Working for a Ceasefire

The carpet bombing of residential areas of Gaza, the clear intent to demolish housing and infrast-ructure.

Despite the Biden administra­tion’s refusal to back a cease­fire that would help end Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza, momentum is growing across the US calling on the administration to re­verse course. What is signif­icant is that the opposition to the White House’s posi­tion is coming from within the President’s own party.

The administration’s stub­born aversion to even the use of the term ceasefire remains inexplica­ble. It may be recalled that just a few days after the Israeli bombings that followed the October 7th attacks, the State Department issued a statement calling for a ceasefire that was quickly taken down and followed by a guidance memo to diplomats saying the term was not to be used. As the number of civilian casualties continued to grow, administration officials repeatedly fell back on the line that Israel had the right to defend itself, that Hamas had to be eliminated, and that a ceasefire would only allow Hamas to rebuild its capaci­ty. The administration attempted to ab­solve itself by coupling this rejection of a ceasefire with appeals to Israel to avoid civilian casualties and with sup­port for humanitarian aid.

Those arguments have failed the test of time. The carpet bombing of resi­dential areas of Gaza, the clear intent to demolish housing and infrastruc­ture, the forced evacuation of millions, and more have led to Israel being charged with genocide. And leading analysts in the US and Israel have not­ed that the “elimination of Hamas” is at best “a fool’s errand.”

As the dimensions of the human tragedy unfolding in Gaza became clearer, the US has found itself virtu­ally isolated in the world community in its rejection of a UAE-sponsored Se­curity Council resolution calling for a ceasefire that would allow unimpeded humanitarian aid. Countering this pro­posal, the US supported increased aid to Gaza but would not consider the re­ality that without an end to the bomb­ing aid could not be delivered or reach those most in need.

Slowly but surely US public opinion has changed with substantial majori­ties now wanting a ceasefire and vot­ers indicating by a two to one margin that they are more inclined to support candidates who call for a ceasefire, with the margin of support for a cease­fire greater among Democrats and key Democratic constituencies (young vot­ers and non-white voters). Still the ad­ministration resists.

This past week, a leading Democrat­ic Senator, Chris Van Hollen, joined the chorus of legislators calling for a cease­fire, making him the 68th member of the Senate or House of Representatives to do so. This represents more than one quarter of the Democrats in Con­gress and can be expected to grow.

More significant, and somewhat un­expected, are the numbers of City Councils who have taken up the call for a ceasefire. Led by grassroots mo­bilizations of Palestinian Americans, progressive Jewish groups, and Black activists, major cities like Atlanta, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Detroit, Se­attle, St Louis, and three dozen oth­er municipalities have passed strong ceasefire resolutions. And while a vote on a similar resolution has been de­layed for a few days in Chicago, the US’s third largest city and home of this year’s Democratic National Conven­tion, that city’s Mayor, Brandon John­son, this week issued a strong call in support of a ceasefire.

Because the language used by Mayor Johnson was so evocative it warrants consideration. Echoing the sentiments of his voters, he not only expressed his horror at the loss of life, but also tied the liberation of Blacks with the justi­fiable need for Palestinian liberation. He said, “I’m not mayor of the city of Chicago if people weren’t pushing the government to recognize the value of liberation—what it means for people, groups, and nations. And, in this in­stance, people should be liberated.”

Just two weeks ago, an Emergency Summit on Gaza was convened in Chi­cago under the auspices of Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition. Dur­ing those sessions, prominent Black clergymen similarly connected their struggle for justice with that of the Pal­estinians living under occupation. They were joined by progressive Jewish rab­bis, Protestant church leaders, Arab Americans, and American Muslims—all united in the call for a ceasefire and committed to advancing this effort na­tionwide. The effort is advancing.

Dr. James J. Zogby
The writer is the President of Arab American Institute.

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