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In Solidarity: Jewish Peace Activists in the US Demand Immediate Ceasefire and Justice for Palestinians

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As Rabbi Alissa Wise scrolls through her social media feed, she is confronted by heart-wrenching videos of Palestinian children lying lifeless, parents holding their still bodies, and the pervasive grief that permeates Gaza. Witnessing the aftermath of more than two weeks of relentless Israeli airstrikes, she, like many worldwide, grapples with the destruction of homes, vital infrastructure, and the ensuing humanitarian crisis.

The toll of this conflict is staggering, with over 4,600 Palestinians, including 1,900 children, killed, and at least 14,000 others wounded, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. The United Nations reports that 1.4 million people are internally displaced, their lives upended by the ongoing violence.

For Rabbi Wise, a member of the rabbinical council with Jewish Voice for Peace, the distress is overwhelming. "It's wretched. I wake up every single morning with tears in my eyes, rage in my heart, and I channel it into action," she shares. Her coping mechanism involves vocal advocacy, even if it means shouting into the void and the halls of Congress.

The anguish extends beyond Gaza, reaching Israel with the surprise attack by Hamas on October 7, resulting in over 1,400 casualties, including civilians and military personnel, and the abduction of more than 200 others, as reported by the Israel Defense Forces. Israel frames its mission as rooting out and destroying Hamas, yet it is the 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza who bear the brunt of the conflict.

In response to the ongoing crisis, Jewish American peace activists, including Rabbi Wise, are mobilizing for an urgent ceasefire. Their calls for peace, however, place them in opposition to some groups within their own community, such as the Anti-Defamation League, which questions their morals and accuses them of being anti-Israel.

Demonstrating their commitment, thousands of Jews and allies marched on Capitol Hill, carrying Palestinian flags and advocating for Palestinian rights. Rabbi Wise led a smaller sit-in inside one of the Capitol buildings, organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow—two major US Jewish groups advocating for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

During the sit-in, orchestrated by two dozen rabbis, shofars resonated as symbols of Jewish tradition, while activists donned shirts proclaiming "Not in our name" and unveiled banners demanding an immediate ceasefire. Testimonials from suffering Palestinians in Gaza were shared, amplifying the human impact of the conflict. The activists, predominantly Jewish, called on the US government to halt aid to Israel, alleging that such support fuels what Rabbi Alissa Wise describes as the "mass murder of Palestinians." More than 355 activists, including Wise, were reportedly arrested during the event, with thousands of Jewish Americans participating in protests nationwide. Their collective plea to President Joe Biden and elected officials emphasizes that escalating civilian casualties isn't a solution to Hamas' attacks.

Eva Borgwardt, political director of IfNotNow, drew parallels between recent remarks by Israeli officials and historical atrocities, vowing to prevent what they perceive as a potential genocide. Rabbi Wise, upon learning about her Palestinian friend's family tragedy, underscored the urgency of their cause, emphasizing the need for American Jews to declare that "never again" applies universally. Rejecting the notion that Jewish safety should come at the expense of Palestinian lives, she stressed an inclusive stance: "It's not either-or, it's all of us or none of us." The rallying cry "never again," rooted in the aftermath of World War II, resonates as a call for collective humanity, extending beyond historical boundaries to encompass the well-being of all, including Palestinians.

Beyond orchestrating civil actions, Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow actively engage in community education through digital media, collaborate with journalists, organize petition drives, and coordinate campaigns involving telephone and email outreach to elected officials and news organizations. Their collaborative efforts extend to partnerships with smaller Jewish groups, as well as Arab, Muslim, and Palestine solidarity activists.

Jewish Voice for Peace, established in 1996, boasts of being the world's largest Jewish pro-Palestinian organization, boasting over 440,000 members and supporters across 30 states. IfNotNow, with a substantial US network, comprises tens of thousands of Jewish members participating in direct actions protesting the Israeli occupation since 2014. According to Eva Borgwardt of IfNotNow, the collective efforts of these movements, spanning decades, have prepared them to confront what they perceive as a horrific, genocidal moment. Ending the current conflict is seen as a pivotal test, and they emphasize the necessity of addressing root issues—decades of occupation, apartheid, and advocating for equality, justice, and a prosperous future for all.

