News & Commentary

‘Christians for a Free Palestine’ shuts down Senate cafeteria: ‘Congress won’t eat until Gaza eats’

Dozens of Christians were arrested on Tuesday for shutting down the Senate’s Dirksen Cafeteria in protest of Israel’s ongoing genocide against the Palestinians, and the US government’s support thereof:

The organization, Christians for a Free Palestine, said that 30 of the people arrested are ordained clergy, according to reporting from The Hill.

The protestors “announced that they would not leave or let anyone get food in the Senate Cafeteria until nourishing food is sent to Gaza and the U.S. stops funding the bombs that have killed over 33,000 Palestinians since Oct. 7,” the group said in a statement.

“I want to loudly proclaim that my Christian faith calls me to challenge Christian Zionism and stand in solidarity with Palestine,” said Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart, a national leader with Christians for a Free Palestine, in a news release quoted by the Washington Post.

In a clip of the protest posted to the group’s account on X (formerly Twitter), activists are seen holding signs with slogans like “WOE TO YOU WHO SLAY THE HUNGRY”, “SEND FOOD NOT BOMBS”, and “CHRISTIANS FOR A FREE PALESTINE.”

“We are here to pray for the food of Gaza, not bombs. Our scriptures say woe to you who eat while others go hungry,” the protestors are heard saying in the video.

“Congress will not eat today until Gaza Eats.”

“We are Christians mobilizing against the weaponization of our theology and our tax dollars by Christian Zionists to perpetrate the genocide of the Palestinian people,” the group says on their website.

According to a report by Religion News Service:

Tuesday’s civil disobedience marked the second largest group of Christians arrested in protests at the Capitol since the war began. About 130 Mennonites were arrested at the Capitol in January after they held a hymn sing sit-in calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. And on Oct. 18, about 300 or more interfaith protesters, most of them Jewish, were arrested as part of a demonstration organized by Jewish Voice for Peace.

Active-duty airman Larry Hebert, meanwhile, has been on a hunger strike outside of the White House “in solidarity with the civilians in Gaza” since the beginning of the month, in the hopes that “other active-duty members will be more public with their concern over the atrocities” that the Israeli military is inflicting upon them.

“It’s just completely wrong and immoral for civilians to be starved and bombed and targeted in any manner.”

Hebert said he was inspired in part by fellow serviceman Aaron Bushnell, whose act of self-sacrifice (self-immolation) he called “courageous.”

“It really resonated, because what he was feeling was exactly how I was feeling. And obviously, I’m not going to that extent. I don’t think anyone needs to. I think what he did was unique and, you know, was effective.”

“A Landmark Moment”

These protests come on the heels of the IDF’s high-profile murders of seven humanitarian aid workers from World Central Kitchen (WCK), which—while causing a degree of political fallout for Israel and the Biden administration and forcing both to do damage control—also succeeded at getting WCK and other aid organizations to suspend operations in the Strip, and caused cargo ships carrying 240 tons of food for the starving population of Gaza to be rerouted back to Cyprus (see the end of this article).

They also come at a time when increased attention is being paid to Israel’s persecution of Christians in Palestine, thanks in large part to a viral Tucker Carlson interview with Munther Isaac, a Lutheran pastor from Bethlahem.

“Amazing how long this took to get to rightwing circles,” Sam Husseini said of the video (and general subject matter) on X.

Indeed, as highlighted by Decensored News in November, journalists like The Grayzone’s Jeremy Loffredo have been doing on-the-ground reporting from Israel and the West Bank on the issue since shortly after October 7.

His most recent documentary-style video, published just this week, reveals how “a community of Armenian Christians dating back to the 4th century face displacement at the hands of a shadowy Israeli corporation called Xana Capital and the violent settlers it uses as hired muscle.”

This type of reporting has been largely ignored by the bigger “conservative media” figures (and many other “influencers”) for months. Meanwhile, Loffredo’s posts were suppressed by X, whose executive chairman and CTO Elon Musk has repeatedly met with Zionists like Netanyahu and Ben Shapiro to help propagandize on behalf of Israel.

Nevertheless, The Grayzone’s editor-in-chief Max Blumenthal has called Carlson’s interview with Munther Isaac and other related developments “a landmark moment in the cracking of the artificially manufactured pro-Israel consensus in the US,” laying out what he sees as the “three major factors behind the shift”:

First, many on the right have begun to share the same sense of disgust and indignation with Israel that progressives have. Who can suppress the pangs of outrage when confronted with the live-streamed industrial level Israeli butchering of children each day for the past 6 months?

Second, more American Christians recognize the threat Zionism poses to Palestinian Christians, whether in Gaza, Bethlehem or Jerusalem. The Christ at the Checkpoint Inititiave Munther Isaac helps to lead and US groups like Sabeel have provided a critical network for connecting US churches to Palestine.

Finally, American conservatives are recognizing that the Israel lobby’s influence runs counter to the ethos of America First, and that many of the most heavily promoted right wing influencers are just controlled opposition projects whose careers were astroturfed by pro-Israel billionaires. They now correctly denigrate Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire as “the Israeli Wire,” and look back with contempt at the founding of Breitbart after a meeting between its eponymous dead founder and Netanyahu in Jerusalem. And they cannot ignore the hypocrisy of pundits who built their brand on opposing woke cancel culture cheering on the cancellation of Candace Owens for offending Shapiro’s fragile ethno-religious identity

“It’s hard to say whether this phenomenon will lead to a concrete policy shift,” Blumenthal added, “but one thing is clear: the lobby can do nothing but throw more money at the problem.“

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