The status quo has got to go!
Along with others, activists in Jewish Voice for Peace chapters nationwide have been targeting American companies that profit from the occupation, as well as elected officials, and Jewish institutions that rally behind Israel’s violence against civilians in Gaza. On Monday, along with a dedicated interfaith delegation, people of tremendous conscience and courage, I committed civil disobedience and was arrested by the LAPD for sitting in at Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office, trying to get her to speak with us by phone, so we could tell her of the suffering her votes are inflicting on civilians in Gaza.
I did not make this decision quickly or without serious consideration, but in the end it was clear to me, that it was the right thing to do. Like most of the others in our delegation, I have been to Israel and to the West Bank; and watching the horrors of Israel’s current military operation over this past month pushed me to stand up and say, “Not in my name” and attempt to break the status quo of the United States Senate’s unconditional support of the longest military occupation in modern history.
In Los Angeles, along with organizers from American Muslims for Palestine, LA and Friends of Sabeel, LA, Jewish Voice for Peace, LA gathered an interfaith delegation of committed activists and decided to deliver our message to our two Senators, who have continuously voted in support of providing Israel with over $3 billion of annual military aid, and recently voted for Senate Resolution 498, which expressed support for Israel’s attack on Gaza and made no mention at all of Palestinian deaths or the disproportionate use of force against Gaza’s trapped civilian population.
As we wrote in the letter we delivered to Senator Feinstein’s office on Monday.
“We are shocked by the brutality of Israel’s assault on Gaza. We are appalled by the massive destruction of homes, mosques, schools and hospitals. Israel has already killed close to 2,000 people in Gaza – an estimated 80% of them civilians. Of these, nearly 500 are children who comprise 25% of those killed by weapons you have voted to give Israel. More than 10,000 people are seriously wounded. Hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza are homeless and living in fear.”
A simultaneous visit was made across town at Senator Barbara Boxer’s downtown Los Angeles office, where the same letter was delivered to her. Activists there, also met with staffers and also sat in requesting to speak with Senator Boxer herself. But being located in a Federal facility, they chose to leave the office when arrest seemed imminent.
As for the four of us who were arrested, our night in jail felt symbolic of nights for so many Palestinians, who do not have freedom of movement, access to power, food, water, privacy, control over their own freedom. We had each other, the knowledge that there were others close by working for our freedom, each other and the determination to change the status quo.
It is vitally important to all of us that the status quo be disrupted. That the curtain of calm between Israeli military actions– which masks the daily violence of civilians living under military occupation in the West Bank, under lock down and siege in Gaza, residency statuses being revoked in East Jerusalem or living as 2nd or 3rd class citizens in Israel; a state that affords many privileges only to Jewish nationals, similar to the structural inequality of the Jim Crow South in America– not be allowed to continue with impunity.
That required me to break my status quo, to stop hoping that those elected to represent the people might do what thousands and thousands of people have been out in the streets asking for them to do, and try something new to make them pay attention to the people they were elected to represent. Those people are calling upon them to support the international commission of inquiry appointed by the United Nations to look into possible human rights violations and war crimes committed by both sides during Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.
They are emailing and writing letters calling upon them to condemn all violence and to stop justifying Israel’s use of disproportionate force and killing of innocent civilians because of “its right to defend itself” ignoring all rights of Palestinians, or acknowledgement of how the Gaza strip was created by Israel.
The people demonstrating in the streets, committing civil disobedience, and raising funds to help Palestinians in need all know that there is no military solution to the political issues dividing Israelis and Palestinians. We collectively urge our senators, congressional representatives, faith and civic leaders to demand that Israel immediately end its blockade and siege of Gaza and commit themselves to joining the international effort to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
We are calling upon the Obama administration and our US government, state and local officials to support genuine peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian unity government. And to declare that if the Israeli government will not participate in talks with that unity government, then they will no longer vote to support any further American aid of any sort be provided to Israel.
We are demanding that support in the form of our tax dollars, be used by the US government to provide immediate humanitarian aid and supplies to Gaza. For far too long, our tax dollars have played a significant role in the destruction of Gaza, now our tax dollars must be used to rebuild Gaza and aid the civilian population.
One thing is abundantly clear. There can and will be no peace in the Middle East until there is genuine peace in the lands called Israel and Palestine; and that will only come with equal rights, security and justice for all who live there. For that to become a reality, the status quo has got to go.