‘No war crimes in our name,’ Jewish protesters say outside Kamala Harris’ L.A. home
Since this month’s attacks on Israel by Hamas militants, thousands of protesters have taken to Los Angeles’ streets, waving Israeli and Palestinian flags and at times sparking tense confrontations. On Thursday, as Israel continued its bombardment of the Gaza Strip, a smaller group tried to bridge the bitter divide by taking their pleas for peace to Vice President Kamala Harris’ Brentwood home.
Led by progressive Jewish activists for Palestinian rights, about 50 people pulled up in cars outside Harris’ home in the quiet Westside enclave around 7:20 a.m. and walked to the front gate holding signs that read “Jews say ceasefire now” and “No war crimes in our name.”
They prayed, sang and read poetry. Speaking Hebrew, they recited the Mourner’s Kaddish, a Jewish prayer praising God to mark the death of a loved one.
The peaceful demonstration at the home of Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who is Jewish, was organized by IfNotNow, a left-leaning group of American Jews calling for the end of “U.S. support for Israel’s apartheid system,” according to the group’s website. Harris was in Washington, according to a White House news guidance about her Thursday schedule; representatives for Harris and Emhoff did not respond to requests for comment.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff reflects on the ‘sheer pain and shock’ of the Hamas attacks on Israel and the conflict that’s unfolded over the last two weeks.
“We are outside the house of Kamala Harris and Douglas Emhoff asking them to join us in demanding a cease-fire,” said IfNotNow L.A. organizer David Shapiro, who led chants and prayers of peace. “We are American Jews with ancestors around the world. We honor our tradition rooted in the belief that human life is sacred. To achieve genuine safety for ourselves as Jews, for Israelis and for Palestinians, we need to work together toward equality and justice for all and an end to apartheid.”
Speakers called on Harris and Emhoff to advocate for a cease-fire, at one point chanting, “Join us, Doug.” Some organizers wearing neon green vests helped to make sure traffic was not blocked on the two-way street.
Some drivers slowed to hear the message, chanting in favor of Israel, and others honked car horns, shouted and pumped their fists. Two men in separate vehicles called the protesters “terrorists” before driving away.
A Times reporter on the scene heard a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant tell protesters “not to stretch police resources” by having officers arrest people. No order for the crowd to disperse was given, and the demonstration ended around 11 a.m. with no arrests and no violence.
Organizer Noa Kattler Kupetz, who said she “grew up right around the corner” from Harris’ home, told the crowd that the event “was a huge win for us.”
“My feeling after this is that our work here is not done,” she said. “We have to make it clear to all of our elected officials, our local leaders in Los Angeles and the leaders of our country like Kamala Harris that there needs to be an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.”
With hundreds of Palestinian civilians reported dead in a Gaza inferno, dueling narratives from Israel and Hamas highlight danger that the war may spread.
The Brentwood demonstration was a continuation of recent protests by Jewish activists who oppose Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and the airstrikes on Gaza as the death toll soars.
On Capitol Hill, hundreds of demonstrators organized by IfNotNow and another progressive group, Jewish Voice for Peace, were arrested Wednesday after rallying inside a congressional building to demand a cease-fire. Three were accused of assault on a police officer, according to the U.S. Capitol Police.
“While 500 Jews, rabbis, and descendants of Holocaust survivors chant ‘Let Gaza live’ and get arrested inside, a crowd of 10k sings outside,” Jewish Voice for Peace posted on social media platform X, formerly Twitter. “We won’t stop until our demands of a cease-fire are met!”
Israel has declared war and continued to bomb and seal off the Gaza Strip, which Hamas controls, ever since Hamas militants attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 Israelis and taking at least 200 hostages into Gaza. At least 3,785 Palestinians, including 1,524 children and 120 older people, have been killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza as of Thursday, and at least 12,493 have been wounded, according to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza.
About half of Gaza’s population, amounting to about 1 million Palestinians, have fled their homes in the north after being told to evacuate by Israeli officials. Israeli airstrikes continued across Gaza on Thursday, including in southern areas that were deemed “safe zones” by Israel.
Israel has also cut off all water, power and medical supplies into Gaza, exacerbating an existing blockade of the region. Limited humanitarian aid will be allowed from Egypt into Gaza at the request of President Biden.
Israeli airstrikes pound locations across the Gaza Strip a day after President Biden’s visit to Israel, which is readying troops for a ground war.
Biden is expected to request $10 billion in military aid to Israel from Congress in the coming days, according to media reports. Biden has already pledged $100 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza and the West Bank.
Harris told reporters last week in the wake of the Hamas attack that she was “completely outraged” by the “extreme acts of terrorism.”
A few days after the Hamas attack, Emhoff spoke at a roundtable at the White House with other Jewish community leaders.
“We witnessed a mass murder of innocent civilians. It was a terrorist assault,” he told the audience. “And there is never any justification for terrorism. There are no two sides to this issue.”
On Wednesday, the U.S. vetoed a United Nations resolution sponsored by Brazil to condemn all violence against civilians in the war, citing the need to find out more facts on the ground first. The resolution had broad support, with 12 out of the 15 members of the Security Council voting in favor, Russia and Britain abstaining, and the U.S. voting against it.
Israel-Hamas war: In Israel, a quest to identify unrecognizable bodies. In Gaza, bodies are piled and some stored in ice cream trucks as power fails.
IfNotNow volunteer Asher Kaplan said that as the violence mounts, despair has been building within the Jewish community for the last few weeks. One of Kaplan’s childhood friends was nearly killed in Hamas’ attack.
Yet, he said, those feelings of “grief and anguish” should not be used as a “justification for mass killing.”
“We know that the indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians being conducted by Israel as we speak and supported by the United States government will not make Jews safe,” Kaplan said.
Brentwood resident Michael Cohen bristled when he saw a Jewish activist wearing the traditional Palestinian kaffiyeh while holding a banner reading, “Jews say ceasefire now.”
“OK, cease-fire and then what?” said Cohen, who is in his mid-40s, as he watched the protest after dropping off his three kids at a nearby elementary school.
The bombing in Gaza was to “eradicate Hamas and not Palestinians,” Cohen said.
“The point is what will be done with Hamas, and something needs to be done with Hamas before we can talk about peace,” he said.
Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas appear set to go head-to-head on the ground in Gaza. What’s each side’s endgame?
Another Brentwood resident, Lydia Sorrentino, 53, went to Thursday’s protest out of curiosity. She had just dropped off her first-grade son at nearby Kenter Canyon Elementary Charter School and pulled her car over near the gates of Harris’ home. The commotion came as a surprise to her.
“This is usually a very quiet neighborhood; I think this is the first time we’ve had something like this,” she said. “I had to see what was happening.”
Although Sorrentino was aware of the Israel-Hamas war, she said she didn’t really understand the issue.
“That’s why I’m here, to hear what’s being said and what the protest is about,” she said. Sorrentino pulled out her phone to record a couple of speeches and then headed back to her car and home.
“I have a lot to learn,” she added.
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