Seattle area faith leaders call on WA Congress members to back a cease-fire in Gaza
Close to 200 Seattle area faith leaders from different backgrounds have signed onto a statement outlining a plan to address the rising death toll in Gaza, which has now surpassed 11,000. It’s called the Washington Solidarity Statement for Peace and Justice in Israel/Palestine.
A portion of those faith leaders gathered in front of the Jackson Federal building on Thursday morning, looking for the attention of U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and other federally elected officials.
Rabbi David Basior said the first thing the coalition is calling for is a cease-fire.
Basior leads the Kadima Reconstructionist Community, and like many others, has lost people close to him in the escalation of violence since Oct. 7. He said Palestinian liberation is linked to Jewish safety, and a cease-fire is the first step in addressing that. But also:
“We are unequivocally for an end to the decades old Israeli occupation that is a root cause of the violence in Israel-Palestine,” he said. “Let us refuse to ignore it or justify it in the Jewish community any longer.”
The multi-faith coalition is also calling for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, the release and safe return of all hostages, and the addressing of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab/anti-Palestinian bigotry.
Both the Anti-Defamation League of the Pacific Northwest and the Washington Council on American-Islamic Relations have reported an increase in bigotry in the region in the past month, with a multi-year trend of white supremacy also increasing.
“We must strongly reject the Christian Zionists and white Christian nationalists that support and uphold a militarized occupation at the cost of our Jewish communities' integrity, and our collective humanity,” Basior said.
Local elected leaders, educators, and others have also signed onto the statement, which has at least 1,900 signatures.
Aneelah Afzali is the Executive Director of the American Muslim Empowerment Network at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound. She’s spent decades working with Christians, Muslims, and Jews in to find peace in Palestine and Israel, traveling to the region between 2000 and 2001 as part of a delegation of lawyers.
Standing alongside other Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith leaders like Basior Thursday morning at the Jackson Federal Building, she said what’s happening in Gaza is a human rights issue.
“Politics is getting in the way of morality and humanity. And we have to change that — that's what our voices are about,“ Afzali said.
The multi-faith coalition worked closely to craft the statement, which was revised many times, she said.
“This whole solidarity statement was a result of recognizing that we do not want to be engaging in this kind of tribal, binary forcing you to pick one side or the other,” she said. “Because we do not choose a side per se, we are choosing peace and justice, we are choosing humanity.”
A spokesperson for Murray said she has called for a “humanitarian pause,” a more limited and short-term agreement than a cease-fire, and is working to pass humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza. Murray’s spokesperson said Israel has a right to defend itself, but in a way that follows international law.
"Senator Murray strongly opposes the collective punishment of the Gazan people-she supports efforts by the Biden administration to ensure food, water, medicine, and other critical supplies are readily available to Palestinian civilians," the spokesperson said in an email. "Senator Murray urges the Israeli government to exercise further restraint as they target Hamas in order to minimize civilian casualties."
Cantwell did not respond to KUOW's requests for comment.
Editor's note: KUOW's Chief Digital Officer Rami Al-Kabra is the elected deputy mayor of Bothell and a member of the solidarity group mentioned in this story. His work at KUOW is not related to his work as an elected official and he has no involvement in KUOW's news gathering.