Opinion: You can make this change

A picture of the group's action on May 10.

A picture of the group's action on May 10. Courtesy


Published: 05-23-2024 6:00 AM

Amy Antonucci, chair of the board, New Hampshire Peace Action Education Fund. Em Friedrichs, Durham. The Rev. David Grishaw-Jones, pastor, the Community Church of Durham (UCC). Janet Simmon, New England Network for Justice in Palestine. Janet Zeller, Peace with Justice Advocates, New Hampshire Conference, UCC.

On the Friday before Mother’s Day, the five of us were arrested at Congressman Chris Pappas’ Dover office for refusing to leave when asked by the congressman’s staff. Our group included a farmer, two women in their 80s, an ally five months pregnant, and a local pastor. We grounded our action — every breath, every request, every non-compliant choice — in the nonviolent practices of Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu and Cesar Chavez. It was King himself who famously said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Our Mothers’ Day action was our witness to justice and love, as tools of social change and peace.

It wasn’t our first visit to Congressman Pappas’ office. With the NH Coalition for a Just Peace in the Middle East, we had been there on ten previous occasions, twice a month since mid-November, asking our elected representative to support a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, humanitarian aid for the Palestinians who suffer there, and an end to lethal military aid for Israel. That aid has fueled catastrophic destruction in the last seven months alone: 35,303 Palestinians in Gaza dead; 79,261 injured; and an emerging crisis of starvation and disease across the Gaza Strip.

Since our first visit in November, Congressman Pappas has refused to answer our call and defiantly voted for billions of dollars of deadly aid, aid that wins approval from lobbyists in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) but little satisfaction from constituents in his own district. His staff consistently insists that he plays no role in the crisis, that he is powerless to influence Israel and foreign affairs. And yet, he has voted time and again, as our representative, for lethal aid and sophisticated weaponry sent to Israel over many months (indeed, years); for a new and warped definition of antisemitism prohibiting criticism of the Israeli state; for a censure of his own Democratic colleague Rashida Tlaib; and against ceasefire and human rights resolutions proposed by other colleagues. American leadership is not only lacking in this crisis; it has sided with the forces of occupation and genocide. And we call on Congressman Pappas to choose justice and peace, a future for Palestinian and Israeli coexistence, and common security in the Middle East.

In considering our Mother’s Day action, we listened closely to the voices of Palestinians who identify American complicity and ask for American action and resistance. From Bethlehem, Rev. Dr. MitriRaheb, president and founder of Dar al Kalima University, wrote: “When politicians are silent, the stones in Gaza cry out. What is at stake is not only the Palestinian community, but humanity at large.”

From East Jerusalem, Jonathan Kuttab, co-founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Group, Al-Haq, wrote: “Sometimes people are discouraged, and think their small actions hardly ‘move the needle,’ but that is totally missing the point…Your position is a powerful testimony, and a brave stand in the fight for peace and justice, and against genocide, and the arrogance of power.”

In choosing to risk arrest, the five of us recognized that we would be inconvenienced and possibly treated roughly, and jailed for our action. As it happened, Dover police treated us fairly and carefully, cited us for trespassing and issued each a summons to appear in court next month. But our willingness to face the consequences of civil disobedience is a message to Congressman Pappas and his colleagues in Congress. If we can choose an uncomfortable path, a risky one, so can you. Often, the pursuit of justice means the sacrifice of a safer, politically expedient way. Sometimes, peacemaking means giving up on a relationship that ties you to a policy that is grim, deadly and no good for Palestine, Israel or New Hampshire.

Congressman Pappas, today we challenge you to bravely and publicly reject the destructive influence of AIPAC and its affiliated dark money Super PACs (rejectaipac.org). AIPAC has spent approximately $60 million lobbying the U.S. government since 1998. Its PACs advocate for policies desired by a foreign government, Israel, and promote violence and conflict rather than justice and peace. Instead, we challenge you to support a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, a resumption of generous and urgent food and medical aid, and an end to the flow of U.S. weapons into Israel for its illegal war. Children are waiting. Human lives are at stake.

You can make this change. It begins with you. And we will stand with you as you do.