No. 3

The New Movement for Palestine

Global outrage over Israel’s attacks on Gaza has produced a broad-based mass movement never before witnessed on the question of Palestine.

More than 100 Mennonites sang hymns in a congressional building in D.C. on Jan. 16, calling for a cease-fire. “Guide my feet, while I run this race,” they continued for hours as the police arrested them. “Free Palestine, while I run this race.” In Scottsdale, Ariz., a man has stationed himself on a street corner every day for the past 82 days to protest the war. In Louisville, Ky., protesters held a sign that read “Let Gaza live” and blocked entrances to weapons manufacturers until their arrest. An effort among young progressives to lodge discontent with Joe Biden by voting “uncommitted” saw major successes in Democratic presidential primaries in Michigan and Minnesota. A group in Durham, N.C., called Mothers for Ceasefire gathered at an intersection on Main Street, holding signs and chanting for a cease-fire, and helped push the city council to pass a cease-fire resolution. A couple of dozen activists in Casper, Wy., organized a protest and die-in in front of city hall calling for a cease-fire and an end to the occupation.

The Americans stirred to speak out against Israel’s actions in Gaza are not only young members of the left wing. The movement is made up of young people and students as well as elders, union workers, clergy, and others. Palestine solidarity protests are occurring not only in big cities but also in rural and suburban areas. At least 5,425 protests in support of Palestine took place in every state in the country from Oct 7. to Feb. 29, according to the Crowd Counting Consortium (CCC). In the 45 percent of those protests for which CCC was able to obtain information about crowd size, more than one million people participated. Global outrage over Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza has produced a broad-based mass movement of the sort this country hasn’t witnessed since the racial justice actions of 2020, and has never before witnessed on the question of Palestine.

Yet the situation in Gaza grows ever more dire. Israel has targeted hospitals, schools, refugee camps, and areas in the south designated safe for civilians with 2,000-pound bombs, leaving no space safe within the 140-square-mile strip. As famine looms, the Israeli military massacred a crowd of Gazans waiting in line for food aid. “We’re not prepared for the enormity of the demands that are coming,” Sandra Tamari told me. She is the executive director of Adalah Justice Project (AJP), a U.S.-based Palestinian advocacy organization. Her email inbox is overflowing with urgent requests to help friends and family desperate to leave Gaza, and she bemoaned a lack of clarity about where the Palestine solidarity movement goes from here. “It's hard to get through the day without crying,” she said. “But we have to keep building.”

We’re now five months into the darkest chapter of Palestinian history since the 1948 Nakba. The more than 30,000 Palestinians killed since Oct. 7 have quickly surpassed the death toll of the Nakba, as has the number of Palestinians displaced. But this time, Palestinians are livestreaming the unfolding genocide, as millions of viewers across the world bear witness to a bottomless pit of horrors.

In response, multiple protests have taken place every single day in the United States. It’s not just the number or frequency of protests but also their character that is notable. They have included more regions, demographics, and tactics than ever before. We’ve seen mass marches, hunger strikes, and the occupations of dozens of bridges and public spaces alongside hundreds of smaller actions. Every Friday for about six weeks, organizers with Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM) and members of a local mosque held funeral prayers in front of Representative Grace Meng’s office in Queens, N.Y., protesting her refusal to call for a cease-fire even though she represents a large Muslim constituency.

Along with neighborhood organizing committees and labor unions, congressional aides and Biden administration staff members have supported a cease-fire not only with statements but also with actions. This is notable because government aides usually stay in the background on Capitol Hill and are typically discouraged from making public statements that contradict the positions of their bosses. Yet on Nov. 8, more than 100 congressional staffers staged a walkout. They held aloft red, white, and blue posters that read, “Congress, your staff demands a ceasefire,” and they laid out thousands of carnations, each representing an Israeli or Palestinian civilian who lost their life. One staffer (who requested anonymity) reported an extraordinary volume of calls in support of a cease-fire, “beyond anything that we’ve seen before,” putting the ratio of constituents calling to support a cease-fire versus any other action at 10 to 1.

