This article appeared originally in The Stranger.
“I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel. Everything is closed. We are fighting human animals, and we will act accordingly.”
Those were the chilling words of Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in the wake of the murderous Hamas attack on Oct 7 that killed more than 1,400 Israeli civilians and soldiers. Since then, Gallant’s vengeful forces have dropped more than 6,000 bombs in Gaza, essentially an open-air prison for more than 2 million Palestinians. Schools, homes, and medical clinics have been destroyed. More than 2,670 Gazans have been killed, including at least 724 Palestinian children.
Even while mourning the staggering loss of Jewish lives on Oct 7, many ordinary Israelis are outraged at their government’s call for Palestinian genocide. Israeli retaliation on the people of Gaza “never brings us better lives, it just brings us more and more terror,” said Noy Katsman, whose brother, Hayim—who has a connection to Seattle—was among those killed by Hamas.
Jews around the world are outraged, too, at the Israeli state’s ethnic cleansing campaign against the Palestinians. And they are taking action.
That’s why last Friday night six of us Jews occupied Sen. Patty Murray’s Seattle office, demanding to meet with her, while 100 other Jews and allies rallied outside the building.
We were there to tell Sen. Murray that our grief over the wanton slaughter of Israelis by Hamas in no way justifies the genocide of Palestinians. We were there to tell the senator to stop funding the Israeli war machine, and instead address the root causes of conflict—the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
Like the vast majority of politicians in both major political parties, Murray has been a longtime booster of US military aid to Israel, aid which is indispensable to the Israeli state’s subjugation of Palestinians. Like Democrats and Republicans across the political spectrum last week, Murray issued a fulsome statement declaring “unwavering” support for the Israeli state and pledging to support more military aid. That will only escalate and perpetuate the cycle of violence.
Not surprisingly, Murray refused to meet us or talk with us on the phone. So, as 5 pm approached and the Federal Building officially closed, we told her staff and the federal police officers that we were not leaving, and we sat down.
A growing number of American Jews have been advocating for Palestinian rights and freedom in recent years. We recognize that our freedom and security—whether here, in Israel/Palestine, or elsewhere around the world—are bound up inextricably with the freedom and security of the Palestinian people. Belatedly but increasingly, more Jewish Americans reject the occupation and the apartheid system that it has spawned.
For many of us at Friday night’s protest, our motivation was also personal. Noy Katsman’s brother, Hayim Katsman, had been an active member of our Kadima Jewish Community here in Seattle while he was in graduate school at the University of Washington. Hayim was 32 and had dedicated his doctoral dissertation to “all life forms that exist between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.” Among other roles at Kadima, Hayim served as Hebrew teacher to my younger daughter and her peers as they prepared for their coming-into-adulthood b’nei mitzvah ceremonies.
The Israeli military’s brutal blockade of Gaza and the ethnic cleansing and bombing now underway won’t bring Hayim back to us, nor will it bring comfort to Hayim’s family. On CNN, Noy pleaded that Hayim’s death not “be used to kill innocent people.”
Yet that is exactly what is happening right now. The Israeli state’s brutal assault will only redouble the suffering and pain of Palestinians and assure us that there will be more people like Hayim killed in the future—both in Israel and in Gaza and the West Bank.
That is why we were there Friday night, occupying Murray’s office, even as the federal police threatened to arrest us. We sang the blessing to welcome in the Jewish sabbath and chanted the mourner’s Kaddish to grieve over the Israelis and Palestinians who have been killed. And then, the police arrested us.
It’s heartening to see broad and growing worldwide rejection of the Israeli state’s brutality, with protests in dozens of cities worldwide, including New York, London, Amsterdam, Sydney, Australia, Seattle, and Cape Town, South Africa. Students, faith communities, union members and unions, like my own National Writers Union, and many more groups and communities, are stepping up to oppose Israel’s war on the people of Gaza.
Much, much more resistance will be needed. We will need an international anti-war movement, led by working people, to stop the Israeli state’s war machine and the governments that abet it. Jewish people have an especially important role to play in standing with the Palestinian people, because the Israeli and US governments shamefully claim to be defending the security of Jews everywhere. They are not. Jewish people will enjoy true security only when the Palestinian people have full security and freedom themselves. That starts with an immediate cease fire, aid to help Gazans recover, an end to US military aid that supports the Israeli military assault, and the beginning of concrete measures to end the Israeli occupation.
About the Author
Jonathan Rosenblum is a member of Kadima Reconstructionist (Jewish) Community, the author of Beyond $15: Immigrant Workers, Faith Activists, and the Revival of the Labor Movement (Beacon Press, 2017), and a community organizer in the Office of Councilmember Kshama Sawant. He wrote this article in a personal capacity.