In a bold demonstration of solidarity, 180 human rights activists staged sit-ins on Friday Nov 3rd 2023 at the offices of eight U.S. senators, demanding an immediate ceasefire for Gaza and an end to U.S. weapons and military funding to Israel. The urgency of their plea is stressed by the alarming toll of the ongoing conflict, with the Israeli military’s relentless bombing campaign in Gaza resulting in the deaths of at least 11,240 Palestinians, over 27,490 wounded, and 2700 missing, presumed dead or trapped under rubble.
Despite the staggering human cost, a recent poll by Data for Progress revealed that 66% of U.S. voters support a ceasefire. However, this sentiment has not been translated into action by the Senate, where no resolution has been introduced to call for a ceasefire. Only one senator, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, has publicly advocated for a halt to the hostilities. The House of Representatives, in a concerning move, voted to allocate an additional $14.3 billion in weapons to Israel. This decision has prompted widespread criticism and has further fueled the determination of activists to challenge the status quo.
A delegation from the Arab American Civic Council joined the sit-ins, amplifying the call for accountability and justice. The actions included a sit-in at the office of Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), one of the eight senators targeted by the activists.
The senators in question, namely Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), are being called out for their silence in the face of what activists describe as an ongoing genocide. The activists are particularly critical of the senators’ support for sending an additional $14.3 billion in weapons to Israel while turning a blind eye to the cries for a ceasefire.
As protests in major cities gain momentum and draw attention to the plight of the Palestinian people, the activists warn that today’s sit-ins at the Senate offices are only the beginning of their efforts. They emphasize that time is running out for those in Gaza, where the healthcare system has collapsed with 16 of 35 hospitals out of service, and Israeli attacks continue to target refugee camps, hospitals, and even the oldest church in Gaza.
The activists weigh the complicity of the U.S. government in the conflict, pointing out that every year, a blank check of at least $3.8 billion is written to Israel for weapons, ammunition, and other military resources. Despite opposition from numerous organizations, including Oxfam, President Biden is pushing for an additional $14.3 billion in military aid, a move that further urges the resolve of those advocating for an end to U.S. support for what they view as Israeli atrocities.
In the face of these challenges, hundreds of thousands of people of conscience are joining the call to end U.S. complicity in the conflict. The sit-ins at the Senate represent a powerful statement, a collective demand echoing in the halls of power: “Ceasefire NOW.” The question remains whether the senators will heed this call and take meaningful action to address the urgent humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza.
Blog Post by Raneen Vace AACC’s NNAAC Transformative Leaders Fellow