Speakers Assaf & Abby

Boston Suburbs Gather to Support Gaza

On Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, concerned people from many of Boston’s suburbs gathered for a Gaza ceasefire rally in Watertown Square. Excellent and deeply informed speeches were given by Assaf Kfoury of Boston University and Abby Yanow of Jewish Voices for Peace.  They are pictured here along with CPDCS board member Paul Shannon.

Speeches from the day by Abby Yanow and Assaf Kfoury follow.

Abby Yanow
Speech for Nov. 19 rally

It’s wonderful to be among friends and fellow peace activists, all of us who are heartbroken by the killing of Israelis in southern Israel and the taking of hostages – and also sickened by the bombardment of Gaza, while also understanding the larger context in which this violence is occurring.  I feel comforted to be with people who care about all human lives and who wish for peace for all parties, and who also understand the political and historical dynamics at play.  I imagine that you join me in grieving the utter loss of humanity and the madness that we are witnessing, both in the Middle East and in the US.

For us, the divide does not need to be between Israelis and Palestinians, but rather between people who believe in the use of violence to resolve conflict and those who do not.  We mourn the lives of Israelis and Palestinians; we pray for the safety of the Israeli hostages as much as the safety of Gazan civilians and Palestinians in the West Bank and the release of those in administrative detention.

My activism arises from the Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam, which means Repairing the World – standing up for the oppressed, seeking social justice.  When I was growing up, I learned about the Holocaust in Hebrew school.  I always wondered, “How was it possible that the German people didn’t know what was going on? Why didn’t they do anything to stop the killing of Jewish people?”  Now I know.  We’re seeing ethnic cleansing and genocidal actions happening right now in Gaza; it’s not possible not to see it. We will not be able to say that we didn’t know.  I feel heartbroken, and ashamed, that we haven’t learned from history. 

We activists know that History did not start on Oct. 7.  We know that the Hamas attackers operated out of desperation after living in the open-air prison of Gaza and living under a blockade for 17 years.  That doesn’t justify what they did and they should be prosecuted according to the law. 

I’m sure that you are equally sickened by the bombing and appalled by the hypocrisy of US politicians who say over and over again: Israel has the right to defend itself. What does that even mean?  Is killing 13,000 people, including 5000+ children, defending yourself?  

  • Under International law, Israel has the right to PROTECT itself, but not to WAGE WAR against the people it has kept under occupation since ’67.   
  • We are all outraged that the US is supplying the arms for this bombardment and invasion, paid for by our tax dollars.

I am also distraught over our loss of humanity and the loss of respect for international law.  There couldn’t be a more blatant example of people losing their humanity than politicians who are saying that it’s too early to call for a ceasefire.

  • On Oct. 13, Biden’s press secretary Karine Jean Pierre said it’s disgraceful and repugnant for people to call for a ceasefire.   To me her comment was repugnant.
  • Losing your humanity is when you, the U.S., allow a 4 hour “pause” to allow in humanitarian aid, and then allow the Israelis to resume bombing.    
  • Losing your humanity is when you allow Israel to cut off food, water, electricity, fuel, and cell phone service, and allow them to bomb refugee camps and hospitals. 
  • Doctors are operating without anesthetics by the light of cell phones. Parents are writing the name of their children on their leg for identification purposes in case they get killed.  This is unspeakable. 
  • How can US politicians and the American public sleep at night, knowing that we are funding this slaughter?  

As peace activists it’s our job to challenge the framing of the argument that the only way to beat Hamas is to destroy Gaza and kill 11,000 Gazans in order to find them.  You don’t need to believe me –listen to the words of Ami Ayalon, former head of Shin Bet, the Israeli Security Service, who said in 2021:

“To kill terrorist leaders without addressing the despair of their supporters is a fool’s errand and produces more frustration, more despair, and more terrorism,” he said.

 “If we want to end terrorism, we can’t continue regarding the Palestinians as eternal enemies, we need to stop dehumanizing them as animals on the prowl. They are people who desire, and deserve, the same national rights we have.”

In addition to calling for an end to the slaughter in Gaza, there’s work for us to do in our own backyard – fighting anti-semitism and McCarthyite attacks against people who are expressing support for Pals.   for example:

  1. The House censuring Rep. Rashida Tlaib
  2. Brandeis Univ. and Columbia Univ. banning Students for Justice in Palestine
  3. Columbia Univ. banning Jewish Voice for Peace 
  4. Firing of 2 journal editors for calling for a ceasefire or expressing support for Palestinians – Art Forum and Science journal eLife

Our work is also to challenge the dehumanization of Palestinians and to call it out when we see it, for example: 

  1. Israeli Defense Minister Gallant said they were fighting “human animals”.  
  2. On Oct. 25 Pres. Biden said “he has no confidence in the Palestinian death count” because the numbers were presented by the “Hamas run” Gaza Health Ministry.
  3. In 2006 the Israelis introduced a policy “to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”   (Dov Weisglass)

Starting from the baseline of my Zionist upbringing, it took me several years of political education to be able to acknowledge the veracity of the Palestinian narrative.  I grieve the senseless deaths of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians, and right now I’m grieving the slaughter of Gazan civilians and the sense that we have failed them.  May they forgive us for not being able to save them and for not being able to convince the US government and the American public, who are funding this slaughter, that they, the Palestinians, were worthy of being saved.   

Assaf Kfoury
Vigil in Watertown Square – Sunday, November 19, 2023

 Never again – never again for anyone – above all today, for the people of Palestine.

