Ceasefire demand spreads—in the Senate, in the House, in the Democratic Party
Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin became the first member of the U.S. Senate to call for a ceasefire, breaking from the Biden administration's refusal to utter the word. | AP

Calls for an immediate ceasefire are accelerating worldwide as the horrific death toll among Palestinians rises and the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza deteriorates by the minute. The extreme-right Israeli government is ignoring those pleas as it continues its ground assault and aerial bombardment of Gaza.

In response to the massacre of 1,400 Israelis by Hamas on Oct. 7, over 10,000 Palestinians, including 4,000 children, have been killed by indiscriminate Israeli bombing. If scaled up for population size, this would be equivalent to killing 1.5 million Americans, including 600,000 children, in under a month. Israel dropped almost as many bombs in Gaza in one week as the U.S. did in Afghanistan in one year.

The massive bombing has displaced over 1 million Gazans, the health care system has collapsed, and 2.2 million Palestinians have been cut off from food, water, medicine, electricity, and fuel. These are considered war crimes under international law.

Massive protests were held this weekend in London, Toronto, Oslo, Berlin, and other cities.

In the U.S., tens of thousands marched in Washington on Nov. 3, demanding the Biden administration pressure Israel for a ceasefire and stop sending arms to the extreme-right Israeli government. Millions are insisting there is no military solution to eliminating Hamas. Instead, the crisis requires a political solution recognizing Palestinian national rights.

The Biden administration has so far called for “humanitarian pauses” in the bombing to allow food, water, and medicine into Gaza and give the exodus of wounded and foreign nationals time to get out. The White House is not using its considerable leverage against the Israeli government to end the bombing, however, and no administration official has supported a ceasefire.

Meanwhile, opposition to the extreme right Israeli government’s devastation of Gaza is growing in Israel. Thousands of Israelis protested in Tel Aviv and in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence, demanding a return of the hostages and the ouster of Netanyahu. Mounted police officers attacked the protesters.

Hundreds of Jewish and Arab-Palestinian citizens gathered in Haifa, a Jewish-Arab city in Israel, to send a clear message for partnership and Israeli-Palestinian peace in the face of the Hamas terror attack and horrific slaughter in Gaza.

“After Saturday’s Jewish-Arab rally in Haifa, we held another one with hundreds of Jewish and Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, standing together in solidarity & calling for Israeli-Palestinian peace,” wrote Alon-Lee Green of Standing Together on X, formerly Twitter. “There are 2 people sharing this land & the only way is to live together.”

Hourly images of leveled apartment buildings and refugee camps, dead bodies and injured civilians pulled from the rubble, wailing children seeking their parents, and hospitals running out of material and antiseptics are rapidly shifting public opinion against Israeli policies.

In a new poll, 66% of all Americans—and 80% of Democrats—told Data for Progress that they support a ceasefire, and 53% of Democrats told CBS News pollsters that they oppose the U.S. sending more weapons to Israel.

Last week, Jewish protesters, rabbis, and other faith leaders shut down Grand Central Station and the Philadelphia 30th Street Station. A similar protest filled the JFK Federal Building in Boston. Jewish protesters also shut down a highway in Durham, N.C.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D—Ill., became the first U.S. senator to call for a ceasefire. This is a big deal because Durbin is the second-ranking leader among Senate Democrats. Durbin linked a ceasefire to freeing over 200 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. “Let’s face it, this has been going on for decades. And whatever the rationale at the beginning, it’s reached an intolerable level,” Durbin told CNN on Nov. 2. “We need to have a resolution in the Middle East that gives some promise for the future.”

Calls for a ceasefire are growing among Democratic members of Congress. Over 31 members have called for a ceasefire, including 18 who co-signed legislation introduced by Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo. Others, including Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., have called for a ceasefire but not signed onto the legislation.

Earlier, 55 members of Congress issued a letter condemning the Hamas terrorist attacks and calling on the Israeli government to respect international law.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., like Biden, has called for “humanitarian pauses” and an end to the Israeli policy of occupation of Palestinian territory and a two-state solution to the crisis.

