-Action, told The New Arab.

The rabbis will be sending the congresswoman challah, the Jewish woven bread. "Our security is woven together. Action has to be taken on the ceasefire," said Saper.

For her part, Balint, whose grandfather was killed during the Holocaust, brought up her Jewish heritage in her piece, connecting it with the Palestinians' struggle to survive the bombings and blockade in Gaza.

"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," she wrote.

"This same history also drives so many of us to fight for the protection of Palestinian lives. I do not claim to know how to solve every aspect of this decades-long conflict. But what I do know is that killing civilians, and killing children, is an abomination and categorically unacceptable — no matter who the civilians are, and no matter who the children are," Balint continued.

So far, most congress members who have called for a ceasefire are part of the left-wing squad. Balint, who is a member of the much larger progressive caucus, would be among the few from her generation (over 50) to call for a ceasefire. More congress members may follow, with a Reuters/Ipsos poll finding that two out of three Americans want a ceasefire in Gaza.

"We'll continue to call upon her colleagues to join her and do what needs to be done to call for a ceasefire," said Saper. "We love to see that shifting momentum, with politicians sharing the will of the American people."