Gaza ceasefire advocates in US encouraged by growing momentum, visibility

Gaza ceasefire advocates in US encouraged by growing momentum, visibility
US activists are calling for a ceasefire in the besieged Gaza and expressing optimism about their efforts in pro-Palestinian demonstrations while urging the US government to pressure Israel to end its bombing of the strip.
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
04 November, 2023
Activists outside of Senator Jeff Merkley's office in Washington, DC on 3 November chant "ceasefire now" and carry signs calling for the senator to stop arming Israel. Activists were arrested shortly after [Laura Albast for The New Arab]

US activists calling for a ceasefire of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza say they are feeling encouraged by small gains in their nearly month-long series of pro-Palestinian demonstrations, urging Washington to pressure Israel to end its bombing of the impoverished and besieged Gaza.

Israel has responded to the 7 October to the surprise Hamas attack on Israel by launching a relentless bombing campaign on Gaza, killing over 10,000 Palestinians - mostly women and children. 

Activists in the US and around the world have been staging sit-ins at politicians' offices and major public spaces, resulting in thousands of arrests, and a growing recognition and visibility to their calls.

Last week, when Craig Mokhiber resigned from his position as director of the New York office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations, he cited in his parting letter the Jewish-led protest at the nearby Grand Central Station.

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This week, the activists' message appears to have reached the highest levels in the US government with CNN reporting on Friday that US President Joe Biden and his advisors have warned the Israeli government that it will be increasingly difficult for them to achieve their military goals due to growing global outrage over their continuous bombing of Gaza. 

Also on Friday, pro-Palestinian protesters delayed for several hours a military supply ship leaving the Port of Oakland, which they said was bound for Israel carrying military equipment.

On the same day, activists held sit-ins at eight progressive senators' offices, including Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, resulting in dozens of arrests on the eve of a march expected to be one of the largest pro-Palestinian gatherings in US history.

So far, two senators and 18 house members have called for a ceasefire, far from the number that activists are hoping for, but still a gain from when the protests began.

"First off, we needed to raise the alarm on what was happening in Gaza. When this started, it was a one-sided argument," Iman Abid, director of advocacy and organising with the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, told The New Arab.

"Congress needed to know that the American public cared about Palestinians," she said. "Then when we saw bombardment after bombardment, we needed to call for a ceasefire. It's three and a half weeks later, and we're now talking about the final stages of genocide."

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She says she's grateful to everyone who has been coming out for what has been an intergenerational and interfaith movement and for people who see the urgent need for a ceasefire.

"While I was standing in Senator Warren's office I heard the news about the bombing of the ambulance," Adib, herself a Palestinian, said. "There's no more time to think about this. This is the moment we need our elected officials to speak out."

For many progressive Jews, stopping the bombing of Gaza in their name is something that can't wait and needs sustained momentum.

"When I was down in DC, it was so clear that the growing movement and massive demos in support of Palestinians were changing the political calculus," Jay Saper, with Jewish Voice for Peace, told TNA.

Saper was one of the hundreds of activists who were arrested at the US Capitol and also protested at New York's Grand Central Station last month, collective actions that garnered international headlines. 

"The New York Times printed on the front page: Let Gaza Live. We're shifting the terrain and making our voices impossible to ignore. Politicians are taking notice that we're not backing down."