As we witness the enormity of Israel’s relentless violence against the Palestinian people of Gaza, communities and groups across the globe are organizing as expansively and furiously as possible.
In South Florida, organizing has taken many forms and has included many different communities. The South Florida Coalition for Palestine, a coalition of community organizations that have built deep trusting relationships over several years, along with individuals across the region, have joined together to make our voices loud and clear.
Thousands of participants have attended protests and marches throughout the area. I am part of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) South Florida, which, together with partners, organized a protest in front of the offices of Sen. Rick Scott. Four members who refused to leave until the senator came to talk to the group — which he did not do — were arrested.
The demands at each protest have been tightly focused: a ceasefire now; allow desperately needed humanitarian assistance into Gaza; an end Israel’s genocidal violence against the Palestinian people of Gaza and U.S. funding of that violence; and an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Recently, our coalition held “48 hours in Solidarity with Palestine” at the Torch of Friendship in Miami. Forty-eight hours was chosen in commemoration of the Nakba — catastrophe in Arabic — when 750,000 Palestinians were dispossessed from their land and homes before and during Israel’s creation in 1948. The Nakba continues to this day as we are witnessing now with Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
The Palestinian people there couldn’t be facing a more catastrophic situation. Israel has been dropping bombs throughout Gaza and has cut off more than 2 million people from food, fuel, water and electricity. More than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed to date.
For generations, the Israeli government has imposed a suffocating and illegal occupation on the Palestinian people; numerous human-rights organizations have documented that Israel is operating an unjust, apartheid system. For the past 16 years, Israel has subjected Palestinians in Gaza to an air, sea and land military blockade. Water is undrinkable, children are falling deathly ill from malnourishment and the healthcare system is in near collapse. Israel’s current violence against the people of Gaza is a continuation of this unbearable reality.
Visuals were held high during the 48 hours, and the rhythm of chants reverberated up and down the street. Cars honked in approval and appreciation throughout the two days. Every hour, on minute 48, those present called Congress demanding lawmakers support a ceasefire.
Teach-ins were held on “Understanding Genocide in Relation to Israel,” “Antisemitism vs Anti-Zionism,” “What is happening in Gaza today” and “The Nakba of 1948.” The two days closed with a candlelight vigil and prayers for those killed in these few weeks, and with final words from a Palestinian activist who stressed the imperative of resisting the injustice that her people have been enduring.
Throughout our time together, we recited the names of those who have been killed and paused to note, with tremendous pain, that after 10 minutes had passed, we were still reading the names of one family.
As someone who was present for 36 of the 48 hours, what felt particularly meaningful were the deep connections being forged for our future work together. Interspersed among the chanting, learning and phone calls to lawmakers in Congress, those who came — many of who had not been part of any groups — had the opportunity to talk to one another, share their fears about this moment, strategize and build relationships that will enable organizing to be as strong and inclusive as possible.
Some of those who joined us hadn’t been involved with this issue, but had organized for immigrant rights or educational justice or ending the blockade of Cuba. Others had been organizing together around Palestine for years, and still others came because they felt devastated by what was going on and were eager to be with a community of people who shared their grief.
Because we were occupying this space for 48 hours, there was time to nourish these new relationships and connections. The power of community was palpable, as was the spiritual, soulful and tender interweaving of one another’s pain, grief and unwavering commitment to create a world of love and justice.
We were so clear we have a responsibility to one another; that our liberation is inter-connected; that, together, we will not be silent and that we so desperately need our collective strength to keep on fighting until there is a ceasefire, until Israel’s violence against the Palestinian people ends and until Palestinians can live in peace and with justice.
Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator, is a Jewish social-justice activist in South Florida.