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Another Jew for Ceasefire

Author with State Senator Pat Jehlen and husband Alain Jehlen in Davis Square.

Published 20 March 2024  Somerville Times here

Another Jew for Ceasefire

C.R. Spicer

March 8
Yellow tulips for International Women’s Day were distributed to participants after thirty-five had gathered in Somerville at Davis Square to mourn the indiscriminate killing in Gaza. Alain Jehlen, attending the protest on Friday said “Ceasefire is the only way to be human.”

“Already 1 percent of the population is dead,” Sen. Pat Jehlen said. “That’s thirty million Americans. 700 in Somerville.”

“I’m so appalled,” said Nancy Murray, Cambridge resident who worked for the ACLU, She has visited all the refugee camps including Jabalia recalling the 2,000 lb. bomb Israel dropped there.

As more than 9,000 women have been killed in Gaza, the death toll was dramatized by a reading of names and ages of Palestinian victims. “The names we just read included several families,” remarked Amina, a student wearing a Kafiya and black mask who asked for her identity to remain private. “The death toll shows that Israel does not discriminate against age, does not discriminate against gender.”

Murray has made twelve visits to Palestine since her first in 1988 after the first Intifada and once walked the width of Gaza with Dr. Mona al Farrar, a physician and Director of the Middle East Children’s Alliance. “People often don’t know that Gaza is 25 miles long and four to six miles wide.”

Alain Jehlen, who has relatives in Israel, spoke at City Hall giving testimony in favor as Somerville became the first Mass. city to pass a ceasefire resolution. His uncle who lived on a religious kibbutz once responded to a riot of Jews against Arabs saying ‘it was a pogrom’, when that word still referred exclusively to mean the mass killing of Jews.

Nancy Murray, also a member of Water Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine commented on death exacted by bombing and starvation, having destroyed an already limited supply of goods. “There was no drinkable water” Murray explained, regarding perilous conditions she observed during the seventeen year blockade. “500 trucks a day would bring bottled water. Now there’s no water. People are drinking sea water today. The most alarming thing is it is deliberate. 1,000 trucks are blocked at the al-Rafa border. Israel confiscated 1,000 water filters that Britain had bought.”

Generation after Generation Until Total Liberation–a sign

Murray introduced me to a woman with Mediterranean blue eyes. She wore a red keffiyeh and red blazer and red boots. “I am Palestinian,” began Somerville resident Hilary Rantisi. Born in Ramallah, she carries her father’s memoir of her family’s eviction in 1948 from Lydda, a strategically important city. “It has a train track and a very important airport that now the Israelis use.” Her father, Audeh Rentisi, was just twelve at the time. “We lost our home, all our belongings. My grandfather had the key to our home,” explaining what has become a symbol used by many artists of the right of return. Sadly it too has been lost.

“It says Free Gaza,” Rantisi explained of a banner that was held toward College Avenue in Davis square. “The colors red and white represent the Palestinian Flag–That’s why I’m wearing red. The shape of a watermelon is an image seen in many protest signs because there was a period of time when those who flew the flag would be jailed or shot. The artists used the melon as a way to subvert the rule creatively.”

No Peace on Stolen Land–a chant

“If the US can build a pier in one or two months,” Sen. Jehlen said referring to the Cypriot government initiative 210 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza where the US would build a temporary pier to collect humanitarian aid at the island’s port city of Larnaca, “they can stop the killing. The President can end this if he wants to.”

Rantisi explained the importance in Somerville of “the symbolic vote for ceasefire made me feel my community cares. I felt held. The US is sending all these weapons and the refusal at the UN to pass a resolution has made the US accomplice in what is happening.”

“The equivalent TNT of two atomic bombs have been used by Israel on Palestinians,” Murray said. Pat Jehlen thought of a friend in a hospital. “What if she were there?”

“This is an Al-Jazeera reporter, the only surviving member of his family,” event organizer Sara Halawa said, passing around the image of Moamen al Sharafi beneath the headline “An Israeli raid kills 22 members of the correspondent's family. ”Almost two hundred journalists have died.“

“The logic of occupation makes you justify what you’re doing,” Mr. Jehlen said. “How does it end?”

“It’s our duty,” Somerville resident Laura Curiel said, “because we’re tax payers. Our President can easily stop this.”

In Tuesday’s primary election, nearly 23 percent voted “No Preference,” the highest percentage in Massachusetts, result of an effort led by Somerville 4 Palestine: “We are fighting to make sure the atrocities our government has supported and funded ends now.”


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