'Not in our name': American Jewish activists lead march to White House over Israel's 'genocide' on Gaza
By Brooke Anderson, Washington, The New Arab, 17 October 2023
One of the demonstrators, 80-year-old Joyce Ravitz, was blunt about why she'd shown up. "Genocide. I'm terrified that the Israelis want to commit genocide. Since the state of Israel was founded, they've been killing Palestinians," she told TNA.
On Monday afternoon, 16 October, a coalition of progressive US Jews led more than a thousand people on a march to the White House to demonstrate against the Israeli blockade and new war on Gaza.
The gathering, which began at Farragut Square in downtown Washington, DC, brought together mainly leftist Jews, led by IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace, and Palestinians and others.
Demonstrators of all ages, including the elderly and pregnant women, held various signs, many of which reference Jewish support for human rights.
One of the largest was displayed at the park's centre, which read, "Never again is now," a reminder of the words widely used since the Holocaust, "Never again."
The gathering took place just over a week after Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel from Gaza, prompting a severe response by Israel, with a blockade already in place and a ground war appearing imminent. This has prompted fears among many of a genocide in Gaza.
Rabbi Miriam Grossman of congregation Kolot Chayeinu in Brooklyn, New York, gave an impassioned speech that seemed to capture the mood of a crowd that was simultaneously grappling with lives lost and trying to prevent further loss of life.
"My heart is with each of you here today. My heart is especially with each of you who is mourning the death and the murder of a loved one," she said, noting the thousands of recent deaths of Israelis and Palestinians.
"We face a cycle of death and violence and fear that existed long before last week but that is only becoming more entrenched in this moment. We are here, not only to mourn and pray. We are here to fight back. We are here as American Jews to tell our government: Not in our name," said the rabbi, eliciting chants from the crowd repeating the words: Not in our name.
The speeches were followed by traditional Jewish songs in Hebrew, with one of the speakers reminding the crowd that the language had been used for liturgical purposes long before the state of Israel was established.
As the demonstrators got ready to march to the White House, with some planning on practising civil disobedience by blocking the building's entrances, an organiser assured the crowd that they would be offered legal and medical support should they face arrest.
One of the demonstrators, 80-year-old Joyce Ravitz, was blunt about why she'd shown up. "Genocide. I'm terrified that the Israelis want to commit genocide. Since the state of Israel was founded, they've been killing Palestinians," she told The New Arab as she marched with her nephew towards the White House.
Ravitz said she became involved in peace movements following a trip in her early teens to Israel, where she saw Arabs living in poverty while Jews were living much better.
"I was raised a Zionist," she said. "History is so important. As an adult, I learn more and more about Israeli history."
She sees Israel as an important factor in the rise of Hamas due to the country's treatment of the Palestinians.
"Because of the way they treat Palestinians, I can completely understand people being attracted to violence. I'm completely against violence. I'm completely against what Hamas did and completely against what Israel has been doing for 70-some years," she said.
She added, "It's really good to see so many people here today. I'm really happy about that. I suspect on Wednesday there will be even more."
As the crowd marched to the White House, they alternated between various chants. When they reached the premises, they broke into at least two groups, unfurling large banners reading: Ceasefire.
As a smaller break-out group steadfastly stood by the entrance, the police called for backup. Eventually, as expected, several were arrested for blocking entrances to the White House, part of what appeared to be a larger plan of getting those in the building to talk about the conflict.
A larger Jewish-led march in support of Palestinian civilians in Gaza is planned for Wednesday in the US capital.