Colombo, October 23: It comes as no surprise that liberals, leftists and Muslims in America have been demonstrating against Israel’s bid to de-populate Gaza under the guise of hunting down Hamas. But what has come as a surprise is that a large section of the US Jewish community is coming out against Israel’s brutal response.
American Jewish protesters demand that President Joe Biden play the peace-maker rather than arm Israel to the teeth to help it carry out a war of annihilation thereby precipitating a regional and even a global catastrophe.
In New York, which is a stronghold of American Jews being home to two million of them, a Jewish group calling itself “Not in Our Name” has protested against the ‘dehumanisation’ of Palestinians.
A France 24 report from New York gives the case of protestor Jessica Murphy, a 27 year-old medical student who, though losing her father in the 9/11 attack, felt bad for both the Israelis and the Palestinians.
She was concerned that a false dichotomy was being created, whereby one either supported terrorism or supported the brutal State of Israel.
“I was obviously a child when 9/11 happened, and it’s only many years after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the torture and detention of many innocent people at Guantanamo Bay, that I learned about those horrors the US committed, ostensibly in the name of 9/11 victims like my dad,” she recalled.
Murphy condemned retaliatory violence and insisted that the US stick to strict standards of morality and the Rule of Law.
“I feel that Israel is making a similar mistake that the United States did,” she adds, stressing that war crimes, however horrific, do not entitle countries to commit crimes of their own.
“Obviously, the attacks by Hamas were a war crime. But that does not justify war crimes by the United States in Iraq or by Israel in Gaza,” Murphy said.
She was part of a group of about 1,000 protesters who gathered outside US Senator Chuck Schumer’s house on October 13, to make him and other politicians stop funding the Israeli military.
Jewish peace activist Tal Frieden was among those arrested for blocking entry to the street where Senator Schumer resides, chanting “Not in Our Name” throughout the protest.
Frieden’s grandparents were Holocaust survivors from Hungary. He told France 24 that his family had taught him that “never again” for the Jews should also be “never again for anyone”.
Frieden, who is part of the anti-Zionist “Voice for Peace” movement, viewed the Israeli bombing of Gaza as “genocide”.
UN legal experts have said that Israeli actions in Gaza could amount to “ethnic cleansing”. According to Palestinian officials more than 4,000 people were killed in Gaza since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people.
Frieden thought that the number of Jewish Americans joining the anti-Israeli or anti-Zionist movement was increasing.
“The tides are changing, and we’re seeing more and more support for Palestinian liberation,” he said.
Laurie Rohrich, a Jewish entrepreneur eating Palestinian mezze at the Palestinian eatery Ayat told France 24: “Hamas is a terrorist group but these people (civilians in Gaza) are just trying to live in 140 square miles. They have families, and they want the same things as the rest of us all want – just peace and safety, food, shelter.”
On October 19, Times of Israel reported that over 300 were arrested at a Washington rally demanding that Israel stop the war in Gaza.
The rally was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and IfNotNow, two Jewish groups that criticise Israel and accuse it of genocide and other human rights violations.
The rally, that drew 10,000 people both inside and outside Capitol, took place on the day President Biden visited Israel in a show of support to it, even as he was negotiating humanitarian aid for Gaza civilians.
“We shut down Congress to draw mass attention to the U.S. complicity in Israel’s ongoing oppression of Palestinians,” JVP posted on X (formerly known as Twitter).
“Just as we demand an end to genocide in Gaza, we must put the same effort into dismantling the systems of Zionism, apartheid, and colonialism that brought us to this moment,” JVP said.
“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,” shouted participants at a rally organized by IfNotNow, which was founded in 2014. Protesters wore prayer shawls and at least one brought a shofar (a ram’s-horn trumpet formerly used by Jews as an ancient battle signal and now used in Jewish religious ceremonies).
One speaker, leading a call-and-response with the crowd, recited a traditional Jewish message to mourners, using the Arabic term “Al-Quds,” for Jerusalem rather than the Hebrew or English term.
American Jewish Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman argued in an article in New York Times on October 19, that escalation of the war through an invasion of Gaza would hurt all, Israel, the Palestinians and the US.
He quoted Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea as saying that the extremely radical Palestinian Islamic Jihad had achieved more by mistakenly bombing the Gaza hospital “than it achieved in all of its successful missile launches.”
Friedman explains: “After that rocket failed and fell on the Palestinian hospital in Gaza, killing scores of people, Hamas and Islamic Jihad rushed out and claimed — with no evidence — that Israel had deliberately bombed the hospital, setting streets ablaze across the Arab world.”
“When Israel and the United States offered compelling evidence a few hours later that Islamic Jihad accidentally hit the Gaza hospital with its own rocket, it was already too late. The Arab street was on fire, and a meeting of Arab leaders with Biden was cancelled.”
Friedman then said: “If people cannot talk openly and honestly about a misfired rocket, imagine what will happen when the first major Israeli invasion of Gaza begins in our wired world, linked by social networks!”
“That is why I believe that Israel would be much better off framing any Gaza operation as ‘Operation Save Our Hostages’ — rather than ‘Operation End Hamas Once and for All’ — and carrying it out, if possible, with repeated surgical strikes and special forces operations that can still get the Hamas leadership, but also draw the brightest possible line between Gazan civilians and the Hamas dictatorship.”
“But if Israel feels it must reoccupy Gaza to destroy Hamas and restore its deterrence and security — I repeat — it must pair that military operation with a new commitment to pursue a two-state solution with those Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza ready to make peace with Israel.”
But it may be too late, Friedman worries.
“I have never written a column this urgent before because I have never been more worried about how this situation could spin out of control in ways that could damage Israel irreparably, damage U.S. interests irreparably, damage Palestinians irreparably, threaten Jews everywhere and destabilize the whole world.”
He concluded saying: “I beg Biden to tell Israelis this immediately — for their sake, for America’s sake, for the sake of Palestinians, for the sake of the world.”
Even though there is an improvement in the situation with Hamas releasing two Israeli-American hostages, Israel is carrying out aggressive operations on the Lebanese border and also in the West Bank. It has not given up its preparation for a ground assault on Gaza.