On Monday, Aug 11, Abraham Gutman and Dania Darwish, founders of the #jewsandarabsrefuse-tobeenemies social media campaign, along with If Not Now, When? hosted a silent protest and candlelight vigil for the Palestinian and Israeli victims of the Gaza conflict. The vigil took place outside of the United Nations in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in Manhattan, Monday night. The non-violent protesters’ aim was “to hold the leaders of the world, the professionals who promised peace and security, accountable for their failures.”
In a press release sent out to news media, the grassroots campaigns reported that millions of innocents have been threatened because of the Arab-Israeli conflict, with over 2,000 deaths in just over a month, and ten thousand more injuries. 500,000 people have become refugees. Despite “justifications for this violence from all sides” of the conflict, stated Dania Darwish, those justifications are pointless and “will not bring back the lives of hundreds of innocent people. We hope that diplomats can acknowledge that the current path of occupation, rockets and bombing is wrong. Our campaign calls for peace.”
The service was an interfaith vigil hosted in remembrance of many who have lost their lives in the war. The organization If Not Now conducted a shiva service in the Jewish tradition in order to mourn those who had been killed. “We believe the service [...] a powerful opportunity to grieve and humanize those killed in the conflict,” the group stated. “Our mutual grieving, and recognition of our common humanity, will be a protest against those who tell us war and occupation are inevitable.”
Protesters gathered, holding posters with messages of peaceful protest against the war which expressed “memorial dedications,” that shared protesters’ thoughts and feelings about the conflict. A list of Palestine and Israeli people who had been killed in the war - which was 36 pages long - was taped to the ground for all to see. “We have to make sure the list doesn't get longer,” the #jewsandarabsrefusetobeenemies Facebook page shared on Aug 12. Each name on the list was recited out loud.
Many people from many cultures, worldwide, including Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Israeli, Palestinian, and others “have expressed dissent from the status quo of conflict, occupation, and hate, which is maintained by so many leaders,” the press release related. “...if we are not heard when we speak up, maybe our roaring silence will be heard.”
Pictures and posts are still pouring in at the Facebook event page for the vigil, long after it has ended. Hundreds of people interact on the page, as well as on other social media pages for both grassroots campaigns.
Abraham Gutman is quoted in the release:
I am mad. Mad at my government for another military operation that will only cause more hate and sorrow, mad at Hamas for sending rockets to civilian population areas. I believe that the majority wants peace, and I believe that peace can be achieved.
The coming together of both groups is directly in line with the #JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies social media campaign whose goal and aim is to nix “hateful social media discourse towards “the other” and transform the false notion that the Jewish and Arab populations of Israel/Palestine are enemies. If Not Now, When? is a social advocacy group that promotes “a voice in the American Jewish community” which speaks against “the operation and occupation in Gaza.”