We shut down the Space Needle yesterday.
Close to 500 stood at the base of the Needle while protesters in shirts saying “NOT IN OUR NAME” and “CEASEFIRE NOW” blocked the doors, arms clasped together, willing to go to jail if necessary. But the cops never showed up over the 3-hour action. The Needle closed down for the day and handed out refunds to ticket holders.
No one expressed the spirit of the day better than Black Lives Matter activist Nikkita Oliver.
“How can you stand at the top of the Space Needle when children are being genocided? We can’t have fun now.”
The crowd was overwhelmingly young, mostly millennials and Gen Z, with a smattering of us old grayheads throughout the crowd. The event, sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace in alliance with other local groups, saw Jews and non-Jews come together to demand an immediate ceasefire. We heard speakers from the Jewish, Black, Native and Palestinian communities speak of the common struggle against oppression and racism, and declare that business as usual is done.
We were led in chants and singing over the day. “Free, free Palestine!” “Ceasefire Now!” “Let Gaza live!” I started out the day feeling kind of rocky standing out on a cold drizzly day. But the singing lifted me up. “With hope, with prayer, we find ourselves here. We rise! We rise!” The spirit of the crowd was tremendous.
Being there felt like the least I could do, after sitting in on a Thursday webinar with attorneys and plaintiffs in a case charging high U.S. leaders with complicity in genocide in Gaza. Announcement of the case is here.
Nadia Ben-Youssef, advocacy director for the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the group through which the lawsuit was filed, referred to feelings of grief, rage and love as she opened the webinar. Feelings that welled up in me through the hour-long session. She urged people to “do whatever we can” to end the deaths of innocent civilians in Gaza, and noted a shutdown of the Oakland Bay Bridge that was happening even as the webinar was taking place. Bridges in Boston and Montreal were also being shut down.
Sadif Doost, one of the attorneys in the case, called out the “love, rage and brilliance in this complaint.” I later scanned the 89-page filing, an exhaustive day-by-day account of Israel’s attacks on Gaza, and the failure of U.S. officials to not only do what they could to prevent it, as obligated under international law, but also to be actively complicit it in. The filing contains many statements of Israeli officials calling for the destruction of Palestinians. These establish intent to commit genocide as defined under the U.N. treaty and international law. That is a key element in making the case. The plaintiffs ask the court to order defendants Joseph Biden, Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin to stop “providing any further aid, support or assistance to Israel’s genocidal acts.” For those who want to delve into it, the filing is here. For a short summary, go here.
Genocide is not a charge that should be lightly made. It is the crime of crimes. The attorneys who put together the CCR case have made a powerful argument that is hard to refute. If attacks by Hamas on civilians are a war crime, attacks by Israel on an entire civilian population are many times worse. In my view, and that of many others, they will not uproot Hamas. And even if they did, the hatred engendered by these attacks and continued oppression of Palestinians will only spur rise of even more violent opposition.
Meanwhile, Israel’s political support is collapsing around the world. The mad fundamentalists who rule that state and foresee a Greater Israel seem blinded to the threats they are bringing on their own people, as they stir an unprecedented degree of revulsion and opposition around the world. The only real solution to this issue is political, providing justice that allows both Palestinians and Israelis to live together in peace in this land.
Another legal expert making the genocide case is human rights attorney Craig Mokhiber, who resigned as director of the New York office of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights out of his disgust for inaction on Gaza. In this recent 44-minute interview with Breakthrough News he says, “It’s not about defeating Hamas. They know they’re building Hamas. The only way to explain it is wholesale destruction of a people. I had never seen such a classic case of genocide.”
Said Mokhiber, “This is a moment in history that will be talked about for generations, and we will all ask what we did in this moment, and there’s going to be a lot of shame by those who went along with this.”
The interview is here:
Indeed, we will all ask what we did in this moment. I would have gone to the Needle anyway. But hearing Palestinian-American plaintiffs in the CCR case added to my fire. They underscored that we as U.S. of Americans are guilty of collective evil in facilitating Israel’s attacks.
Basim Elkarra, whose parents were born in Gaza and who lives in California, said, “Bombs that are killing people are made here. My tax dollars are paying to kill my people.”
His own extended family has lost 65. “Every family is losing people,” he said. “There is no business as usual anymore.”
Mohammad Herzallah, whose family originated in Gaza, said, “We are seeing genocide before our eyes. Words cannot express what is going on in our hearts.” He related how people in his Gaza family are being killed. “We will do everything in our power to make this voice heard. Bring it to the streets and the public.”
Waeli Elbhassi, who has been in the U.S. for 30 years, said his family has lost dozens. People in his parents’ generation who were displaced in 1948 have always had a “collective sense of trauma,” he said. “But until this moment I haven’t had this sense of tragedy. That there is another Nakba (the displacement of Palestinians in 1948) going on before us. Literally every family I know has lost someone. This is how we know it is a genocide.”
“This is an all hands on deck moment,” Elbhassi said. “This is a moment when we have to be disruptive, facing a world structure that seems hellbent on finishing the job.”
He added, “This is an incredible moment where an actual global movement is happening. The tide is turning. This is our moment.”
Indeed, a Palestinian cause that had faded into the background has burst into world consciousness in an unprecedented way. The streets are filling around the world, from North America and Europe to Africa, Asia and Latin America. Seas of Palestinian flags are flying, and business as usual is being disrupted, demanding an end to the attacks and siege on Gaza, and justice for the Palestinian people.
Sabrene Odeh, a 29-year old Palestinian-American activist born in Seattle, speaking to the crowd at the Space Needle Sunday, said, “Our voices are heard around the world. Our friends and family in Palestine are hearing, they’re feeling, they’re seeing this. Thank you for being here.”
This movement needs to go on, she said. “A ceasefire is the least we can ask for.”
“Even if the bombing stops, our responsibility is to call for an end to occupation. There are other forms of collective punishment taking place. Keep up the same energy for however long it takes until Palestine is liberated.”
This first appeared on The Raven.