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From Parkland to Palestine: Jewish American Gun Violence Survivor Demands No More Munitions To Israel #CeasefireNOW

Updated: Feb 15

March for our Lives accept the 2018 International Children's Peace Prize from Archbishop Desmond Tutu on behalf of the Kidsrights Organization.

Six years ago today, tragedy struck my hometown of Parkland in the form of a neo-nazi 19-year-old who shot up my high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas. The shooter deliberately targeted students and faculty in and around our Holocaust Studies program; killing 14 students and 3 staff, all friends and loved ones of our community.

In the aftermath, my friends and I responded by popularizing a hashtag “#NeverAgain” to raise awareness of shootings and hopefully bring an end to this violence. Many people, from locals to politicians to international superstars, came to help spread our message and assist us in attaining material support for families and survivors through the MSD Victims’ Fund.

Among our many supporters, those connected to Israeli society were sympathetic towards us; providing Israeli trauma specialists to train counselors in Parkland, covering our community in the press, even going so far to join in our protest “The March For Our Lives.” That March 2018 rally in Tel Aviv saw speakers emphasize the need for people, especially children, to not experience the horrors of gun violence.

These last several months, Israel has been waging all out war against the Palestinian people of Gaza and the West Bank. As of this writing, Israel has reportedly killed, among others, +12,300 children. Despite the killings in Gaza by Israelis dating back long before last October, the United States government and many in the political class remain committed to openly endorsing this genocide. 

When kids were killed in Parkland, every major news network (both U.S. and international) sent reporters on the ground. When kids are killed in Palestine, journalists are killed alongside them. 110+ journalists have been murdered by Israeli forces using U.S. made weapons. Most of these journalists weren’t in the field as most would assume. They were targeted and killed in their homes. U.S. news outlet CNN has to be approved by the IDF before sharing reports from Gaza. 

To those people who stand against gun violence in Parkland but not in Palestine, hypocrite is too weak a descriptor. People like my representative, Jared Moskowitz, has been an ardent vocal supporter of Israel’s war that has killed dozens of academics and destroyed every university in Gaza; while simultaneously touring officials around the MSD shooting crime scene. Moskowitz, who endorses collective punishment of Palestinians,  has previously said in an official statement:

Gun violence prevention activists lobby members of Congress on Capitol Hill to reinstate the ban on assault weapons in July 2023.

“When you see tragedies on TV from a thousand feet away, you don’t see what it’s like when a school is turned into a war zone. You can read about it all day, but walking through the building is an unparalleled experience that I believe every person in a position of power should see. It’s the most brutal reminder that we must do so much more to protect our schools and ensure that when parents drop their kids off, they get to come home…”

The Parkland shooting shows that U.S. militarism abroad comes home to roost in the form of our domestic gun violence epidemic. The AR-15, a weapon used by many killers and few sportsmen, was illegal for civilian use when the shooter was born because of the assault weapons ban of 1994, which expired in 2004. This expiration was permitted by a Senate waging expensive forever wars in the Middle East, the “War on Terror”, resulting in investments like expanding the 1033 program, which grants surplus military weaponry to domestic police forces. 

Weapons of war have flooded our communities, in the hands of unaccountable cops and private citizens. The ease of access to weapons increases the mortality rate of most violent crimes. At this rate U.S. law enforcement have become more brutal and better equipped than many foreign militaries.

In all of these years on my healing journey, I learned painfully well that the violence many experience today is not only preventable, but is manufactured. During the Parkland shooting, the sheriffs office not only failed to stop the shooter (he was stopped by his swastika-laden gun jamming) they also prevented emergency health technicians from entering the building, costing several lives that could’ve been saved. Not only did the Israeli forces do the same thing on October 7th, they also shot, bombed and killed many Israelis.

As a Jew growing up in Zionist spaces, I was taught the Talmudic phrase “To save a life is to save the world entire”: that each individual contributes to the whole that is humanity. Why, I ask why, are so many who stood with us not only okay with, but are actively cheering on the U.S.- backed death squads in Rafah, Gaza’s supposed safe zone.

Zionists who use Hamas as an excuse to justify carpet bombing Palestinian communities are the same political actors who use shootings like Parkland to justify our ballooning police and military budgets. Supporting Israel’s expanding war makes us all less safe. If we want children to not die brutally, regardless of nation, then we must stand against the killers of our youth and their benefactors. The genocide of Palestinians, just like mass shootings in the US, continue to occur because of this poverty of political consciousness on the front of those who claim to care about children in one place and not another.

I draw no line at borders when it comes to the protection of human life - nor should you. If you reject kids dying in Parkland, you should also reject kids dying in Palestine. If you demand safety and security for one group but not another, you aren’t a humanitarian, you are a hypocrite who only believes some deserve safety. 

For those like myself who fight for freedom and liberation for all, we must be honest that if every Israeli captive was freed today that would not end their military occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine. I stand with those calling for the ~100 Israelis still captive in Gaza to return home as well as the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners Israeli holds, many of which continue to be held without charge. I join the majority of the world’s nations in demanding Israel commit to a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and demand the United States cease providing munitions to Israel in direct violation of U.S. and international law.

This Valentine’s Day, to those who are able, hold your loved ones close. For some of us… it is too late.

Engraving of "First They Came" by Martin Niemöller presented at the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, Massachusetts. This poem is a stark reminder to never wait to stand against injustice.

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