The staffer spoke of the three simultaneous loyalties he and others in similar roles have: to their bosses, to the Constitution, and to their constituents. Attempting to maintain a balance has become draining, he said. “If we have to sacrifice our service to the constituents we are fighting for and our oath to the Constitution in order to defend the political whims of an individual unresponsive to their constituents, is that really doing the job we came here to do?”

Even as the movement for Palestine wins over hearts and minds, for veteran organizers and new activists alike this moment is at once hopeful and deeply discouraging. It’s hard to hold both realities. The questions hanging over movement participants remain: Where do we go from here? What else is left to do?

“We’re seeing an antiwar movement at the scale of the movement against the Vietnam War taking shape,” Munir Marwan of Palestine Youth Movement (PYM) told me. “I’m hopeful that we’re closer than ever before” to a free Palestine, he said, “as crazy as that might sound.”

It’s too early to predict how this new phase of the Palestine movement will develop, or if the entrenched U.S.-Israeli alliance will crumble. But echoes of Vietnam are present, as U.S. Air Force member Aaron Bushnell’s self-immolation in February made painfully clear. His act recalled how several activists burned themselves to death in politically significant locations, including outside the Pentagon and United Nations headquarters, to protest the war in southeast Asia. The assault on Gaza has fueled the most determined and internationalist politics on American soil since the Vietnam War.

Many new entrants to the movement have quickly learned that the history of Palestine extends back well before Oct. 7 and that the events of last fall grew out of a deeply colonial landscape. With this understanding, activists drew connections between Palestine and sites of injustice elsewhere with which they are more familiar. The writer and activist Mohammed el-Kurd has pointed to the many ways that Israel’s tactics of repression have been replicated against oppressed people and exported throughout the world. “Our oppressors are one and the same, and they work together. They are eager to maintain the status quo,” he argued on a podcast. Many American police officers, for example, have attended training sessions in Israel sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League since 2004.

Until recently, the question of Palestine was a third rail of American politics, including in progressive circles, so much so that “progressive except Palestine” is part of the left’s lexicon. As an activist during the Iraq War, I experienced how the mainstream leadership of the antiwar movement often shunned activists who wanted to highlight connections between the occupation there and in Palestine. Scholar Nadine Naber has written that much of the leadership of the movement prioritized the inclusion of liberal Zionist organizations over building a coalition that discussed Palestine in its framing. “This approach,” she wrote, “chose organizational expansion over consistency in its critique of imperialism and war, in the interest of developing a ‘no war on Afghanistan/no war on Iraq’ campaign.” One report from a 2003 national antiwar conference noted that the groups’ agreement on a joint statement expressing support for Palestine was “a sign of progress in a movement that only months ago would have shunned any open challenge to Israel.”

During that time and in the years after, Arab and Muslim groups and the radical left consistently mobilized for justice in Palestine, while most other progressive groups and elected officials deemed the cause a distraction at best. But now that has changed.

Fahd Ahmed, executive director of DRUM, told me that the organization’s leadership and membership have always supported Palestinian rights but in the past hadn’t associated DRUM with pro-Palestine work to avoid a potential backlash. Today DRUM is a visible part of New York City’s cease-fire organizing, and it has drawn in other community groups and progressive organizations. Even organizations that once stifled discussions of Palestine, Ahmed told me, have issued strong statements calling for a cease-fire and against the occupation.

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Palestinian solidarity protesters during a large-scale demonstration in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 23, 2023. Photograph by André Chung for Hammer & Hope.

