Progressive US lawmakers renew calls for ceasefire in Israel’s war on Gaza

With pause in Gaza war set to expire, Congress members gathered outside White House in call to stop the bloodshed.

Rashida Tlaib and Jamaal Bowman outside of the White House
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib standing with fellow House Democrat Jamaal Bowman at a vigil outside the White House on November 29, 2023 [Ali Harb/Al Jazeera]

Washington, DC – Advocates calling for a ceasefire in Gaza were often interrupted by their own tears as they gathered outside the White House and read the names of Palestinians killed in the war.

Several speakers, including Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and actors Cynthia Nixon and Denee Benton, took turns reading from a long list of names on Wednesday evening. But they barely got through a fraction of the more than 15,000 Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks.

Activists warned that the list of the dead would only grow if the current truce is allowed to expire and a permanent ceasefire is not secured.

The vigil – attended by Tlaib and other progressive Congress members – was organised by activists, state lawmakers and artists, who are hunger striking in Washington, DC, in support of a ceasefire in Gaza.

Tlaib and her colleagues gathered to show support for the hunger strikers and warned that the war in Gaza must end, stressing that a temporary pause in fighting was not sufficient.

“How many more lives will be enough? How many more children need to be killed? How many more families have to be traumatised and torn apart? There is nothing humanitarian, my friends, about giving innocent civilians a few days of rest before they are bombed again,” Tlaib said.

She called on President Joe Biden to listen to people calling for a ceasefire, which is backed by most Americans and an overwhelming majority of Democrats, according to public opinion polls.

Congresswoman Cori Bush speaking at a vigil outside the White House
Congresswoman Cori Bush speaking at a vigil outside the White House in Washington, DC, on November 29, 2023 [Ali Harb/Al Jazeera]

‘Our movement is working’

Tlaib, who is the only Palestinian American member of Congress, hit out at the White House for calling lawmakers who demanded a ceasefire early in the war “repugnant”.

“The bombing of innocent civilians and children is repugnant and disgraceful. The refusal to support a ceasefire and an end to violence and the killing is repugnant and disgraceful. Our president calling on Congress to fund more bombs that are being dropped on innocent civilians is repugnant and disgraceful,” Tlaib said.

Biden is seeking more than $14bn in additional funding for Israel to support the war on Gaza, on top of the $3.8bn that Israel receives from the US annually.

Tlaib underscored that leading human rights groups and Pope Francis have called for a ceasefire, stressing that the demand is not controversial.

Congresswoman Cori Bush, who introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives last month demanding a ceasefire, echoed Tlaib’s remarks, highlighting that the campaign to demand a ceasefire is making progress.

“Our movement is working. They feel our energy in the White House. They hear our demands. They see us marching in the streets. They are watching the polls,” Bush said.

The congresswoman noted that when she first introduced a resolution on October 16, the measure had just 13 cosponsors. Now more than 40 lawmakers in the House and the Senate have called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

“It’s clear that our constituents and people all around the world want a ceasefire,” Bush said.

Biden sparked speculations on Tuesday with a social media post that could be interpreted as a call for Israel to wind down the war, suggesting that the violence would only boost support for Hamas.

“Hamas unleashed a terrorist attack because they fear nothing more than Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace,” Biden wrote.

“To continue down the path of terror, violence, killing, and war is to give Hamas what they seek.”

But White House national security spokesperson John Kirby was quick to reemphasise US support for Israel’s war effort later that day, suggesting that the country has a “responsibility” to eliminate Hamas.

The war

The war on Gaza began on October 7 after Hamas launched an attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 Israelis and saw more than 200 people taken as captives.

The Palestinian group said the assault was in response to Israel’s illegal settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners and incursions at Al-Aqsa mosque.

Israel responded with a relentless bombing campaign that has turned into one of the deadliest conflicts for children in modern history. It also launched a ground invasion into parts of the besieged Gaza Strip and severely restricted the entry of food, water, fuel and medicine into the Palestinian territory.

The war has displaced more than one million Palestinians inside Gaza.

The nearly unprecedented scale of the violence has prompted United Nations experts to warn that Palestinians are at a “grave risk of genocide”.

The Biden administration voiced unwavering support for Israel early on, backing its objective of destroying Hamas. But after seven weeks of fighting in Gaza, Israel seems to remain far from achieving that goal.

Last week, an agreement, brokered by Qatar, the US and Egypt, was reached to temporarily halt the fighting to allow for the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and the ramping up of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The truce was extended for two days, but it is set to expire early on Thursday.

Hunger strikers demanding a ceasefire in Gaza stand outside the White House
Hunger strikers demanding a ceasefire in Gaza stand outside the White House on November 29, 2023 [Ali Harb/Al Jazeera]

Outside the White House on Wednesday, Congressman Jamaal Bowman said calling for a ceasefire was about reaching for our shared humanity.

“We’ve all read about genocides. We have all read about mass murders. I cannot believe I’m living through one. And I cannot believe I’m living through one, and the US government is condoning it, and being complicit. Shame,” he said.

For his part, Congressman Jonathan Jackson said “too many” innocent people are suffering in the war.

“We have seen too much bloodshed, and we stand here with a sense of moral outrage with our courage and our conviction,” Jackson said.

Source: Al Jazeera