“Let Gaza live! Let Gaza live!”
The chant bounced off the century-old granite walls of New York City’s historic Grand Central Station on Oct. 27, as thousands poured onto the floor wearing black T-shirts reading “Jews Say Ceasefire Now.” This messaging has become familiar, as massive rallies around the country, including one of 5,000 people in Washington, D.C., and others in dozens more cities, have been organized by Jewish activists speaking primarily as Jews.
These protests represent the biggest explosion of progressive Jewish organizing in decades, and have helped to launch the biggest surge in Palestine solidarity organizing since the Second Intifada. They also represent a newly unified movement with a new demand: a cease-fire.
The New York demonstration was organized by two groups: IfNotNow, an anti-occupation Jewish organization, and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an explicitly anti-Zionist group as large as it is controversial in the Jewish world. “The important thing was we needed to shift the narrative and bring cease-fire into the mainstream,” Rebecca Vilkomerson, the former executive director of JVP and current activist with the organization’s New York City chapter that flooded the station rotunda, told New Lines. “There is a clarity, fierceness and sheer size of those coming out.”
Both groups, along with other partners on the growing Jewish left, are mobilizing thousands of American Jews to leverage their unique role in this American-Israeli-Palestinian schema to demand an end to Israel’s war on Gaza, which at the time of publication has taken over 23,000 Palestinian and 2,000 Israeli lives. In doing so, they have invigorated members of the Jewish community looking to redefine Jewish life in ways that reflect their vision of justice, even if it puts them at odds with the major Jewish organizations that tend to set the tone in the U.S. [Continue reading…]