Palestine has become a litmus test for a new generation of activists who feel a stake in global events and respond to international calls for solidarity. That revival reflects a generational shift in politics. Millennials and Gen Zers came of political age in a period defined by Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaigns, the Black Lives Matter movement, and deep climate anxiety. Their demands for a cease-fire have been impassioned and relentless, and for the most part their convictions on Palestine are not based on a sense of personal vulnerability. The stance recalls Sanders’s campaign slogan “Fight for someone you don’t know.” And that’s precisely what young people are doing, though they have moved to Sanders’s left on Palestine. The movement has developed in response to atrocities thousands of miles away, without the direct involvement of U.S. citizens but backed by U.S. financial, diplomatic, and military might. In contrast, during the Vietnam era, the military draft and the sight of Americans in body bags fomented deep antiwar sentiment among a wide cross-section of society.

This identification with Palestinians’ heightened suffering shares other parallels with the Vietnam era, when U.S. media, while largely compliant with the government’s military objectives, disseminated graphic images of battlefields in Vietnam to the horror of Americans back home. Yet during the Iraq War, the media rarely presented such images to American audiences, allowing the U.S. government to portray the conflict as a distant reality even while committing troops. But most people under 40 now rely on social media for news, which has rendered the media’s self-censorship meaningless. Millions of people watch videos of war crimes committed in Gaza on their phones.

The protests against the Vietnam War closely followed the civil rights and free speech movements, while today’s activists’ involvement in George Floyd protests is fresh on their minds. Then and now, new participants in the movements take a politics of solidarity for granted. As Omar Baddar, a Palestinian American political analyst, explained to Time, it has become impossible “for someone to ID as a progressive who values human rights, and go along with the idea that Palestinians can continue being treated this way. It’s no different than South African apartheid, no different than Jim Crow.” The civil rights movement informed the political framework of the Vietnam antiwar movement. Today’s movement, following Black Lives Matter, has inherited similar ideas.

Cori Bush, the Missouri representative who introduced a cease-fire resolution in Congress despite immense pressure and criticism, traces her own commitment to Palestinian liberation to the Black Lives Matter protests she helped organize in 2014 in Ferguson. There she witnessed the outpouring of solidarity from the St. Louis Palestinian community. Bush paid tribute to the late Bassem Masri, a Palestinian American activist, in a speech on the House floor in 2021. “Bassem was one of us,” she said. “As a Palestinian he was ready to resist, to rebel, to rise up with us as our St. Louis community mourned Mike Brown Jr.’s state-sanctioned murder.” She added that Palestinians advised “what to do when militarized law enforcement shot us with rubber bullets, or when they tear-gassed us. … I remember Bassem putting his life on the line with us. I remember him livestreaming for the whole world to see our struggle. I remember our solidarity.”

The relationship between the Black Lives Matter movement and the Palestinian struggle continued to grow, as BLM activists traveled to meet Palestinian activists in the occupied territories. In 2016, the authors of the Movement for Black Lives’ policy platform condemned U.S. financial backing for Israel and its complicity “in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.”

Over time, AJP’s Tamari told me, the Palestine movement began to connect its struggle against occupation to that of Black liberation in the U.S., challenging its own prejudices in the process. Some in the Palestine movement, she said, had distanced themselves from Black victims of police violence, worried that connections to alleged “criminals” would sully their cause. But through the growth of the BLM movement, these assumptions faded. At the same time, many in the Black liberation movement who had worried that looking abroad would be a distraction renounced their parochialism. Organizing and education over the years meant that after Oct. 7, the question “What does it have to do with us?” no longer lingered. “The similarities between the genocide that happened to Black Americans, and is happening to Black Americans,” and what is happening to Palestinians, “were just too profound to ignore,” Tamari told me.

The mass action of recent months has borrowed tactics not only from BLM most recently but also looks to Occupy Wall Street, the climate movement, and more. It’s a promising start, but it took years for the Vietnam antiwar movement to grow powerful enough to materially challenge the imperial interests of the U.S. and its allies. As the war lumbered on and the body bags multiplied, the movement often wavered in confidence and clarity. An anti-imperialist framework that made clear the depth of American imperial power equipped organizers to weather the ups and downs.

