As the Israeli army’s massacre in Gaza continues, hundreds of thousands of people around the world are standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people, organising marches and rallies against the war. The establishment of western capitalist countries is trying hard to put a break on the anti-war movement, describing the mass mobilisations as actions supporting terrorism and anti-Semitic, and there are many cases of censorship, protest bans and intimidation.
In the vast majority of cases, the attempts to scare people fail, with activists standing up to their regime’s propaganda and repression. But perhaps the most powerful response has come from mobilisations organised internationally by Jews themselves, from the very first day that the Israeli army launched its unprecedented offensive against the Palestinians, with the central demand of an immediate ceasefire.
US Jews: ‘Never Again’ for anyone
In the face of the Israeli government’s brutal assault on Palestinians, Jews in the United States are organizing resistance under the slogan “not in our name,” and declaring that they refuse to allow that the slaughter of Israeli civilians is used as an excuse for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
On October 27, the US Jewish organisation Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) took over Grand Central Station in New York City, with filmmaker Michael Moore live-streaming the demonstration on his Instagram account. More than 200 people were arrested for chanting slogans such as “Ceasefire Now”, “Free Palestine” and “Let Gaza Live”.
On November 7, Jews carried out a symbolic occupation of the Statue of Liberty in New York City, saying “We refuse to allow genocide in our name”, “Palestinians must be free” and “Never again for anyone, never again is now”. The phrase “Never again” is associated with the Nazi holocaust of Jews in World War II and was used by the liberated prisoners of the Buchenwald concentration camp to express their anti-fascist sentiments.
On Wednesday, November 15, more than 1,000 people took part in a demonstration in Hollywood called by the US organisations Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now. The demonstrators wore black shirts with “Not In Our Name” on the front and “Jews Say Ceasefire Now” on the back.
The Hollywood protest coincided with a similar rally organised by Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now outside the Democratic Party headquarters in Washington, D.C. While both rallies were peaceful, the Washington rally was met with a violent police response after demonstrators blocked the entrance to the building with their bodies.
Similar demonstrations took place in other countries. On Sunday, November 19, hundreds of Jews gathered at the Victoria Embankment in London to call for an end to the siege of Gaza, while in France, groups of Jews took part in a rally in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
All these actions show that a large section of Jews in the US and the rest of the world are increasingly condemning Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people and opposing the Israeli government’s plans.
This is illustrated by a poll showing that more than half of US Jews disapprove of Netanyahu’s right-wing government.
Standing Together: a promising Arab-Jewish movement
The most important moment of resistance to the war has come from within the State of Israel. On November 4, 700 Jews and Arabs gathered in a mosque in Haifa to send a joint message of peace and unity.
This was an action by Standing Together, the largest Arab-Jewish movement in Israel, which began its activities in 2015, has around 5,000 members and organises Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel both against racism and in defence of workers’ rights.
The demonstrations taking place in Israel are also extremely important. On Saturday, October 28, a rally was held in front of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, house, where those gathered called for a ceasefire. Among the demonstrators were relatives of hostages held in Gaza. Some demonstrators held banners calling on Netanyahu to resign, while others lit candles and formed the words “guilty” and “shame”.
The resistance organised inside Israel is not only of great political significance, but also an act of great courage. The demonstrators are facing repression not only from the state but also from organised reactionary groups. A typical example is that of the Israeli journalist Israel Frey, who was attacked by a group of right-wing Israelis, while he was praying with his family in solidarity with the Palestinians. At the same time, there are media reports about hundreds of attacks by right-wing extremists on both Israeli Arabs and left-wing activists since the war began, with the police ‘standing back’ and arresting only four suspects!
Jewish writers against war
A group of writers, artists and activists have written an open letter to call out
“the widespread narrative that any criticism of Israel is inherently antisemitic”.
The letter goes on to say:
“Israel and its defenders have long used this rhetorical tactic to shield Israel from accountability, dignify the US’s multibillion-dollar investment in Israel’s military, obscure the deadly reality of occupation, and deny Palestinian sovereignty. Now, this insidious gagging of free speech is being used to justify Israel’s ongoing military bombardment of Gaza and to silence criticism from the international community.
We condemn the recent attacks on Israeli and Palestinian civilians and mourn such harrowing loss of life. In our grief, we are horrified to see the fight against antisemitism weaponized as a pretext for war crimes with stated genocidal intent.
Antisemitism is an excruciatingly painful part of our community’s past and present. Our families have escaped wars, harassment, pogroms, and concentration camps. We have studied the long histories of persecution and violence against Jews, and we take seriously the ongoing antisemitism that jeopardizes the safety of Jews around the world.
It is precisely because of the painful history of antisemitism and lessons of Jewish texts that we advocate for the dignity and sovereignty of the Palestinian people. We refuse the false choice between Jewish safety and Palestinian freedom; between Jewish identity and ending the oppression of Palestinians. In fact, we believe the rights of Jews and Palestinians go hand-in-hand. The safety of each people depends on the other’s.
When we say never again, we mean it.”
The letter was published on November 2 and within 15 days over 2,000 Jewish writers and artists had signed by.
All this proves that Jews are not a single bloc supporting Zionism, with its extreme nationalist positions, racism and hatred of Palestinians.
We should remember that, in the distant past, Jews have played a catalytic role in building socialist forces internationally. A typical example was the contribution of Jews to the Russian Revolution of 1917 through the Bund, an organisation that rallied Jewish workers in Russia. The same organisation in Poland in the 1920s and 1930s played a key role in the struggle against Polish nationalist organisations and was at the forefront of the Warsaw Jewish ghetto uprising in the spring of 1943, when the Nazis attempted to transfer the remaining inhabitants of the ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp. Wherever there were large Jewish communities, the contribution of working and poor Jews to the workers’ struggles was significant.
In Greece, too, they played an important role in building the forces of the labour movement through the establishment of the Φεντερασιόν, a socialist workers’ organisation founded in Thessaloniki in 1909 by Jewish, Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian, Slav and other workers, led by the Jewish-born Avraam Benaroya, in direct opposition to the Jewish nationalists.
Today, the mobilisations organised against the massacre of the Palestinians play a very important role in responding to the attempts of the establishment to brand any action of solidarity with the Palestinian people as “anti-Semitic”. This effort by the establishement ultimately reinforces Islamophobia and racial divisions within the working class.
These mobilisations show the real possibilities that exist to develop the common struggle of the peoples of the region, especially the Palestinian and Israeli workers and youth, to put an end to the massacre and to find a real solution that protects the rights of both peoples – a socialist solution.