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Why is this year different from all other years?


This week, Palestinians uncovered a second mass grave in Gaza, at the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. More than 300 bodies were buried there, many with their hands and feet tied, killed and discarded by the Israeli military.  

The Israeli government has enjoyed impunity to commit genocide for the past six months, aided and abetted by the U.S. Congress. On Tuesday night the Senate approved over $14 billion in military funding for Israel — which President Biden is expected to sign off on. 

As this genocide continues, our movement isn’t backing down. Across the country, Jews are holding Seders in the Streets for Passover, and campuses across the country are being filled by student encampments in solidarity with Gaza. A new anti-war movement is being forged, demanding an end to U.S. support for Israel…

“How is this year different from all other years?

This week is Passover, the Jewish holiday of liberation. To paraphrase the first question asked each year, “How is this year different from all other years?” To this, Jews of conscience reply: “This year is not like other years. There can be no feasting while Gaza is being starved.”

Across the country, tens of thousands of U.S. Jews are coming together and refusing to let our traditions, our histories, and our identities be used to starve, displace, and massacre Palestinians.

On Tuesday Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest ranking Jewish elected official in the U.S., led the vote to send over $14 billion more to the Israeli military. Meanwhile, thousands of us gathered on his doorstep in prayer and song for a “Seder in the streets.” After shutting down the street for hours, more than 250 of us were arrested by the NYPD.

In Seattle, JVP and allies held a Seder to shut down the street outside Senator Patty Murray’s office, demanding she take action to stop arming Israel. From Denver to Portland to more than a dozen other cities, JVP and allies are holding 17 different emergency Passover actions this week. 

This year, hearing the story of Passover means that we recognize that we are all in mitzrayim, the narrow place, while the Israeli genocide of Palestinians continues. The only way out is through — we must continue to mobilize to bring liberation for all into the present.

Campus protests are spreading…

Student encampments in solidarity with Gaza are spreading like wildfire across the U.S., springing up on campuses from Columbia to NYU, the New School, University of Michigan, University of Maryland, Berkeley, Swarthmore, Yale and more. 

These anti-war students have established encampments in solidarity with Gaza. Their demands include university divestment from Israeli apartheid — refusing business as usual while U.S. institutions support genocide.

…And so is the crackdown on student protesters.

Student encampments are making headlines across the country, as demands for immediate ceasefire and divestment from apartheid become more mainstream every day. In response, our elected officials and the U.S. media are exploiting fears of rising antisemitism to smear peaceful anti-war protests as dangerous, anti-semitic mobs.

Actual violence has occurred — but at the request of university administrators. 

Less than 24 hours after Columbia students established their Gaza Solidarity Encampment, Columbia President Minouche Shafik called in the NYPD to forcefully disperse the peaceful protesters. Officers wearing riot gear and carrying zip ties swarmed the encampment, arresting over 100 students. 

At Yale, photos circulated on social media of Yale-branded buses being used to cart off dozens of students arrested for demanding divestment from Israeli genocide. At NYU, cops clad in riot gear were also called in to crack down on student protesters; they arrested dozens of students and used pepper spray on demonstrators, including a journalist at NYU’s student newspaper. 

Undeterred by the NYPD raid, Columbia students almost immediately re-established the Gaza solidarity encampment on their campus — and now, Shafik is threatening to call in the National Guard to forcefully clear the encampment. We’ve seen how this ends: Students being brutalized by cops conjures up images of an infamous crackdown on Columbia’s campus in 1968, when police violently arrested hundreds of antiwar student protesters.

When the mainstream media covers these displacements, they tell a story of unsafe, antisemitic protests. It bears repeating: these are peaceful student anti war protesters, many of whom are Jewish. 

Unsurprisingly, Biden has already gone so far as to release a statement stoking this fear-mongering around antisemitism on college campuses. Yet he’s remained silent on the mass graves being uncovered in Gaza. That’s not a coincidence. 

This crackdown is a distraction. Our opposition has every intention of continuing to conflate anti-Zionist, anti-war organizing with antisemitism – but we won’t lose focus. The bravery of these students in the face of state violence and unrelenting attacks sets an example for all of us. We must all remain just as steadfast in our demands for ceasefire, an end to genocide, and a future of Palestinian liberation.

Stand with the student movement.

It’s crucial that we defend the brave students putting their bodies on the line to push for divestment and stand in solidarity with Gaza.

Take a minute now to write to the Columbia University administration and tell them that their escalating violence against their own students is unacceptable — and demand that the school divest from its holdings in Israeli apartheid.

What we’re reading.

Adam Federman writes for In These Times about the disquieting wave of new legislation intended to crack down on the right to protest in the U.S., from the expansion of Georgia’s domestic terrorism law in response to #StopCopCity to harsher penalties for civil disobedience protest tactics.

What we’re watching.

Speaking to Democracy Now! during its coverage of last night’s Seder protest in NYC, JVP Political Director Beth Miller explained that U.S. Jews won’t let a genocide be continued “in the false name of Jewish freedom.”

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