However, these Jewish groups advocating for Palestinian rights face significant criticism, particularly from pro-Israel groups. Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), acknowledges the protesters' right to free speech but criticizes what he perceives as a "complete lack of moral clarity." He asserts that Hamas, not Israel, is responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza. Meredith Weisel, the ADL's DC regional director, dismisses the Capitol Hill protesters as a fringe minority, labeling them anti-Zionists challenging Israel's right to exist and equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism.

Rabbi Alissa Wise vehemently disagrees, clarifying that Zionism, a 19th-century nationalist movement supporting a Jewish homeland in Palestine under British administration, is distinct from Judaism itself. The ongoing debate reflects the complexity of perspectives within the Jewish community on issues related to Israel and Palestine.

Beyond orchestrating civil actions, Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow actively engage in community education through digital media, collaborate with journalists, organize petition drives, and coordinate campaigns involving telephone and email outreach to elected officials and news organizations. Their collaborative efforts extend to partnerships with smaller Jewish groups, as well as Arab, Muslim, and Palestine solidarity activists.

Jewish Voice for Peace, established in 1996, boasts of being the world's largest Jewish pro-Palestinian organization, boasting over 440,000 members and supporters across 30 states. IfNotNow, with a substantial US network, comprises tens of thousands of Jewish members participating in direct actions protesting the Israeli occupation since 2014. According to Eva Borgwardt of IfNotNow, the collective efforts of these movements, spanning decades, have prepared them to confront what they perceive as a horrific, genocidal moment. Ending the current conflict is seen as a pivotal test, and they emphasize the necessity of addressing root issues—decades of occupation, apartheid, and advocating for equality, justice, and a prosperous future for all.

However, these Jewish groups advocating for Palestinian rights face significant criticism, particularly from pro-Israel groups. Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), acknowledges the protesters' right to free speech but criticizes what he perceives as a "complete lack of moral clarity." He asserts that Hamas, not Israel, is responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza. Meredith Weisel, the ADL's DC regional director, dismisses the Capitol Hill protesters as a fringe minority, labeling them anti-Zionists challenging Israel's right to exist and equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism.

Rabbi Alissa Wise vehemently disagrees, clarifying that Zionism, a 19th-century nationalist movement supporting a Jewish homeland in Palestine under British administration, is distinct from Judaism itself. The ongoing debate reflects the complexity of perspectives within the Jewish community on issues related to Israel and Palestine.

More than half of Gaza's population consists of refugees whose ancestors were displaced during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, known as al-Nakba or "the catastrophe." Expelled from their homes by armed Jewish groups, they have faced poverty as Israel has prevented their return. In 1967, Israel seized control of Gaza in the Six-Day War, maintaining it for almost 40 years before withdrawing troops and settlers in 2005. A blockade imposed since then, with Egypt's cooperation, has turned Gaza into what critics call "the world's largest open-air prison." The region has seen frequent hostilities between Israel and Palestinian factions, including Hamas.

Conditions are dire in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and surrounding refugee camps. Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow advocate that addressing these underlying issues is crucial for achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The current war's outcome is uncertain, but Rabbi Alissa Wise notes the increasing desperation in Gaza, with hospitals on the verge of collapse and critical supplies running out amid constant bombardment.

As the situation worsens, the activists emphasize the urgency of taking action. Wise, acknowledging the despair, emphasizes that maintaining hope and envisioning a future of a free Palestine requires proactive efforts even in the face of challenges.

Certainly, without the specific text of the article, I'll provide general conclusions based on the information shared in the previous interactions. If you have specific details or points from the article you'd like me to focus on, please provide them.

In conclusion, the discussed article sheds light on the perspective and actions of Jewish peace activists, particularly groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, amid the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. The narratives of Rabbi Alissa Wise and Eva Borgwardt highlight the complexities within the Jewish community regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These activists, challenging the notion that supporting Palestinian rights is inherently anti-Israel or anti-Jewish, are pushing for an urgent ceasefire and addressing the root causes of the conflict.

The article underscores the diverse opinions within the Jewish community, with some groups, like the Anti-Defamation League, criticizing peace activists as a minority fringe. The debate not only centers on the immediate conflict but also delves into broader issues, such as the historical context of displacement, occupation, and the impact on the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians.

The personal stories of activists facing backlash within their own communities, along with the broader efforts for education, media engagement, and civil actions, provide a nuanced view of the complexities involved in advocating for peace in the region. The article leaves readers with a sense of the urgency felt by these activists in the face of the humanitarian crisis and a divided global discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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