It’s been more than five weeks since Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack that killed 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped 240 civilians taken to Gaza as hostages. Since then, Israel’s retaliatory bombing and ground assault in Gaza has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, including more than 4,600 children.
Although President Biden continues to stand with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in rejecting a ceasefire, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, Pope Francis and French President French President Emmanuel Macron have all called for a cessation of hostilities in Gaza to allow humanitarian aid to reach 2.3 million Palestinian civilians deprived of food, water and medical care.
Since the start of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, large protests demanding a ceasefire have been held in many major cities around the world. Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization with 70 chapters and 400,000 members across the U.S., has organized protests in more than 30 American cities calling on President Biden and Congress to support a ceasefire. JVP protests and civil disobedience actions have occupied the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., New York City’s Grand Central Station, the Statue of Liberty, Philadelphia’s main train station and the federal building in Oakland. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Liv Kunins-Berkowitz, media coordinator with Jewish Voice for Peace, who talks about the pressure her group is exerting on President Biden and members of Congress to support a ceasefire.
LIV KUNINS-BERKOWITZ: Over 10,000 Palestinians have been murdered in Gaza and 4,000 of them are children. There is no war strategy that can possibly justify the murder of 4,000 children. Thirty-six journalists have been killed since Oct. 7 in Gaza and 72 aid workers. This is destruction of innocent people and there is no wartime strategy that can justify such a massive amount of destruction.
And more than that, about half the homes in Gaza have been destroyed. We are seeing really an ethnic cleansing of an entire population. And we know that as much as Israel justifies this in terms of wartime strategy, many people in the Israeli government have also made comments that suggest that there’s other motives at play.
Leaders in the Israeli government have called Palestinians human animals, and we as Jewish people know what happens when people are called human animals. That same rhetoric was used to justify the murder of my ancestors. And so for me, I know that what comes after dehumanization is death and destruction. And I will not stand by. And we, with Jewish Voice for Peace will not stand by as that happened in 1948.
Israel was founded through the Nakba, which means the catastrophe, the Nakba was the forced displacement of 700,000 Palestinians from their homes. Many of them were displaced into Gaza. A lot of these people who are living every day under this incessant bombing have already been refugees in their lifetime or are the children of people who have been refugees. And there are people in Israeli government calling for a second Nakba. And so what we’re seeing is not war as usual. This is an epic proportion. And the level of dehumanization and destruction is words cannot cannot begin to describe it.
And so we’re calling for a ceasefire because we know that no peace is possible as this bombing continues and because we know that Israel is going far beyond what is even in the normal grounds of war and are consistently breaking international law using white phosphorous, which is a war crime.
And again, their bombing has led to the murder of 4,000 children in Gaza.
SCOTT HARRIS: Liv, I did want to ask you about criticism of Jewish Voice for Peace. You have groups like the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization that claims Jewish Voice for Peace is a radical, anti-Israel and anti-Zionist activist group that advocates for the boycott of Israel and of eradication of Zionism, they say.
The Anti-Defamation League also accuses JVP of giving rise to anti-Semitism itself. How do you negotiate the charges from these pro-Israel groups, many of them identifying with the Jewish religion (and) claiming basically that Jewish Voice for Peace are a bunch of self-hating Jews?
LIV KUNINS-BERKOWITZ: I have to say I unfortunately hear this from journalists all the time, you know, parroting these claims. And this is not accusing you, but I understand what the question comes from. But it’s heart-breaking that every day I have to answer this question as a proud Jewish person whose tradition informs the way I walk through this world.
My ancestors fled pogroms in Russia and Poland, and I was raised on the stories of hearing what it means to flee anti-Semitic violence. I know what anti-Semitism is. So my commitment to speaking out for Palestinian liberation for the end of this genocide in Palestine comes from the own knowledge of what happened to my community.
SCOTT HARRIS: Only one U.S. senator, Dick Durbin, as well as 23 House representatives, support a ceasefire at present. What is your organization doing right now to convince Congress to take a stand on a ceasefire as we’ve reached this grim milestone of 10,000 Palestinians who’ve now died in the bombardment of Gaza?
LIV KUNINS-BERKOWITZ: You know, as devastating as this last month has been, I’ve also had the immense privilege of being part of a multi-racial, multi-faith, multi-class international movement for peace and for justice. And we are joining together with people all over America who are calling their representatives every single day, asking our government to truly represent the voice of the American people.
You know, we wish that phone calls would be enough. But clearly, representatives are showing that they’re putting the interests of I don’t even know who, over the voices of the American citizens. And so we’re going to continue staging sit-ins in offices, peaceful and prayerful sit-ins, where we share our stories and make our voices heard. Because this bombing cannot continue.
And the loss of innocent life in Gaza is a war crime and is also a moral catastrophe.
For more information, visit Jewish Voice For Peace at jewishvoiceforpeace.org.
Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Liv Kunins-Berkowitz (18:32) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.
For the best listening experience and to never miss an episode, subscribe to Between The Lines on your favorite podcast app or platform: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Tunein+ Alexa, Castbox, Overcast, Podfriend,
iHeartRadio, Castro, Pocket Casts, RSS Feed.
Or subscribe to our Between The Lines and Counterpoint Weekly Summary.