Hours before the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill that would send $14 billion in aid to Israel amidst its ongoing war with Hamas, protestors gathered outside the district office of U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke in Flatbush, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Roughly 100 constituents of varying religious backgrounds and political viewpoints gathered outside Clarke’s office on Nov. 2 and demanded the local rep sign on to a call to stop the war in the Middle East.
Jeremy Cohan, co-chair of New York City Democratic Socialists and member of Jewish Voice for Peace, berated what he said is the political leader’s lack of statement thus far. He also critiqued state and federal government for allegedly funding Israeli weapons.
“Every time you hear about a program that could help [Brooklyn] with housing, health care, jobs, we’re told the city can’t afford it, that there’s not enough money in the budget,” Cohan told Brooklyn Paper. “We need our taxpayers’ dollars not to be going towards war. We need our taxpayers’ dollars to be going towards health care or housing for all our Brooklyn residents.”
The protest came after Republican politicians in Congress introduced a bill that would send $14.3 billion to “respond to attacks in Israel.” The aid bill, which heads to the Senate next, would be funded by rescinding funds from the Internal Revenue Service. Democrats called the bill a “poison pill” that would increase the federal budget deficit by taking money from the IRS. The Biden Administration has already shared its opposition to the resolution, calling it a “nonstarter” as Biden pushed for a bipartisan bill that would include relief aid for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan — as well as humanitarian aid. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — also a Brooklynite — similarly called the bill a “joke.”
The aid bill passed 226-196, with most Democrats — including Clarke — voting against. The other Brooklyn congressional representatives — House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and congressmembers Nydia Velázquez and Dan Goldman — also voted no.
Jane Clausen, of Prospect Park, said she wants her representatives to stand on the right side of this fight — which she said requires direct protest against war and a call to peace.
“To end what people call the cycle of violence, it really requires justice,” Clausen told Brooklyn Paper. “We have to do everything that we can as U.S. citizens to try to stop genocide because our tax money is backing this.”
A spokesperson for Clarke said the team understands the importance of free speech and public demonstrations.
“The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest, allowing for a diversity of opinions and beliefs to coexist,” Brian Phillips, director of communications for Clarke, said in a statement. “It’s not about agreeing with every sentiment but upholding the fundamental principles of free expression and peaceful assembly.”
The event had one counter-protester in the first few minutes of the rally. A man called the group “baby killers” and tried to intimidate the crowd. Community affairs officers from the 67th Precinct stepped in after the counter-protester caused another attendee to fall to the ground. Police pulled him aside, and he soon left.
Bethany Zaiman, with Jewish Voice for Peace Action lead the crowd in chants and shared pieces of her family’s experience with wars. Much like her grandparents who fled their homeland for safety, Zaiman said Palestinians deserve that same right to life, freedom, return to their homelands and safety.
“I’m calling out congress members and my government claiming to stand with Jewish people just because they send money to Israel,” Zaiman said. “If you want to stand with Jewish people, if you want to honor anything about our experiences, stop funding genocide.”
One woman, who asked to remain anonymous in fear of being doxxed by future employers, said she attended the Thursday rally to show her stance against the U.S. supporting what she called a “genocide.”
“I think the situation is really unjust and it’s funded by our government,” she said. “We send billions of dollars that could be funding our basic needs but instead they are funding war crimes, oppression and a form of colonialism.”
At least 1,400 Israelis were killed and more than 200 taken hostage during the Oct. 7 attack, according to the Associated Press. Since then, thousands of Israelis have been injured and displaced from their homes due to the fighting, while more than 9,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed and 22,000 injured. On Nov. 3, the day after the protest and the vote, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke in support of a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting to allow humanitarian aid to reach Gaza, and re-upped the U.S.’ support for Israel to defend itself from Hamas.