US-based Jewish Voice for Peace launched a campaign condemning Israel's attack on Gaza which has, at the time of writing, left over 1,400 Palestinians dead, the vast majority of whom are civilians including more than 300 children.
The #GazaNames campaign features dozens of celebrities and activists holding signs with the names of the victims of so-called “Operation Protective Edge” which has been labelled “a massacre” by critics of Israel's policy in the occupied territories.
The statement released by Jewish Voice for Peace on their Freedom4Palestine website reads as follows:
A diverse group of celebrities, artists, and activists that includes American Jews and Palestinians are speaking out for Palestinian human rights in a video released online today. The video is a first of its kind expression of support for Palestinian freedom, equality and justice and features celebrities such as Chuck D, Jonathan Demme, Gloria Steinem, Wallace Shawn, Tony Kushner, Mira Nair, Roger Waters, Brian Eno, and others holding signs with the names and ages of Palestinian civilians recently killed by the Israeli military in Gaza.
“The Israeli leaders seem sincere when they say they believe that their actions are appropriate. Apparently, one of ‘us’ is worth many more of ‘them,’” said actor and playwright Wallace Shawn, who provides the voice-over narration for the video. “American leaders know they are lying when they defend the murder of children in their beds. And we, the public, pay for the bombs, pay for the airplanes, and pretend not to notice what’s going on.”
As Israel continues its assault against the occupied, besieged, and blockaded Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 1,400 Palestinians since July 8, most of them civilians, a growing number of global citizens of conscience feel compelled to speak out against Israel’s disproportionate attack on the Palestinian people. In addition to those featured in this video, a growing number of celebrities have been speaking out via social media about the horrors we are witnessing in Gaza, as reported recently by BuzzFeed and The Hollywood Reporter.
“We wanted to provide a platform for the growing list of prominent individuals who are outraged by Israel’s brutal violence against Gaza’s civilian population,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an organization that co-produced the video. “Our message is that securing freedom and justice for Palestinians is the only pathway to a lasting peace.”
“My family was forced to flee our beloved Jerusalem in 1948 and every day since then, we have longed for freedom,” said Nina Saah, an 83-year-old Nakba survivor featured in the video. “What is happening in Gaza breaks my heart all over again. And yet I am so moved by all those who have come together in this video and the outpouring of support I am seeing for Palestinians. It gives me hope that the people of the world will be the ones to change our situation and that freedom and justice will come.”
“This is a scream on paper. This is a wail,” said playwright Eve Ensler, one of the artists featured in the video. “There are no more words. Only this moment where we rise against the illegal and deathly occupation of Palestine, against mass slaughter of the defenseless, against the complicit silence of the international community, against the military might and arrogance of the Israeli and the U.S. governments who choose annihilation over justice and love.”
A full list of participants can be found here.
The current attack on Gaza distinguishes itself from previous conflicts due to it being heavily covered on social media. As Israeli activist Mira Bar-Hiller wrote in her piece for The Independent, “Israel has discovered that it's no longer so easy to get away with murder in the age of social media.”
In their ‘Learn More‘ section, they explain the motivation behind their campaign:
With the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, 750,000 Palestinians who fled fighting —or were forced out—were not allowed back to their homes and became refugees. Since 1967, Israel has occupied The West Bank and Gaza, controlling the lives of millions of Palestinians. Three-quarters of the Palestinians in Gaza are the descendants of refugees who lived in what became Israel in 1948.
For the last 7 years, the people of Gaza have been living under an illegal Israeli siege with devastating restrictions on the movement of people and the flow of food, fuel, and all other critical materials. Since 2008, Israel has initiated 3 large-scale military assaults on Gaza using F-16 jet fighters, Apache helicopters, and in '08-'09, white phosphorous. Hamas has responded with inferior weaponry, launching rockets at Israel.
Over 2,592 Palestinians and 61 Israelis have died (as of July 28, 2014) in these vastly disproportionate assaults, with thousands more injured and disabled. The overwhelming majority of casualties have been Palestinian civilians, particularly women and children.
Palestinians have endured statelessness, occupation, dispossession and a lack of basic rights, while Israel has steadily taken more and more of their land and denied their freedom.
Anyone can participate in the campaign by submitting a photograph “of how you choose to resist, or the name of a person you want to memorialize.”
The following are a few of those that were also shared on Twitter under the hashtag #GazaNames
They have names. The victims of Israeli massacres in Gaza. #GazaNames http://t.co/syYtyA2l3G #FreePalestine pic.twitter.com/AJjwhwIWGe
— Tala فلسطين تقاوم (@Taltool11) July 29, 2014
Video: Celebrities, artists & activists call for Palestinian freedom in #GazaNames project http://t.co/5EqAxBulhu pic.twitter.com/cWQJblEoYS
— Mondoweiss (@Mondoweiss) July 28, 2014
I posted this photo to the #gazanames project. Watch this video http://t.co/B50KFB9ygF then please do the same. pic.twitter.com/H8qf4ejLBa
— James Fellows (@measureofmylove) July 28, 2014
My picture didn't end up in the video, but here's another name #gazanames pic.twitter.com/BzZyRXMrLb
— carolyn (@carolyn_meyers) July 28, 2014