That anti-imperialism dimmed in the following decades, the result of a right-wing backlash, the rise of a bipartisan neoliberal political order, and the rehabilitation of so-called humanitarian imperialism under Bill Clinton. When an antiwar movement sprang up in opposition to the war on Iraq, it lacked the nuance and political cohesion of the past. Protestors’ primary target was George W. Bush rather than a pattern of U.S. aggression. The message was broadly pacifist, with “No blood for oil” among the movement’s most political slogans. George W. Bush dismissed the millions of people who took to the streets around the world to try to prevent the war as a mere “focus group,” and the invasion went on as planned. After that failure, much of the momentum broke.

The Palestine solidarity movement has exploded quickly, not only in terms of size but also in its willingness to escalate tactics and apply an anti-imperialist framework, harkening back much more closely to Vietnam than to any antiwar movement since. At Brown University, after rallies, sit-ins, and more than 60 student arrests failed to force the administration to consider divesting its endowment from companies that profit from human rights abuses in Palestine, students went on an eight-day hunger strike. The Corporation of Brown University still refused to meaningfully discuss the proposal, but the strikers who abstained from food for eight days were undeterred. “We understand that this is how these things go,” striker Ariela Rosenzweig told me. “And we understand that we need to keep pushing.”

The politics that have developed even among new and young organizers is quite sophisticated. Yet the political climate that students and others must navigate is extraordinarily challenging. The nation’s political right, concerned it has lost its grip on an entire generation, has turned the legitimacy of the Palestine movement into the latest front in a proxy war. The liberal center has exposed itself as both complicit in the war and deferential to the right.

Campuses are ground zero in this proxy war. Conservatives had long targeted higher education, incensed by affirmative action and post-2020 efforts such as the expansion of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. Much of academia’s leadership supported antiracist initiatives when it was politically popular to do so and when the demands were moderate enough for their donors. But in the wake of Oct. 7, wealthy donors vociferously pushed back, and the right sensed a heightened vulnerability among liberal college administrations. Such was the case at Harvard University when billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman joined forces with other Harvard alumni, including MAGA-aligned Representative Elise Stefanik of New York and conservative activist Christopher Rufo, to root out liberalism at Harvard and other American colleges by defenestrating their presidents.

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Dr. Claudine Gay, then president of Harvard University, testifies before Congress on Dec. 5, 2023. Photograph by Kevin Dietsch via Getty Images.

A Dec. 5 congressional hearing was the opening salvo in a campaign that would ultimately force the resignations of Presidents Claudine Gay at Harvard and Liz Magill at the University of Pennsylvania. It was a circus, complete with ultra-right conservatives posing as champions of Jews. Among them was Stefanik, an election denier who dabbles in the racist idea that Jews manipulate the elite classes to “replace” whites with Blacks and immigrants, known as the “great replacement” theory. Representative Virginia Foxx proclaimed that the denial of the right of Israel to exist was “foundational” to the issue of antisemitism. “I want to ask each one of you,” she said, “do you believe that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish nation?” Each president dutifully answered in turn:

“I agree that the state of Israel has the right to exist.”

“I agree, Chairwoman Foxx, the state of Israel has the right to exist.”

“Absolutely, Israel has the right to exist.”

This was not Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist witch hunt of the 1950s. But the university presidents’ strict adherence to spoon-fed responses recalled the Cold War’s third rail, when any connection to the Communist Party meant sudden political and social death. “Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” McCarthy asked countless witnesses dragged before a Senate committee. Then, as now, the question had only one admissible response.

But the question that ultimately bested the college presidents was Stefanik’s. “Does calling for the genocide of Jews,” she asked, “violate [the university’s] rules or code of conduct?” None seemed to know how to answer. They had already accepted the notion that the word “intifada” was a call for genocide. So their noncommittal answers were easily twisted into equivocation on whether they would safeguard their Jewish students.