“Israel has a right to defend itself. But what Israel does not, in my view, have a right to do is to kill thousands and thousands of innocent men, women, and children who had nothing to do with that attack…. We have got to stop the bombing now.”

In addition, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called upon Israel to change its policy.

“It’s time for Israel’s friends to recognize that the current operational approach is causing unacceptable level of civilian harm and does not appear likely to achieve the goal of permanently ending the threat from Hamas,” said Murphy. “The current rate of civilian death inside Gaza is unacceptable and unsustainable.”

The Providence City Council became the first municipality to call for a ceasefire. The resolution urged the Biden administration “to immediately call for and facilitate de-escalation and a ceasefire to end the current violence.”

The resolution also called upon the administration to “promptly send and facilitate the entry of humanitarian assistance to Gaza.”

Multiple trade unions have issued calls for a ceasefire, including the Chicago Teachers Union, SEIU United Service Workers West, and UFCW Local 3000, and Unite the Union, the largest union in the U.K. and Ireland. In Belgium, transport workers unions have declared they won’t load any weapons onto planes or ships bound for Israel.

Pope Francis is one of many world leaders calling for a ceasefire. “We say ‘ceasefire, ceasefire.’ Brothers and sisters, stop!” he declared, “War is always a defeat, always.” The Pontiff also called for the release of the hostages held by Hamas and allowing humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar also called for a ceasefire. “Israel has the right to defend itself, has the right to go after Hamas so that they cannot do this again. But what I’m seeing unfolding at the moment isn’t just self-defense. It looks, it resembles something more approaching revenge,” he said. Collective punishment is a breach of international law, and Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 massacre had gone beyond self-defense, said Varadkar.

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee of the United Nations has just joined the call for a ceasefire. Its members include leaders of 18 humanitarian organizations in and outside the U.N. system. “We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It’s been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now,” said the call.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated his “call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and unimpeded humanitarian access to be granted consistently, safely, and to scale to meet the urgent needs created by the catastrophe unfolding in Gaza.”

Scores of artists, celebrities, and cable news hosts, including MSNBC hosts Chris Hayes and Joy Reid, and the Financial Times newspaper are calling for a ceasefire, according to Ceasefire Tracker on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Opinion makers, including many linked to the U.S. foreign policy establishment, are warning the Biden administration its support for the Netanyahu government policies are unsustainable and risk sparking a wider war in the Middle East, fueling even more extremism and making it even harder to achieve peace and a two-state solution guaranteeing Palestinian national rights.

The war is also fueling anti-Semitism globally among those who conflate the actions of Israel’s extreme right government with Jewish people and Islamophobia among those who conflate Hamas’s actions with all Palestinians. Voices for Jewish-Arab unity, and Israeli-Palestinian unity, are being drowned out in the drum beat of war.

“Israel’s plan of action is both increasingly morally intolerable and strategically flawed,” tweeted David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official. “If the Biden administration is (as I believe it is) a sincere advocate for a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, then it must soon make it plain that the Israeli leadership it stands with is that of Yitzhak Rabin—and not of the enemies of peace whose path to power began with his murder. A rift is coming. And if it comes because Netanyahu cannot be steered away from his current path, that is a necessary and very good thing.”

Opposition is growing within the Democratic Party electoral coalition to the Biden policy, both on moral grounds and concerns that Biden will own the mass death of Palestinians and destruction in Gaza, threatening the unity of the anti-MAGA majority coalition and the ability to win the 2024 elections.

Young voters are a critical constituency for Biden and Democrats. The latest polling shows nearly 80% opposition to support for what Israel is doing in Gaza and U.S. policy. The danger is these voters, and Arab Americans in critical swing states like Michigan, while never voting for Trump or the GOP, could sit out the 2024 election or vote for a third party.

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John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, where he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs. He currently lives in Chicago.