Israel’s offensive on Gaza is on hold, but displays of solidarity with the Palestinian people continue. If this was not clear from the recent protests at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, it should be following the latest display of civil disobedience organized by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).
On Sunday afternoon, November 26, more than 1,000 Jews and allies blocked the Manhattan Bridge from the Manhattan side, with many prepared to be arrested. The demonstration shut down traffic for more than three hours on one of the busiest travel days of the year. NYPD was seen recording the images of protesters, but did not have enough forces available to make arrests.
According to a Left Voice member who participated in the action, several members of the UAW at Columbia University (including herself) were involved in the protest. This is reflective of the larger role that students and university faculty are playing in the movement, as well as the potential for organized workers to unite their struggles as union members with other fights against oppression, such as the current movement for Palestinian liberation.
While Israel was forced to agree to a pause in bombing in order to exchange hostages with Hamas and let some aid into Gaza, Prime Minister Netanyahu has been clear that he intends to continue the genocide as soon as the pause ends. Israel has announced a new phase of its offensive in which it intends to attack Palestinians in the South of Gaza — this despite the fact that Gazans were told, at the start of the siege, to evacuate to the South. Israel also continues to terrorize Palestinians in the West Bank, and President Biden remains steadfast in his unconditional support for Israel, even as his administration works to contain regional escalations.
Though the genocidal offensive of Israel and the United States has not been fully defeated, the pause shows that the international movement in solidarity with Palestine has already forced some concessions that Netanyahu and Biden originally resisted. It is all the more important that the movement has not been demobilized by the pause, and continues to demand, at minimum, a permanent ceasefire which includes an end to Israel’s bombing and siege of Gaza.
From Direct Action to Massive Mobilizations
The movement is still up against some of the most powerful institutions in the world. To successfully defeat the interests of the largest imperialist power and its most essential ally in the Middle East, we need to build a broad force that unites the different leaderships and the larger communities they represent (especially unity between Jewish and Arab organizations).
Already, leading organizations in the movement, including JVP, are being labeled as hate groups and supporters of terrorism. For now, these labels mainly exist in the form of a smear campaign to intimidate individuals into staying silent, but we shouldn’t underestimate the state’s willingness to apply them more seriously if actions of civil disobedience become too disruptive. Even without the threat of greater state repression, we are seeing protesters lose jobs, have their identities publicized, and even encounter physical violence from Zionists. As the recent shooting of three Palestinian students in Vermont shows, the risks are even greater for Arab and Arab-perceived communities. These dangers cannot be defeated without a broader solidarity between all groups engaging in struggle.
We can imagine the power of rallies and marches which draw together Jewish-led groups like JVP and IfNotNow, the coalition that organized the historic march in Washington, DC and ShutItDown4Palestine initiative (which include national Palestinian organizations such as Palestinian Youth Movement), and Palestinian groups that have strong bases of support in individual cities such as Within Our Lifetime in New York. As galvanizing as JVP’s actions have been, marches led by Jews and Arabs organizing together have even greater potential to increase participation from masses of people across the country. They will also be more difficult for the state to respond to with police violence and extreme criminal charges.
It is also essential that the movement continues to pull in support from the labor movement which has a strategic power to shut down U.S. imperialism and Israel’s offensive. We have seen some efforts, particularly from the Starbucks union, which highlighted the struggle for Palestine as part of their Red Cup Rebellion. This labor action for Palestine could have been even more disruptive had it been supported by the sectors of the movement that have been organizing protests in the Jewish and Arab diaspora.
Whatever challenges the movement may currently face, it is a feat that groups like JVP continue to organize historic protests which bring new people into the movement and cut through Israel’s lie that support for Palestine is antisemitic. When history is written, it will no doubt include the time banners reading “THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING” and “LASTING CEASEFIRE” were sprawled across the Manhattan Bridge while hundreds of protesters sat down to block traffic. It should also include examples of all the movement’s leaderships — Palestinian, Jewish, socialists, students, and workers — coordinating together to make millions of people shut down the streets against attacks on our right to protest and against the genocide of Palestine.