Dan La Botz
Posted October 30, 2023
For a second week, as Israel continued and expanded its bombardment and launched its invasion of Gaza, thousands marched in protest demonstrations in New York, Chicago, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles and other cities, demanding a ceasefire. My friends and I participated in a march of thousands in Brooklyn from the Brooklyn Museum to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Led by Palestinian and Jewish groups, protesters called not only for a ceasefire, but for an end to Israel’s genocidal war and a stop to U.S. funding for Israel. Protesters in New York took over Grand Central Station as police arrested 300, students demonstrated on university campuses, while high school students walked out of class in some cities. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Americans signed petitions calling for a ceasefire.
The movement is suffering repression. Supporters of Palestine have had their events cancelled, their organizations condemned or banned, and some have been denied jobs, or if they are not citizens, threatened with deportation. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida ordered Florida’s state university system to prohibit Students for Justice in Palestine because, he said, it had supported terrorists. At the same time, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution condemning Palestinian student groups. Republican candidates raised other ideas. DeSantis called for taking away protesting foreign students’ visas, Tom Scott called for taking away their educational grants, and Nikki Haley, referring to the protests, suggested cutting the state’s educational funding or universities that can’t control hate speech that threatens lives.
The protests have shaken the Democratic Party as a handful of progressives put forward ceasefire resolutions and President Joe Biden’s support began to decline dramatically. Recent polls show that while most Americans, including Democrats, sympathize with Israel, 67 percent of Americans support calls for a ceasefire. Yet when progressives introduced a ceasefire resolution in the House of Representatives, only 18 of 435 supported it. More than 300 former staff members of Bernie Sanders urged him to introduce a ceasefire resolution in the Senate, but he has declined to do so. Instead, he called for a “humanitarian pause” to bring aid into Gaza, a position subsequently adopted by Biden.
Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, the U.S. government, under both Democrats and Republicans, has supported every Israeli government, providing $260 billion in military and economic aid in the last 75 years. There are eight million Jews in the United States, making up 2.4 percent of the total population, but 70% of them are Democrats. A majority of Jews support Israel, and though many secular and younger Jews are critical of Israel, the Zionist lobby in the United States is very influential. The Palestinian population, just 200,000 among the larger two million Arab Americans, has been much less influential. In any case, until now U.S. government support for Israel has been taken for granted.
Today, however, with Israel’s attack on Gaza on TV every day, showing Palestinians carrying their dead children through the rubble, the Democratic Party is beginning to fracture, and support for Joseph Biden is declining. Palestinians, Arab Americans, and Muslims, as well as many Blacks and young voters, are withdrawing their support for the president. In the last month, Biden’s support among Democrats fell by 11 points to just 75 percent, while his overall approval rating is just 37 percent.
Seeing 80-year-old Biden’s vulnerability, Representative Dean Phillips, a 54-year-old congressman from Minnesota, has declared himself a candidate for the presidency. He is a moderate and shares the Democrats’ loyalty to Israel, saying, “We need the United States to continue to support Israel. We need to eradicate Hamas. And we need to encourage Palestinians to elevate a leadership that can sit at the table with principle, with good character, and with the intention for peace.”
Meanwhile, the Republican Party, after weeks of paralysis, has finally elected Mike Johnson from the party’s far right as the new Speaker of the House. His first act upon taking office was to put forward a resolution in support of Israel, which passed 412 to 10, with 6 abstaining. Donald Trump, who transformed the Republicans into a far-right party, told a Jewish Republican gathering, “I will defend America, and I will defend Western civilization from the barbarians and savages and fascists that you see now trying to do harm to our beautiful Israel.”
Despite the obdurate American political establishment, we protesters in the street are determined to stop U.S. support for Israel’s war.