The presidents’ spineless performances were the culmination of their earlier actions. In the weeks after Oct. 7, their acceptance of the absurd premise that calls for Palestinian freedom can be equated with calls for the genocide of Jews rendered them sitting ducks for the right. Their failed defense at the hearing was both the fault of their expensive law-firm handlers and a political reality: Liberal elites support responses to racism they perceive to be reasonable, like DEI. But when it comes to Palestine, they largely agree with their conservative opponents.

But those presidents were not rewarded for their acquiescence. Instead the doxxing trucks that had trolled Harvard’s campus with photos of pro-Palestine students — an act Gay refused to address — returned to campus with pictures of Gay.

Congress has found other ways to try to invalidate the robust movement supporting Palestine. On Nov. 7, the House of Representatives censured Rashida Tlaib of Michigan for including the chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” in a video she released in support of organizing efforts. Zionists have made every chant, every watermelon image, every call for democratic and human rights vulnerable to charges of antisemitism. “It’s preposterous to accuse a chant of being genocidal when there’s literally a genocide unfolding,” Marwan of PYM told me.

But the irony of slandering everything as antisemitism is that doing so has further emboldened Palestine supporters to challenge Zionism head-on. The movement has advanced debates over whether a theocratic ethnostate can lay claim to being the only democracy in the Middle East. It has also pushed a record number of Americans to wonder how they are to reconcile Israel’s founding with the mass displacement of people native to the land. “Obviously, you’ll be called an antisemite” if you challenge Zionism, said Sumaya Awad, AJP’s director of strategy and communications. “But you’re going to be called that basically if you say anything.”

When a conservative social media influencer accused Jewish protesters blocking a highway (while singing “Love others as you love yourself” in Hebrew, a verse from the Torah) of being members of Hamas, words lost all meaning. The Anti-Defamation League, for its part, has squandered whatever credibility it had by taking the absurd position of characterizing Jewish-led protests in support of a cease-fire as antisemitic. Accusations of antisemitism, which used to be Zionists’ most potent political cudgel, have lost their edge.

American Jews have been at the forefront of today’s movement for Palestine. While Jews have long formed a core of Israel’s supporters in the U.S., many millennial and Gen Z Jews have grown weary of Israel’s relentless brutalities, which have punctured the myth that it is a perennial victim of Arab aggression. A decade ago, the fable of Israel as “the only democracy in the Middle East” was tattered but still promoted. Today, that lore is dead as Israel destroys universities with astonishing levels of explosives, detains Palestinian men made to kneel while blindfolded and stripped to their underwear, and Israeli soldiers eat in the homes Gazans were forced to abandon. Many young Jews feel a particular resentment at the implication that Israel exacts these crimes in their names.

While conservative representatives led their antisemitism hearing inside Congress and found the liberal college presidents flat-footed, dozens of Jewish students traveled from eight campuses to hold a press conference right outside. They were clear about the need to stand against growing instances of antisemitism but refused to equate the rising Palestine movement with antisemitism.

A few weeks before that press conference, campus police officers arrested 20 Jewish students who had occupied a building on the Brown University campus for several hours to call on the administration to divest the endowment from the occupation. It was the first arrest for an act of civil disobedience at Brown since 1992.

As police escorted the students out one by one, they smiled with their heads held high, and hundreds of students, faculty, and members of the local Jewish community met them with songs, reminiscent of the civil rights movement. I asked students Rafi Ash and Lily Gardner why they were smiling. “We had no sense of how many people were outside,” Gardner, choking up, told me. “We were so overwhelmed by the showing of support.” Over the two hours the police made the arrests, the two students told me that protesters sang, “Where you go, I will go, my friend” to one another and discussed why they were there. Gardner said they couldn’t hear the people singing outside until the doors started to open. The right-wing proxy war may be effective at beating back academia’s liberal elite, but it has only inspired further mobilization of movement activists.

