- Musicians Vijay Iyer and Arooj Aftab among thousands of artists who signed a letter expressing solidarity with oppressed Palestinians who struggle for freedom, justice, and equal rights.
New York State Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani, along with more than a dozen lawmakers and activists, ended a five-day hunger strike outside the White House to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. “Yesterday we ended our five-day hunger strike the way we had ended each day of the week: by reading the names of some of 15,207 Palestinians killed over the last two months,” he wrote on X.
The Ugandan-born American lawmaker is the son of acclaimed filmmaker Mira Nair and Indian-born Ugandan academic, author, and political commentator Mahmood Mamdani. He represents neighborhoods in Queens, including Astoria and Ditmars-Steinway.
“There was a five-year-old girl whose first name was my mother’s and second name was my father’s,” he wrote. “There was a 3-year-old boy with my first name. There were men with the names of my uncles, women with the names of my aunties, and children with the names of my cousins and friends,” he added. “When I hear these names, my mind fills with the warmth of memories of songs sung as a dinner winds down, of birthdays and family trips, of love felt over 32 years of life. And yet the children, the women, and the men of this list will never experience any of those things ever again.”
Explaining the reason behind reading the names every day of the strike, he wrote: “We read these names every day because President Biden horrifically — and incorrectly — called into question whether the death toll in Gaza could even be believed. It’s long been the norm in Washington to disbelieve Palestinians in their life, but he was now saying that we must disbelieve Palestinians in their death too.”
He told his followers that “in the days to come,” he would share more about the “hunger strike,” and expressed his gratitude to “the many that joined as well those who sustained us.” He thanked “all who used this action as the springboard to take their own: the 16,134 Americans who sent letters to their congresspeople, the 3000 who made phone calls for a ceasefire, and the 541 who fasted with us on Friday in solidarity. Each action gives birth to another, and we leave DC ever more committed to the work of holding our President and our Congress accountable for saving lives. See you at the next one.”
Mamdani, who began the hunger strike on Nov. 27, was joined by Delaware State Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, Oklahoma State Rep. Mauree Turner, Virginia House of Delegates Sam Rasoul, and Michigan Rep. Abraham Aiyash as well as actress Cynthia Nixon and various faith and community leaders.
He told Time magazine that he and others taking part in the hunger strike want the U.S. “to reflect on its unwavering support to Israel and that a pause is insufficient.” He accused the U.S. of not being “a witness to this genocide,” but being an “actor.” He continued: “We are starving ourselves in front of the White House to show President Biden the consequences of his actions. This is what he’s doing to Palestinians. it is time that he sees at his doorstep, what it means to support policies such as these.”
I have met countless NYers shocked by the 14,850 Palestinians killed in Gaza and angry that their Senator has done nothing to stop the killing— Zohran Kwame Mamdani (@ZohranKMamdani) November 29, 2023
Israel has said they’ll escalate their bombing campaign when this pause ends. We cannot let it@SenSchumer, the time is now. Ceasefire. pic.twitter.com/Nr1lYubTR6
He told NY1 that he had attended a number of pro-Palestinian rallies. In October, he and Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes “were both arrested for disorderly conduct after they joined protesters, who were blocking traffic outside the Brooklyn home of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.” He told NY1 political anchor Errol Louis late last month that many of the New Yorkers who were there at the rally “were people who had lost loved ones in the horrific attacks the prior Saturday” [Oct. 7]. “And they were making it explicit that their grief should not be used as a justification to kill more innocent civilians. That war crimes can not beget war crimes.”
Also demanding a ceasefire are musicians Vijay Iyer and Arooj Aftab. The two are among thousands of artists who signed a letter expressing solidarity with oppressed Palestinians who struggle for freedom, justice, and equal rights.“We cannot be silent,” the letter reads. “This is a moment of truth for millions worldwide who prize human dignity, and as musicians, we are no exception,” it adds. “We stand for life, for love, for justice, and for peace. We mourn with all in Palestine/Israel who have lost loved ones. We share their grief and their pain.” The letter is the latest call for a cease-fire from the entertainment world. Previously, an open letter was signed by Dua Lipa, Michael Stipe, Caroline Polachek, Run the Jewels, and multiple celebrities.
Indian American members of the U.S. Congress have also demanded a ceasefire. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) called for a coalition including the United States, Israel and Arab countries to bring about the demise of Hamas, while also ensuring long-term stability in the region. Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” yesterday (Dec. 3), she “reiterated her call for a cease-fire and denied the suggestion it would lead to keeping that brutal terrorist regime in place in Gaza,” The Hill reported. According to her, the best way to take out Hamas “is to create a durable and strong coalition of allies within the Middle East, with the United States, with Israel, to make sure that we have a long-term political solution, that there is an alternative to Hamas to lead in Gaza and to establish a state for Palestinians.”