 Some facts of the systematic and relentless devastation of Gaza:

# From October 7 to November 14, there were 4,650 children killed and 1,755 missing under

the rubble, for a total of 6,495 killed or missing in Gaza.

(Source: Defense for Children Int’l – Palestine branch. A child is any human being below 18 of age.)

# On November 6, the UN Secretary General says “Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children”

and calls for a humanitarian ceasefire.

(Source: Gaza ‘Becoming a Graveyard for Children’, Warns Secretary-General, Calling for Humanitarian Ceasefire.)

# The last operating hospital in northern Gaza, al-Ahli, stopped performing any surgery on

November 17 – for lack of fuel, water, and medical supplies. There are “hundreds of wounded

now at [al-Ahli] hospital with no access to surgery. They will die from their wounds.”

(Source: Surgeon flees Gaza City’s last functioning hospital after anaesthetics run out.)

# “As of November 16, only nine of the [Gaza’s] 35 hospitals were functioning even partially.”

The remaining nine, partially and still functioning, hospitals are all in the southern part of Gaza.

(Source: Surgeon flees Gaza City’s last functioning hospital after anaesthetics run out.)

# On November 12, a Norwegian physician Dr. Mads Gilbert, who has worked in al-Shifa

hospital, said “I’m sick and tired of [Israeli] claims that there are Hamas command centers [in

hospitals].” Having performed life-saving procedures for several weeks inside al-Shifa during

Israel’s earlier 2014 assault on Gaza, Gilbert noted, “As I’ve said 100 times [… ] we’ve never

seen high-ranking Hamas people in al-Shifa,” adding “we’ve been able to roam freely.”

(Source: ‘Never seen it’: Norwegian doctor disputes Hamas in hospitals.)

# On November 15, perhaps inadvertently, Israeli Army Radio admits that, “There is no

indication of the presence of abducted hostages inside the hospital [al-Shifa].”

(Source: X, formerly Twitter, post – in Hebrew.)

# From October 7 to November 2, “Israel has dropped more than 25,000 tons of explosives on

the Gaza Strip […], equivalent to the two nuclear bombs” dropped by the United States on

Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. And whereas the area of Hiroshima is about 900

square kilometers, the total area of the Gaza Strip is 365 square kilometers.

(Source: Israel hits Gaza Strip with the equivalent of two nuclear bombs.)

# Within days of its assault on Gaza, an area roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C., “Israel

dropped more bombs in a week than US dropped in Afghanistan in a year.”

(Source: Military experts: ‘Israel dropped more bombs in a week than US dropped in Afghanistan in a year’.)

# Israel is using “internationally banned weapons in its attacks on the Gaza Strip [… ],

especially the use of cluster and phosphorus bombs, which are waxy toxic substances that react

quickly to oxygen and cause severe second- and third-degree burns. [… ] [Cluster bombs] are

“small, high-explosive bombs that cause penetrating shrapnel wounds and explosions inside the

body, leaving victims with severe burns that lead to skin melting off and sometimes to death.”

(Source: Israel hits Gaza Strip with the equivalent of two nuclear bombs.)

 The events on October 7, 2023, ugly as they were, are by now just a small speck in the ongoing

display of monstrous devastation and suffering in Gaza. This extreme violence did not suddenly

arise out of thin air. The sad and hard truth is that it has been brewing for decades, mostly at

lower levels of intensity, punctuated by occasional spikes with the Israeli army invariably

coming out on top. Perhaps for the Israelis, October 6 and before was mostly peace; but for the

Palestinians it was not, their systematic subjugation and unequal treatment date back 75 years.

(Source: This War Did Not Start a Month Ago.)

On the Palestinian side, October 7 has been an explosion of rage waiting to happen, repeatedly

kept in check with various short-term palliatives that have never dealt with the conflict’s root

causes. Although nobody could predict its timing and form, the Gaza pressure-cooker was

bound to explode at some point. And explode, it did. The form it took on October 7 was ugly,

the Israeli reaction since then has been immeasurably far uglier, and unfathomable ugly

repercussions are surely to be experienced in years to come.

 But remember this: violence of the oppressed is always condemned as terrorism, violence of

the oppressor is invariably excused as counter-terrorism – and they always want us to believe

that counter-terrorism is good and a virtue, even though it is backed up by tanks, artillery,

howitzers, jet fighters, aircraft carriers, nuclear weapons, and what not – the most devastating

weapons available today, none at the disposal of the oppressed.

 And don’t let the media fool you: They keep invoking the Holocaust to justify their genocidal

intentions. They keep repeating that October 7 was the deadliest day against Jews since the

Holocaust. Quite apart from the obscenity of comparing October 7 and the Holocaust – the

Holocaust was an industrial-scale extermination of 6 millions – they want you to think that the

obliteration of Gaza and its people is to prevent or to preempt another Holocaust at the hands of

the indigenous people of Palestine. And they want you to think that no one has the right to

invoke the Holocaust in support of their conduct unless they are Jewish or supporters of the

Israeli state.

In fact, the legacy of the Holocaust belongs to all peoples on planet Earth facing genocide,

Jewish or not, Palestinian or not. In that sense, the legacy of the Holocaust belongs today to the

people of Gaza, not to the Israeli politicians and generals that have decided to annihilate Gaza

and exterminate its people – and not to the craven politicians in Washington, starting with

President Biden and his sidekick Antony Blinken, who keep repeating that “Israel has the

right, indeed the obligation, to defend itself,” which is becoming a euphemism for “the

necessary elimination of the Palestinian people,” however many qualifications they may add

about “respect for innocent lives.”

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