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Demonstrators at a rally in support of Palestinians in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 4, 2023. Photograph by Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images.

When I asked a group of Jewish students at MIT who support a cease-fire what led them to be critical of Israel, most identified the years 2008 to 2014, when Israel killed thousands of Gazans through successive assaults and a blockade. “I grew up with typical Jewish thinking about the issue,” a student who asked to remain anonymous out of concern for his safety on campus told me, “which was that Israel is always right and Palestinians are wrong,” and “we need this state to survive.” But after Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in 2014, he said, “I realized that was not right. Actually, I felt really sick as a person.”

Jack Starobin, from Penn Chavurah (“community” in Hebrew) at the University of Pennsylvania, grew up in a town with a large Jewish population. He went to a Jewish preschool and Hebrew school until he was bar mitzvahed at 13. “I did not know where Palestine was on a map, or the West Bank or Gaza specifically, until high school,” he told me. “I learned about it from Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show,” because he showed a map that included these territories. But my Hebrew school education always showed me one unbroken triangle.” As he went through high school and college, Starobin began to connect anticolonial movements with what he was learning about Palestine.

It’s not only a generational divide that has loomed large among American Jews but also a class divide. As the Jewish political commentator Peter Beinart has noted, establishment Jewish organizations and the Jewish donors who fund them drive the “anti-Zionism is antisemitism” narrative. This puts them in conflict with not just many young Jewish students and protesters but also mainstream scholars of Jewish studies and those who study antisemitism. It was by this twisted logic, Beinart pointed out, that “Alan Dershowitz recently called for universities to disband their Jewish studies departments.”

The campaigns against organizing for Palestine on campuses have succeeded in chilling academic culture but not in shutting down the protests. At Columbia University, student groups responded to the university suspending its chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace by forming a coalition called Columbia University Apartheid Divest. Nearly 100 student clubs joined the coalition, making it nearly impossible to shut down.

A statement initiated by Harvard’s Palestine Solidarity Committee and signed by 33 other student organizations that holds the Israeli government responsible for the violence in Israel and Palestine received fierce backlash. Organizations that had signed the statement retracted their support, at least in public, a committee member who requested anonymity told me. But when doxxing trucks appeared on campus and the administration suppressed speech even further, more people joined the campus movement. “People are realizing how ridiculous these responses are,” the student told me, “and they’re more willing to show up for Palestine.”

I spoke to a Palestinian American student at Harvard who lost a job offer due to campus doxxing. She told me she had learned that the Israel Defense Forces killed her cousin in his refugee camp in the West Bank the same day she found out that a doxxing truck projecting her name and face had shown up at her parents’ home. But she’s not backing down: “There’s nothing that can happen to me here that’s worse than what’s happening to my friends and family in Palestine,” she said, adding, “The doxxing is intended as a scare tactic, it’s intended as psychological warfare.” She told me, “The most important thing I’ve been able to do for myself is to lean into my community and remind myself that I’m standing on the right side of history, and it’s never been easy to do that.”

Speaking to hundreds of students at a rally on Oct. 19, Amari Butler from Harvard’s African and African American Resistance Organization declared: “We will never be ashamed of our support of the Palestinian people. We will never be harassed into silence.” She added, “Shamefully, it is primarily Black and Arab students that are facing the brunt of these racist attacks. But none of that changes our solidarity with Palestine.” She paused, and then the protesters chanted with her, “From the river to the sea!”

In the early 1980s, the struggle against apartheid in South Africa both there and around the world gained unprecedented momentum. But the South African government still refused to concede. Under growing pressure, it proposed a few reforms but otherwise responded with even greater violence and repression. The regime labeled its critics terrorists, and imprisoned and assassinated them. Demonstrators were massacred.

The backlash to these actions led to the economic and diplomatic isolation of South Africa. It still took years for the apartheid government to accept that mowing down strikers was not going to work and the movement was too big to stop. In 1994 white minority rule finally came to a legal end.

