The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set news policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Ella Tabasky is an activist who lives in Midcoast Maine.
I am writing to share the events that led to my arrest at Rep. Chellie Pingree’s Portland office on Nov. 3. Together with four other constituents, we demanded that the congresswoman sign onto the Ceasefire Now Resolution.
This resolution (H.Res.786) is a congressional resolution urging “an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine.” The proposed resolution reads, “All human life is precious, and the targeting of civilians, no matter their faith or ethnicity, is a violation of international humanitarian law.”
A poll shows that over 60% of Americans support a ceasefire in Gaza, reflecting a collective desire to prevent further violence and civilian deaths in Gaza.
On Nov. 3, Maine was still mourning the tragic loss of life in Lewiston/Auburn a week prior. Despite our collective grief over what was happening in our own community, more than 100 people from diverse backgrounds joined together in support of a ceasefire, acknowledging the truly staggering and tragic destruction and loss of life unfolding in Gaza.
A small group of Jews and allies left the rally to deliver a letter to Rep. Pingree. We were met in the building’s hallway and told that without an appointment we would not be welcomed into her office.
We explained to her staffer how we have watched in horror as the violence of the past month left so many of our Israeli and Palestinian loved ones injured, traumatized, kidnapped, killed, or deeply afraid.
We expressed our concerns for the more than 200 of Israeli hostages still suffering and in fear. And we talked about our devastation that the Israeli siege, airstrikes, and ground invasion had killed thousands, wounded thousands more, and displaced over a million Palestinians from their homes.
We made an impassioned plea for our congresswoman to act with urgency — every day that she continues to wait to call for a ceasefire, hundreds more innocent lives would continue to be lost.
And we refused to leave until the congresswoman agreed to our demand. Ultimately, we were arrested by Portland Police.
Our decision to engage in civil disobedience was driven by a deep concern for the lives affected by the current Israeli bombardment of Gaza and wider Israeli occupation, which lasted for decades. While this may have led to our arrest, it was a minor sacrifice made with the hope that Pingree would recognize the urgency of this matter.
I recently learned that on the same day we refused to leave her office, Pingree joined many of her congressional colleagues in urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to push for a humanitarian pause, despite many humanitarian organizations calling such pauses insufficient to address this type of crisis.
In a report calling for a general ceasefire, Oxfam said its experience is that humanitarian pauses can possibly put civilians at a greater risk, as there is usually less clarity around safe zones and the duration of pauses. For example, at the beginning of the war, routes that were thought to have been designated safe passages for evacuation from Gaza were bombed by Israel.
I believe the only true humanitarian solution is a ceasefire. In the nearly two weeks that have passed since our arrest, the civilian death toll has climbed to unimaginable numbers — over 11,000 people. As constituents – but more simply as human beings – we cannot ignore the human cost of inaction. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that our elected representatives actively address this ongoing crisis.
I implore Rep. Pingree to listen to her constituents who overwhelmingly support an approach that prioritizes diplomacy, compassion, and the well-being of all involved in this tragic conflict. And I encourage fellow constituents to continue to join in this call for action, standing united in our pursuit of a ceasefire now.