Calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, activists from Amnesty International and the activist group Avaaz on November 15 placed several hundred body bags outside of the White House representing the over 11,000 people killed thus far in Israel’s escalating war. The graphic reminder of the scale and unprecedented carnage had an immediate impact on all those who passed by with many stopping to view the various sized, white-shrouded forms each with a long stem red rose placed on top. Several of the bags were laid out in groups to represent entire families that had been murdered.
The demonstration which began in the afternoon with activists standing among the body bags and holding their arms up with the names and ages of victims ended after dark with a candlelight vigil in memory of all those who have been killed.
The groups are demanding that President Biden publicly call for and facilitate an immediate ceasefire to the conflict. They are also demanding Israel allow unimpeded access and humanitarian aid to Gaza and are supporting the release of all hostages along with Palestinian administrative detainees and an end to the sale and transfer of all weapons to the Israeli government.
Paul O’Brien, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, called for an immediate ceasefire, and was quoted as saying that “Four-hour breaks in fighting is not enough.” He implored President Biden to suspend arms transfers to Israel and called for “The United States to protect civilians and prevent further staggering levels of human suffering.”
Nell Greenberg, Deputy Director of Avaaz, asked President Biden, “How many more children must die before you support the global ceasefire? How many are enough?” He characterized the inaction of President Biden, his cabinet and congress as “morally bankrupt” for allowing Israel, one of the U.S.’s closest allies, to murder thousands of children, noting that in turn it is “risking American security, our global reputation and the safety of the hostages.”
“It is time for America to recognize that standing with the Israeli people does not mean giving a blank check to their prime minister as he massacres thousands of innocent civilians.”
While not part of today’s demonstration, two long-time activists have been protesting outside of the White House daily in calling for a ceasefire and an end to the war. Holocaust survivor, Marione Ingram, 87, along with her husband Daniel, hold signs each day stating their opposition to the war and calling for peace. Marione has been involved in social activism since the early civil rights protests of the South and has had a long and active life fighting against hate despite all that she has had to endure personally for standing up for what she believes in.
She characterized her activism recently on Democracy Now when she told broadcast journalist Amy Goodman “I’ll never give up fighting what I believe is just. I will never give up fighting for anything.” During the same show she went on to warn of the parallels of her experience during WWII and those that we face today by saying that “America is teetering, in my opinion, at the very edge of becoming Nazi Germany. Banning books leads to burning books. It leads to people being shut up.”
She went further by characterizing Congressmember Rashida Tlaib’s recent censure by Congress as “shameful” for their reaction to Talib’s repeating “From the river to the sea,” a staple chant of pro-Palestinian demonstrations. She described Tlaib as her “hero” for speaking out as a “righteous voice” in defense of those being murdered in Gaza.
For her part, Tlaib characterized the long-used chant as “an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.”
To put this in perspective, an article published November 8 in the Jewish Telegraph Agency – a news and wire service – noted that the phrase, in use since the 1960s, has been paraphrased by Israeli politicians to describe the same geographical area.
Ally-turned-rival of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Gideon Saar, the right-wing lawmaker used it in 2020 by saying that “‘Between the Jordan River and the sea there won’t be another independent state,’ meaning a Palestinian state alongside Israel.”
While religious Zionist politician Uri Ariel in 2014 said, “Between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea there will be only one state, which is Israel.”
And lastly, Netanyahu himself, who in expressing his rejection of a Palestinian State, “has favored the phrase ‘west of the Jordan,’ which refers to the same territory.”
(This article has appeared in Nuzeink)
Phil Pasquini is a freelance journalist and photographer. His reports and photographs appear in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pakistan Link and Nuze.ink. He is the author of Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.
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