MMore than a dozen state lawmakers and activists in the United States, including actress Cynthia Nixon, have launched a hunger strike calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.
The five state lawmakers participating in the hunger strike that began Monday are Delaware state Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, New York Rep. Zohran Mamdani, Oklahoma Rep. Mauree Turner, Rep. Virginia Rep. Sam Rasoul and Michigan Rep. Abraham Aiyash. They are joined by Nixon and various religious and community leaders.
Mamdani and Wilson-Anton are among half a dozen participants determined to avoid eating for five days. The others will fast for less than five days. When Wilson-Anton, the Delaware congresswoman, received a call from Mamdani in New York asking if she would consider participating in a hunger strike, she began to cry. She was already active on social media and had participated in protests, but she says she still feels helpless. “I wanted to do something else but I didn’t know what,” she says.
She hopes the hunger strike “will draw attention to the fact that the U.S. government, our president and our congressional leaders are funding this starvation policy.”
“We’re sending American taxpayer money to bomb communities in Gaza and I don’t think our president is using his influence as much as he could to get a permanent ceasefire,” she said. “We’re seeing the impact of that, which is no food, no water.”
As a four-day temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas began on November 24, pro-Palestinian advocates fear the besieged Gaza Strip could face more devastation once it is lifted. Israeli attacks have so far killed more than 14,000 Palestinians and decimated the city’s health system. Palestinians struggle to find food and clean water because of Israeli blockade; The UN World Food Program says civilians in Gaza face an “immediate possibility of starvation.” According to Oxfam, starvation is used as a “weapon of war”. The Israeli airstrikes follow a Hamas attack on October 7, which killed 1,200 people in Israel and took more than 240 hostages. The temporary ceasefire was reached to facilitate the release of 50 Israeli hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel; the people released on both sides are women and children.
Learn more: The fight to save lives in Gaza hospitals
Actor and activist Nixon will participate in the hunger strike for two days. Nixon is one of more than 260 artists who have already signed an open letter calling on President Joe Biden and Congress to commit to a ceasefire. Speaking at a news conference outside the White House on Monday, Nixon spoke of widespread civilian casualties in Gaza. “None of this is normal,” she said. “None of this is routine and none of this can continue.”
Sumaya Awad, Palestinian-American activist and director of strategy and communications for the Adalah Justice Project, referenced the recent shooting of three Palestinian-American students in Vermont. “This is what happens when we do not support a permanent ceasefire and our government continues to dehumanize Palestinians,” she said at the press conference.
Those participating in the hunger strike say the United States should reflect on its unwavering support for Israel and that a pause is insufficient. “The United States is not simply witnessing this genocide. He is a participant in this genocide,” says New York Assemblyman Mamdani. “We are starving in front of the White House to show President Biden the consequences of his actions. This is what he is doing to the Palestinians. It is time he sees on his own doorstep what it means to support policies like these .”
President Joe Biden is pushing to provide Israel with an additional $14 billion in military aid. The United States has rejected the claim that Israel is committing genocide. Several genocide experts, as well as around thirty UN experts, have affirmed that there is a serious risk of genocide.
Mamdani notes that many American voters have said they would support a permanent ceasefire, referencing a poll conducted between October 18 and 19 by the left-leaning polling firm Data for Progress in which about two-thirds of American voters say they “completely agree” or “rather “I agree” with this measure. A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken in mid-November, before the temporary ceasefire began, found that about 68 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that “Israel should call for a ceasefire.” -fire and try to negotiate”.
Wilson-Anton offers strategies to combat hunger, including more rest and contact with loved ones. But she also “tries to keep in perspective how much easier it is to go on a hunger strike when you know there is an end in sight and a fully stocked refrigerator.”
“I know I have food I can eat,” she says. “I know I have clean water that I can drink, whereas Palestinians living in Gaza do not have that assurance.”
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