Hundreds of Jewish activists in Seattle demand ceasefire in Gaza: 'You can't do that in our names'
People filled into the lobby of the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building in downtown Seattle Tuesday, demanding U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) call for a ceasefire between the Israeli military and Hamas. The large crowd was led by the group Jewish Voice for Peace, which argues the state of Israel does not represent Jews around the world.
In steady rain, chants of “Free Palestine Now!” echoed off downtown Seattle buildings. People carried homemade signs that read, “stop the genocide.” Prayers were read aloud for the civilians killed in Gaza since Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
This was the second Jewish-led protest in five days at Murray’s Seattle office.
“As Jews, we are standing up against genocide and the Congress is beating the drums of war,” said Wendy Elisheva Somerson, one of the founders of Jewish Voice for Peace. “And we are saying, ‘No, you can't do that in our names.’ The State of Israel claims to speak in the name of all Jews, but they don't.”
A handful of protestors made their way through security at the federal building and up to the 19th floor to speak to Murray directly. They were met with locked doors and a sign that stated the senator’s office was temporarily closed Tuesday for a meeting. The group called a phone number on the sign and left a message with one of the senator’s aides, listing off their prepared demands.
“As Jews, we demand: Address the root causes and occupation of Palestinian land,” one member read over speaker phone.
Downstairs, the protest grew with more people arriving at the end of the workday.
They packed into the lobby of the building where they sang protest songs and read Jewish prayers. One man blew a shofar, a ram’s horn used in Jewish services, as the crowd cried out.
Murray did not speak with the protestors over the phone, but did release a statement that read, “The United States must absolutely do its part to assist innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”
The senator didn’t call for a ceasefire, and said in the statement, “Like any other sovereign nation, Israel has the right to defend itself in accordance with international law — the Israeli government must also do absolutely everything in its power to limit civilian casualties, which is something I know the Biden administration is pushing hard on and which must be kept at the forefront of every conversation with Israeli leaders.”
U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) also said he does not support a ceasefire “at this time” because it would limit Israel from defending itself from further attacks by Hamas.
“That, basically, would give Hamas blanket protection," Smith said. "I don't think it's the right policy at this point.”
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) wrote in an email that, “premature de-escalation would be a victory for the terrorists and allow them to continue to threaten Israeli civilians with future attacks.”
She included letters she and other members of Congress sent to Biden this week about next steps they would like to see, “including sending additional Iron Dome defense systems.”
So far, the one member of Washington’s Congressional delegation who does support a ceasefire is U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Seattle.
In a statement released Tuesday night, Jayapal joined a group of representatives calling for an, “immediate ceasefire, or at minimum, a temporary cessation of all hostilities in Israel and Gaza to save civilian lives.”
“Let us be clear: Our call for a ceasefire should not be mistaken as a lack of support for the protection of the people of Israel,” the statement reads. "To the contrary, it is because of our dedication to the safety of both Israelis and Palestinians that we seek a path forward without further escalating the toll of civilians dead and injured.”
Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and the seven other representatives from Washington have not yet responded to KUOW's requests for comment.
“Israel is committing war crime after war crime and U.S. tax dollars are supporting it. And we are saying, ‘no,’” Elisheva Somerson said at Tuesday's demonstration. “It is a joke to think that's defense. That's not defense, that's not self-defense — that's targeting civilians.”
Somerson and Jewish Voice for Peace said they plan on more protests in Seattle, including at other elected officials’ offices, until a ceasefire is supported.