At a time of such immense loss, grief, and crisis, where things are changing so rapidly and it is incredibly difficult to tell the future, it feels like finding a unified demand that can unite a coalition is impossible. But the Israeli assault on Gaza, which can fairly be called genocidal, presents one of the most obvious demands imaginable: ceasefire.
I was recently asked to co-facilitate a meeting of union staff who wanted to be helpful in our current situation. There was uneven consciousness in the room, and so the conversation focused primarily on people talking, first, about their feelings, beginning with reactions to the October 7th attack from Hamas, and then moving into the responses to Israel’s initial bombing campaign on Gaza. There is extensive fear and pain at play here, with many people having only minimal degrees of separation from those affected in Israel-Palestine, and it also connects to many of the generational traumas that folks carry with them.
But in doing so, one thing became clear: there is no constituency, other than war profiteers and Israel’s far-right ruling coalition, who benefits from a continued assault on Gaza. The violence committed by Hamas, the over 8,000 dead civilians from Israel’s indiscriminate violence, all emerges from a hostile, authoritarian, colonial situation that guarantees that violence and oppression will continue unabated. When considering the lives at stake here, both Israeli and Palestinian, the only thing that could possibly protect everyone is a ceasefire. A ceasefire is a universal declaration, it applies to everyone involved, which means life is preserved in every community touched by the violence. This is a unifying demand that can speak to people from a variety of communities and is what is necessary to stop any further loss of life, to see the hostages released (including Palestinians currently held Israeli prisons without charge), and to make the first steps towards a just and lasting peace process. Our goal is to keep Israelis and Palestinians alive, and to that end a ceasefire only prioritizes an end to violence. A ceasefire is not even an explicitly anti-Zionist demand, it is one that anyone can get behind because any positive direction for the region can only begin once the killing stops.
A ceasefire is an end in itself. As I am speaking, Israel is commencing with a ground invasion of Gaza with the support of the U.S. and Western imperial powers, which will only more thoroughly throttle the Palestinian citizens of Gaza, completing the unconscionable war crimes that took place during their bombing campaign and leading to more Hamas, Hezbollah, and Houthi counter-attacks. This invasion does little to free the hostages that Hamas has taken, or to stop counter-attacks against IDF soldiers, but instead establishes a state of perpetual warfare that does nothing to keep the average Israeli safe.
More than this, an openly fascist movement of Settlers in the West Bank, with the support of Israeli politicians and the IDF, are trying to ethnically cleanse indigenous Palestinians. In reports coming from around the Occupied Territories, Settlers are kidnapping and torturing Palestinians, threatening them with orders to leave within twenty-four hours, promising to burn their villages to the ground and deport them to Jordan. This violence is unconscionable, and is aided by Israel’s war machine who seems to want to use these movements to help liquidate the ghettos they created.
The ceasefire is a demand to freeze, one that considers literally every affected party. But it is also a window to a different kind of conversation, the possibility of a new future for Israel-Palestine. When I look at the average Israeli Jew, I don’t see a tremendously safe person. I see a culture built on the fear of the colonizer, a crisis that only further radicalizes them towards violence. An ethno-theocratic authoritarian settler colony that denies the rights of indigenous people is not a sufficient answer to the historical violence and dispossession of antisemitism: it doesn’t keep Jews safe since what has kept us safe is solidarity with other people affected by systems of oppression. I care about Jewish life in historic Palestine just as I do Palestinian life, and the only way to honor both is to build an arrangement where a shared thriving is possible. Ceasefire is not a demand only for anti-Zionists, every party benefits because there are no positive possible outcomes as the invasion continues. There are other options, and a commitment, however tenuous, to end the violence is the only the first step. But those that follow come in the same vein: what does it take to build a meaningful life?
A ceasefire is, possibly, the beginning of what is necessary to build a binational, unified, democratic and secular future for the region, one where Palestinians and Israelis have equal rights, access to land, and an end to apartheid and ethnic nationalism. This “one state solution” has been framed erroneously as an attack on the existence of Israel, but what it actually does is present a possibility of Jewish continuity by laying a pathway to peaceful coexistence that represents the Jewish values of social justice and world healing. Without this, the violence will remain, and Israel will have to continue to auction off its moral center to maintain a violent colonial project whose existence relies on the continued suppression of its indigenous inhabitants. That is not the future that was promised to the Jewish people, and it’s not one that ensures our flourishing in Eretz Yisrael. And it is a complete and utter betrayal of the Palestinians, who are fighting for just the smallest shred of dignity as the “international community” has abandoned them.
There is a single step that can start this, and then it can become a revolutionary avalanche that brings more and more residents of historic Palestine into the question of what kind of future could be built if equality and justice become the operative concept. This will require a few things: the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendents, the dismantling of the military state whose purpose is the permanent subjugation of the Palestinian people, the addition of Palestinians to the Law of Return, and the abdication of Jewish supremacy is the legal code of the country. When rebuilding that society we inculcate a system of solidarity where those marginalized by our global systems of capitalism and statecraft, both Jewish and Palestinian, can collaborate to fight for continued gains into the future. By rejecting the false binaries of nationalism, empires, and states, we are able to finally gain the real power that comes when those fighting for liberation can do so together. We cannot do that while one people is living in a state of ferocious occupation, so when we give up the tenuous promises of ethnic statehood we get something infinitely more powerful: we get each other.