On Oct. 18th, hundreds of Jewish activists were arrested after staging a sit-in at the US Capitol to demand a ceasefire in Gaza. Dave Zirin, who joined the sit-in, explains why he did so in this special edition of ‘Choice Words.’
Studio Production: David Hebden, Cameron Granadino
Post-Production: Taylor Hebden
Audio Post-Production: David Hebden
Opening Sequence: Cameron Granadino
Music by: Eze Jackson & Carlos Guillen
The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.
Welcome to Edge of Sports TV, only on The Real News Network. I’m Dave Zirin. Now, I have some choice words, and they’re not necessarily about sports. Okay, look, on October 18th, several hundred US Jews, along with a few allies, were arrested for sitting in the rotunda of the Capitol building. And I was proud to be among them. We chanted, we sang, we dropped banners, and we spoke with a clear message. Stop the war on Gaza, cease the bombing, and end Israel’s war on the Palestinian people, which must no longer be waged in the name of us Jews. When the protestors occupied the space, we shed our jackets to reveal identical black T-shirts that read, “Not in our name,” on the front, and, “Jews say ceasefire now,” on the back. Aided by a melodious shofar, two dozen rabbis spoke about the moral urgency of the moment while thousands of fellow Jews chanted, “Ceasefire now,” outside the building.
Together, it all created a cacophony of righteous trouble in the best tradition of our people. It recalled our ancestors who stood with the oppressed, who helped build the labor movement, and who devoted their lives to anti-racist struggle. For decades, that history often seemed distant. On Wednesday, it felt reborn. Jewish Voice for Peace organized the rally on just a few days’ notice, and protesters came ready to be seen and heard. The arresting officers kept asking people if they were going to give up their right to remain silent, and it was as if everyone shouted back, “Hell yeah.” In many places, Jewish silence on the oppression of Palestinians has reigned for too long. But at this moment of crisis, protestors said what perhaps had gone unspoken at family gatherings or in places of worship, that we have had enough. That we will no longer allow the suffering of our people, the pogroms, the Holocausts, or the Hamas killings to be weaponized against others.
Our history gives us an extra responsibility to speak out for those facing the specter of genocide. Now, for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden, never again is a slogan, a bumper sticker, a rallying cry for more carnage. But for those of us inside and outside the Capitol, never again means exactly what it’s supposed to. Never again will we allow masses of people to be massacred. If the rest of the world turns a blind eye, the Jewish people will rise up and bear witness. David Friedman, the ambassador to Israel under Donald Trump, took to Twitter to say, “Any American Jew attending this rally is not a Jew. Yes, I said it.” Look, suffice it to say Friedman, who spent years as a hack for the openly antisemitic Trump, is not in charge of who gets to be Jewish.
Almost certainly to Friedman chagrin, protestors made plain that there is nothing antisemitic about criticizing the Israeli state. And there is nothing bigoted about standing up to USAID in support for Israel’s war on the Palestinian people. The gaslighting and gatekeeping of powerful officials like Friedman have people of all backgrounds afraid to speak out, lest they be called Antisemites. Jewish Voice for Peace is saying that people need to stand up against the slaughter nevertheless. The fear and the silence, it has deadly consequences. I really believe that this week in DC felt historic. An emergent Jewish resistance has been part of daily protests across the city. A thousand people last Monday blocked the entrances and exits to the White House. Nightly demonstrations have been taking place in front of the corridors of power.
As I am speaking to you right now, I’m hearing about Jewish people being arrested at the Israeli embassy. But while Wednesday, October 18th will be remembered, it was also too small. The hundreds of Jews in the rotunda should have been thousands. The thousands outside the Capitol building should have been tens of thousands. This moment demands a Jewish revolt against the false Messiahs of Netanyahu’s war cabinet, of the evangelical megachurches, of too many politicians on both sides of the aisle. This isn’t about choosing teams, as Biden said. It’s about stopping a slaughter. Jewish folks are not the center of this struggle. But as Jews, we have a moral and political obligation to try to end the violence being inflicted in our name. It is time at long last to give up our right to remain silent. For Edge of Sports TV and The Real News Network, I’m Dave Zirin.