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Voices for Justice in Palestine

Greenfield, Massachusetts residents talk about what drives then to protest Israel's war on Gaza

Dozens of residents gathered outside the Greenfield City Council meeting in February to urge the council to adopt a resolution calling for a case-fire in Gaza. ,STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

They gather every Saturday morning on the Greenfield Common, Massachusetts from 11-Noon.  Their signs and banners read:



Johanna (Jo) Rosen stands on the Common because she is “heartbroken and outraged by the death, destruction and displacement in Gaza.”  As a Jewish American, she believes she has “a particular responsibility to speak out against the US government’s material and diplomatic support for Israel and its military aggression…I am motivated,” she adds, “to build the world we want to live in where everyone has a safe home, healthy food, clean water, and can celebrate their culture in dignity.”

Since last October, Jo, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, has called Congress almost daily, written letters to newspapers, participated in marches and rallies, donated to aid and advocacy organizations.  She joined hundreds of activists to disrupt the State of the Union address and works to support the students at Smith College, her alma mater, advocating for the college to divest from weapons manufacturers.

Lianna Hart “feels powerless to stop” the war in Gaza” and simultaneously complicit in it as a taxpayer in the United States and as a Jewish American who was raised believing in Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.” As Americans, we “cannot pretend…that we are not complicit in these atrocities…The least we can do is show up in our communities and say that we do not agree, that we refuse to watch this happen without speaking up against it.”

Standing on the Common with others, holding her artist-made Free Palestine, she finds the moments of connection with those driving and walking by who give “just a honk, a wave, a thumbs up” motivating.  For her, “visibility is meaningful, we cannot and should not go about our lives as if this war isn’t happening.”  Like Jo, Lianna has been engaged in many and various actions in western Mass, organized or co-hosted by Jewish Voice for Peace and other organizations.  She, too, donates to many relief and aid organizations working with Gazans suffering from this genocidal war.

Theirs are just two passionate, moral voices of many dozens who have gathered with us each Saturday for months, reinvigorating our years of standing on the Common against war and for peace with justice.

Those of us, whose activism on behalf of peace and justice was sparked by the US war of aggression in Vietnam or the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Movement, the Environmental Movement (and, for some, all of these movements) are now joined with these younger generations.  They match our generations’ passionate protests; and we are heartened, energized, inspired by their integrity and deeply grateful to them.

Together we express what a majority of Americans polled recently support: that the U.S. call for a permanent ceasefire and stop sustaining Israel’s genocidal war with our government’s military aid and weapons.   Ranging in age from our 80s to early 20s, we also stand together in supporting student encampments on their university and college campuses across the country, calling for their administration to divest from necrophilous weapons industries that are sucking up profits from the deaths of Gazans, 70 percent of whom are women and children.

Despite what mainstream news chooses to carry – mainly photos of violence in student encampments, and President Biden recklessly defending police crackdowns on students causing “chaos,” the evidence gathered reveals the opposite.  A study of 553 campus protests between April 18 and May 3 across the country found that 97% “remained non-violent” and peaceful.   Further, half of the 3% where violence broke out were clashes with militarized police sent by university administrators to remove the otherwise peaceful student encampments.

As we stand here on the Greenfield Common, teenage Israeli military resisters are there in Israel prisons for refusing to serve in the Israel Defense Force.  Two refusniks, before reporting to jail, wrote a letter to President Biden charging that his “unconditional support for Netanyahu’s policy of destruction has brought our [Israeli] society to the normalization of carnage and the trivialization of human lives…You are responsible for this alongside our leaders…you have the power to stop it.”

It took little more than 100 days of bombing for Israel to destroy most schools in Gaza and all 12 universities, killing students and teachers, and ending education for Gazan children and youth.  Yet only two US schools, Evergreen State College and Union Theological Seminary, and Ireland’s Trinity College have agreed to work toward divestment from “companies that profit from gross human rights violations and/or the occupation of Palestinian territories.”

“My message for the American students,” writes Palestinian Nawar Diab, “is that…their protests and their solidarity with Palestine and Gaza gave us a glimpse of hope. And they didn’t leave us left alone.  They didn’t leave us feeling helpless.”

Pat Hynes, a retired Professor of Environmental Health, is a longtime feminist and peace and justice activist.  She is a member of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and a board member of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice in western Massachusetts.

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