Marwan of PYM sees a similar dynamic today. “The state of Israel is disintegrating from within,” he told me. “The dying days of any oppressive, authoritarian, fascistic government or system, those are the most repressive and barbaric.” But whether these “dying days” are months, years, or decades long is impossible to predict, and the suffering continues.

Palestine movement leaders must now determine how to maintain urgency while developing a long view of the struggle and how to keep escalating while also bringing in new people who can help sustain the protests. They are also thinking critically about their demands. Once a cease-fire is achieved, then what? Once the bombing stops, do Israeli settlers move in? Who rebuilds? And how? The violence won’t stop while Israel is allowed to maintain the occupation, the siege, and an apartheid system of government. What are the strategies needed to uproot these fundamental realities? “In the months and years to come,” New York State Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani told me, we must “cohere this mass into a constituency and ensure that these demands are not momentary but are instead the essence of a long-term movement.”

The movement is also assessing how to broaden the base of support. Who are the allies needed for the long haul? If they are not yet ideologically aligned, how might they be brought along? That includes elected officials who have demonstrated some sympathy for the cause, according to AJP’s Tamari. “We’re going to have to find ways to continue to push them to our position,” she said, “and make sure they’re not primaried by right wingers.” This is particularly important as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has pledged millions to defeat elected officials critical of Israel, putting some of the most vocal cease-fire elected officials like Cori Bush and New York Representative Jamaal Bowman at risk of losing their seats next year.

Both electoral work and grassroots organizing are necessary and reinforce each other. The power to stop the genocide lies largely in Washington, D.C., and organizers are shifting the electoral terrain by bird-dogging local legislators and mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people to call their representatives. Left legislators such as Bush and Tlaib are giving confidence and clarity to the movement by not only remaining a thorn in the side of their party’s establishment but also showing up to support hunger strikes, vigils, and protests.

We cannot be operating in isolation,” Mamdani told me. “We need to build power and build organizing,” he said. “It must be on the street, it must be in rallies, it must be in mass organizing,” but also in “the halls of power.”

We’re now seeing divisions among elected officials around support for Israel that have not existed since before the 1967 war, when Israel’s victory solidified the U.S.’s bipartisan backing of the state of Israel. These cracks are reflected not only in the growing number of congressional members calling for a cease-fire (now over 60) but also in city government resolutions calling for the same — including in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, and San Francisco — and the unprecedented number of statements and protests from U.S. officials who oppose the administration they work for.

In November, more than a thousand employees of the U.S. Agency for International Development endorsed a letter calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. Months later, current and former USAID staff members interrupted their boss Samantha Power’s speech during a public event. One employee who had recently resigned called out: “You wrote a book on genocide, and you’re still working for the administration. You should resign and speak out.”

The movement’s pressure on the Biden administration has considerable implications for an election year. According to an Economist/YouGov poll from January, 35 percent of all voters say Israel is committing genocide, and nearly half of younger Americans and Democrats agree. More than a thousand Black pastors, traditionally stalwarts of the Democratic Party, have attempted to persuade the administration via sit-down meetings and open letters. In Dearborn, Mich., President Biden handily lost to the city’s uncommitted votes in the Democratic primary. The risk to the mainstream Democratic establishment is real, even as the pall of a possible Trump return to the White House looms.

We have every reason to feel impatient with the lack of movement in the halls of power when “every minute counts,” as AJP’s Awad put it. At the same time, we have a historic opportunity to build a movement for lasting change in Palestine. “The most important thing is: Are we bringing people to this movement? Are we bringing more people in?” Jeremy Cohan of Democratic Socialists of America told me. This is true if our goal is to win not only a cease-fire but also a free Palestine.

Hadas Thier is a writer, journalist, and activist based in Brooklyn, N.Y. She is the author of A People’s Guide to Capitalism: An Introduction to Marxist Economics.

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