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Jewish group on Capitol Hill calls for ceasefire; 300 arrested

Jewish group on Capitol Hill calls for ceasefire; 300 arrested

Joe Khalil and Evan Lambert

(NewsNation) — A large group of protestors called “Jewish Voice for Peace” came to the Cannon House Rotunda in the U.S. Capitol complex Wednesday to demand a ceasefire in the Middle East amid the Israel-Hamas war.

Jewish Voice for Peace describes itself on its website as the largest progressive Jewish anti-Zionist organization in the world. 

“We are proud Jewish people standing in solidarity with Palestinians demanding a ceasefire immediately,” Liv Kunins-Berkowitz, media coordinator for the group, said. “A genocide is underway and everyone has to know.”

Kunins-Berkowitz said members of Jewish Voice for Peace came to Washington, D.C. with a message for U.S. President Joe Biden, who was in Israel meeting with the country’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday. During his trip, Biden pledged support for Israel, but warned the country against becoming “consumed by rage.”

“I’m looking right at you, President Biden — are you going to be the president that funds and enables a genocide, or are you going to be the president that puts your foot down and stops the genocide?” Kunins-Berkowitz asked.

Capitol Police arrested about 300 people as protestors chanted and sang songs.

“A group of protesters are demonstrating inside the Cannon Rotunda. Demonstrations are not allowed inside Congressional Buildings,” Capitol Police said in a statement. “We warned the protestors to stop demonstrating and when they did not comply we began arresting them.”

The Cannon Rotunda is connected to, but not actually inside, the Capitol building.

U.S. Rep. Brandon Williams, a New York Republican, stood above protestors on a balcony above the Cannon Rotunda with an Israeli flag.

Jewish Voice for Peace joins a group of Democratic lawmakers who are also calling for a ceasefire. A resolution was introduced by them earlier this week asking for an immediate de-escalation of the war as well as humanitarian relief for Gaza.

“I am grieving for every Palestinian, Israeli and American life lost to this violence, and my heart breaks for all those who will be forever traumatized because of it,” U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, said in a statement announcing the resolution. “War and retaliatory violence doesn’t achieve accountability or justice; it only leads to more death and human suffering.”

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is reportedly becoming more dire since militant group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. Israel has been launching waves of airstrikes while Hamas has been firing rockets into the country.

A man carrying his dog as he leaves a bombed area following overnight Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on October 11, 2023.
(Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Gaza’s Health Ministry said Wednesday that 3,478 Palestinians have been killed and more than 12,000 injured in the past 11 days.

More than 1,400 in Israel have been killed and nearly 200 taken hostage by Hamas.

In retaliation, Israel sealed off the Gaza Strip, stopping the entry of food, water, medicine, fuel and electricity to its 2.3 million people. However, the Israeli government said Wednesday it will allow Egypt to deliver limited quantities of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, which the Associated Press says has been the first crack in the 10-day siege on the territory.

United States will provide $100 million in humanitarian assistance for Palestinians affected by the conflict in both Gaza and the West Bank. Should Hamas confiscate this aid, however, Biden said “it will end.”

Israel ordered the evacuation of over a million Palestinians out of northern Gaza, in what officials say is an attempt to separate civilians from Hamas. However, organizations such as the United Nations have said this evacuation would be calamitous at a time when Gaza does not have necessary resources.

“Forcible population transfers constitute a crime against humanity, and collective punishment is prohibited under international humanitarian law,” Paula Gaviria Betancur, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, said in a statement.

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

NewsNation digital producer Cassie Buchman The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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