Jewish-led pro-ceasefire demonstrators in US protest against Israel

Demonstrations come as President Biden announces aid to Palestinians under Israeli siege

Activists from the group Jewish Voice for Peace protest next to the US Capitol against Israel's treatment of Gaza. EPA
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US police arrested dozens of demonstrators calling for a Gaza ceasefire on Wednesday after they flooded into a government building near the Capitol in Washington.

The protest was arranged by anti-Zionist Jewish organisation Jewish Voices for Peace, which said that “the root of violence is oppression, and we’re here to say no in our names.”

“We have the power to stop the ongoing atrocities against Palestinians,” the group said on X, formerly Twitter. "We refuse to stand by as the Israeli government commits genocide against Palestinians in Gaza."

The National saw Capitol police officers arrest dozens of people as they held a sit-in in the Cannon House Office Building, across the street from the Capitol.

“Jewish values teach us that we need to respect life, including respecting the lives of our neighbours, non-Jews,” Irene Siegal, a Jewish-American schoolteacher, told The National during protests.

"Justice and equality for all, those are key Jewish values.

“We don't want to see another genocide committed in our name. It feels really powerful to be here, hundreds, thousands of Jews … and we will not stop until we stop the murder of civilians by the Israeli government.”

Elliot Goodenough, a doctor from Philadelphia whose mother is Jewish, said he travelled to Washington to add his voice to those calling for a ceasefire.

“I see an Israeli government that is retaliating against a violent moment from Hamas by painting all Palestinians as complicit and encouraging genocide against 2.2 million people in the Gaza Strip,” Mr Goodenough told The National.

Earlier, as demonstrators rallied outside the Capitol, Palestinian comedian Mo Amer called on politicians to see the “humanity” of Palestinians.

“I won't lose my humanity. You will not break me. You will not take away the love that's in my heart for any person walking on this earth, I won't lose it,” he told the crowd on the National Mall.

Leaders in Washington have largely expressed support for increasing support for its ally Israel, which already receives the highest amount of US military aid.

Politicians last week introduced legislation to provide $2 billion in aid to Israel for Iron Dome resupply, which would add to the $3.3 billion already cleared.

And a bipartisan group of almost 400 members of Congress have introduced a resolution standing with Israel “as it defends itself against the barbaric war launched by Hamas and other terrorists and condemning Hamas’s brutal war against Israel”.

Capitol Police did not confirm the number of arrests made. They said on X that “three people have been arrested and charged with assault on a police officer during processing".

Updated: October 18, 2023, 10:55 PM