500 Jewish Californians and Allies, On the opening day of the 2024 Legislative Sessions, January 3rd, more than 500 Californian Jews, along with a diverse coalition of Californians, shut down the California State Assembly session and the California State Capitol Rotunda to demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza. In reaction, the State Assembly canceled the day’s session.
500 Jewish Californians and Allies Shut Down the State Capitol
Members of Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow, and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, as well as other Jews and concerned Californians, united in protest, singing, and prayer to urge that California politicians stand up for justice and call for a permanent ceasefire now.
Rabbis, children of Holocaust survivors, Israeli-Americans, teachers and healthcare workers, and many more community people joined together to demand that American lawmakers stop sponsoring genocide.
“We represent thousands of Jewish people from all over California who oppose Israel’s genocidal campaign that has killed over 22,000 people.
Including thousands of children, and displaced the people of Gaza,” said Lisa Rofel, a board member of Jewish Voice for Peace and a San Francisco resident. Protesters gathered in both the State Assembly chamber and the Capitol rotunda, singing Jewish melodies and praying for a cease-fire.
They hung banners from the State Assembly room’s balcony that said, “Jews Say No to US Funding for Israel’s Genocide of Palestinians.” Protesters placed red tissue-paper poppies in the rotunda to honor the lives of all Palestinians killed in Israel’s murderous assault.
Protesters gathered in grief and outrage to protest and pray as a community while disrupting business as usual in opposition to Israel’s genocidal war against Palestine, which is backed by the US government through considerable financial aid as well as the sale of bombs and weaponry.
The US government has delivered millions of dollars in military aid and weaponry to Israel since October 7th, with the Biden administration twice circumventing Congress to approve an emergency arms sale. The US government supplies Israel with $3.8 billion in military aid each year.
Californians’ federal tax dollars provide more than $609 million in military aid to Israel each year. The Jewish-led protests are adamant that the US government stop sponsoring genocide and instead invest in local communities, such as expanding healthcare, affordable housing, climate resiliency, education, and affordable childcare.
“I am the grandson of Holocaust survivors, and I know that one of the great tragedies of the Holocaust was that the world stood by and did nothing.”
I will not stand by as the Israeli military commits genocide in Gaza, which is completely funded by my own country. I feel obligated to speak up for my family. “I’m here to say never again for anyone,” Margo Goldstein, a member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Organization, said.
A group of Sonoma County Jews and supporters were among the protestors, including Ma’ayan Pe’er, a teacher and Israeli American Jew who was visiting their family in Tel Aviv on October 7th.
“As an ex-Zionist, Israeli American Jew, it’s my moral obligation to stand against Israeli genocide of Palestinians,” Pe’er told the crowd. “Sonoma County Jews demand that our elected officials Rep. Huffman and Rep. Thompson take meaningful action toward a permanent ceasefire.”
“Every year, California taxpayers contribute hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Israel, while people in our communities go without food, shelter, and healthcare.”
“We are Jewish Americans committed to the safety and dignity of all people, and we call on our leaders to stop funding genocide and instead invest in our local communities,” said David Jones Krause, a labor organizer based in Oakland and a member of If Not Now.
For the past three months, Jewish Americans have demonstrated outside the US Capitol, train stations, congressional offices, and prominent monuments across the country, demanding a permanent ceasefire now.
Over 700 California Jews and supporters occupied the Oakland Federal Building on November 13th, pressing for a ceasefire. As long as Israel’s homicidal campaign in Gaza continues, Jewish organizers will continue to disrupt business as usual.
Since October 7th, the Israeli military has killed over 22,000 Palestinians in Gaza, including over 8,000 children. According to Data for Progress polls conducted in December, 61% of probable voters and 80% of Democrats support a ceasefire.
Despite this, Representative Barbara Lee is the sole California legislator who has signed onto Res. 786, which demands a cease-fire and humanitarian relief to be sent to Gaza. Californian Jews, in collaboration with Californians of many religions and ethnicities, are urging state legislators to do their jobs and serve their constituents. Now the question is, will they listen?
“As Jews, we demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire and an end to aid to Israel’s genocidal campaign,” said Tina Szpicek, a Berkeley resident, lawyer, and Holocaust survivor’s grandchild. “Our tradition calls upon us to stand in solidarity with Palestinians, to disrupt business as usual, and to say unequivocally never again for anyone.”
Jewish Voice for Peace is a nationwide grassroots group inspired by Jewish tradition to strive for a just and sustainable peace for all Israelis and Palestinians based on human rights, equality, and international law.
Over 25 years ago, Jewish Voice for Peace Bay Area was the founding chapter of JVP, with a varied, intergenerational membership in the thousands from cities throughout the Bay Area.
We do action in support of a long-term cease-fire and educate people about Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Beyond Zionism, we are establishing a dynamic Jewish community in the Bay Area.