Dan La Botz
Posted October 22, 2023
Israel’s merciless bombardment of Gaza, destroying apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, and places of worship, killing thousands; its siege, cutting off food, water, and electricity; and its massing of tens of thousands of troops on the Gaza border, preparing an invasion, have horrified millions of Americans.
Thousands have joined protest demonstrations in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C., among other cities. These demonstrations, organized around the slogan “Ceasefire Now” by Jewish, Palestinian, and left groups, have been surprisingly large and militant, combining mass marches with nonviolent civil disobedience actions in which hundreds have been arrested. All of this has suddenly created a new American antiwar movement.
On October 18, in Washington, D.C., hundreds of protestors calling for a ceasefire took over a congressional office building. The occupation was organized by the Jewish groups Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now. Five rabbis read testimonials from Palestinians, and the group prayed and sang in Hebrew and English. Three hundred were arrested.,/p>
In Los Angeles and Chicago, thousands marched and, as in other cities, called not only for a ceasefire but also for an end to Israel’s genocidal war, a stop to ethnic cleansing, and an end to apartheid in Israel/Palestine.
In New York City, where on October 20, I joined the rally and march of thousands, we engaged in civil disobedience, blocking one of Manhattan’s main streets in front of the offices of Senator Kristen Gillibrand. Some 150 of us were arrested and jailed. And also in New York, the next day thousands rallied in Bay Ridge, a Palestinian neighborhood, where there was a sea of Palestinian flags and some of the chants were in Arabic.
Everywhere these demonstrations have been highly emotional, filled as they are with Jews and Palestinians some of whom have family either in Israel or in Palestine. Speakers at some rallies made it clear they were supporting the Palestinian movement for self-determination, not Hamas’ heinous violent attack on Israeli civilians.
In the one I joined in New York one of the speakers said, “We will not tolerate hate speech in this movement, no antisemitism, no Islamophobia, no hate against any group,” a statement greeted with applause and cheers. Many of the young demonstrators, whatever their nationality or religion, have donned kufiya scarves as a symbol of solidarity with Palestine.
Biden’s literal embrace of Netanyahu, the U.S. Ambassador’s veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning violence against all civilians, and U.S. legislators’ overwhelming support for Israel have disappointed and angered many. These demonstrations, intended to put pressure on U.S. legislators, are demanding an end to U.S. funding of Israel’s war machine.
People chanted, “Not a penny, not a dime, no more money for Israel’s crimes.” In a reprise of a slogan from the anti-Vietnam War movement, people chanted, “Hey, Biden, what do you say? How many kids did you kill today.” Sometimes Netanyahu’s name was substituted for Biden’s. Some protestors’ placards carried the number of Palestinian children killed, a growing number every day.
The new antiwar movement is fighting against powerful, pro-war propaganda from the U.S. and Israeli governments and much of the media. A recent poll showed that among registered voters, 61 percent sympathized with Israel and only 13 percent with Palestine. Among Democrats, 48 percent say their sympathies are more with Israelis, compared to 22 percent who said Palestinians. This was a complete reversal of Democrats’ opinions since a poll taken three years ago.
The protests around the world may be altering this situation, however. A Data for Progress poll, fielded as part of its national omnibus survey from October 18 to 19, finds that 66 percent of voters “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” with the following statement:
The U.S. should call for a ceasefire and a de-escalation of violence in Gaza. The U.S. should leverage its close diplomatic relationship with Israel to prevent further violence and civilian deaths.
This includes 80 percent of Democrats, 57 percent of Independents, and 56 percent of Republicans.
All of those in the movement recognize that it will take continued pressure, protests and civil disobedience, and much more to stop the U.S. complicity in Israel’s war crimes.
Palestine Solidarity Protests
October 20 in Manhattan
October 21 in Bay Ridge
New York City