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'This Genocide Must End Now': Jewish-Led Protests Demand Gaza Cease-Fire

"As the descendant of people who have survived pogroms, I know my ancestors would want me to do everything in my power to stop the U.S.-funded genocide unfolding in Gaza," said one activist.

Chicago Jews and allies block the Washington Street bridge in Chicago, December 14 -- image via X

By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

On the eighth night of Hanukkah, Jewish activists and allies took to the streets of eight U.S. cities on Thursday to demand an end to the bloodshed in Gaza, blocking traffic on bridges and highways in a show of opposition to the Biden administration's continued support for the Israeli military's atrocities.

"It is horrifying to watch the U.S. government fully fund the Israeli government's relentless bombing campaign and the destruction of the people of Gaza," said Sara Bollag of the Washington, D.C. chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which helped organize the protests in Seattle; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Minneapolis; and Atlanta.

"I am here, as the great-granddaughter of a victim of the Holocaust, doing everything in my power to stop another genocide unfolding before our eyes," Bollag added.

In the nation's capital, demonstrators holding signs that read "Cease-Fire Now" and "Never Again for Anyone" and singing Hanukkah prayers shut down an overpass.

In Chicago, more than a dozen Jewish demonstrators were arrested for obstructing the Washington Street bridge.

"As the descendant of people who have survived pogroms, I know my ancestors would want me to do everything in my power to stop the U.S.-funded genocide unfolding in Gaza," said Millie Hartenstein of JVP Chicago.

The nationwide demonstrations came amid growing domestic and international outrage over the Biden administration's decision to keep arming the Israeli government and opposing global efforts to secure a lasting cease-fire as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza spirals out of control, leaving most of the territory's population without adequate food, clean water, humane living conditions, and sufficient medical treatment.

"Everywhere you look is congested with makeshift shelters. Everywhere you go, people are desperate, hungry, and terrified," Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, said in a speech on Thursday. "People—and this is also something completely new—people are stopping aid trucks, taking the food, and eating it right away. This is how desperate and hungry they are. I witnessed this firsthand."

President Joe Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, met with Israeli leaders on Thursday and reportedly urged them to "switch to more precise tactics in about three weeks" in an attempt to "communicate that American patience with widespread civilian deaths is running out." According to one human rights monitor, more than 90% of the people killed so far by Israel's latest aerial and ground assault on Gaza have been civilians.

A U.S. intelligence assessment reported by CNN on Wednesday found that nearly half of the munitions Israel has dropped on Gaza since October 7 have been so-called "dumb bombs," unguided weapons whose use in densely populated areas could violate international law.

The U.S. has provided Israel with both guided and unguided munitions, as well as artillery shells and other weaponry. Just last Friday, the State Department bypassed a congressional review process to push through the sale of 13,000 rounds of tank ammunition to Israel.

Earlier this week, top humanitarian aid leaders implored the U.S. government to urgently change its approach to halt Gaza's "apocalyptic free fall" and dozens of Biden administration staffers held a vigil outside the White House demanding an immediate cease-fire, the latest sign of mounting internal dissent.

"We have seen refugee camps, hospitals, schools, and entire neighborhoods bombed," Josh Paul, a former State Department official who resigned in October over the Biden administration's unconditional arms transfers to Israel, said during Thursday's vigil. "We have seen dead men, women, and children pulled from the rubble in their pajamas. We have seen harassment, humiliation, and degradation of many kinds. This is unacceptable."

Jake Johnson is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams.

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