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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Harvard Square protest urges U.S. government to end defense funding for Israel

Margaux Jubin

A group of around 15 activists convened in Harvard Square on Feb. 16 to call for a ceasefire in Gaza and to protest Raytheon, the world’s second-largest military company and one of Israel’s key weapon manufacturers.  

Organized by the Massachusetts Peace Action (MAPA), a nonprofit organization working to promote human rights and global cooperation, the demonstration was part of the Raytheon anti-war campaign, which calls for the U.S. government to cease all defense technology funding to Israel. 

According to research by the American Friends Service Committee, Raytheon provides the Israeli government with a wide variety of defense weapons, including missiles and bombs. With a facility located in Cambridge, these local protesters took to the streets nearby to demand action from legislators. 

“It’s important for us to be out here, especially here in Massachusetts, because one of our local institutions, Raytheon Technologies, which is one of the largest private employers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is profiting from this war in Gaza,” said Brian Garvey, assistant director of MAPA and protest organizer, in an interview with the Beacon. 

During the demonstration, Paul Shannon, an executive committee member at MAPA, stood requesting petition signatures, calling for action from local legislators, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, highlighting the impact of strength in numbers when mobilizing to help a humanitarian crisis. So far, MAPA said they have collected over 1,000 signatures. 

“We’ve chosen to focus on Senator Warren because she’s an influential person in Congress, and we feel that if we mobilized our people appropriately, we can convince her to change the way she looks at this,” Shannon said. “We’ve got to get her to change her mind, and we’ll do it through every nonviolent tactic possible.”        

While Warren has called for a temporary ceasefire, Shannon remains concerned about her recent vote on a bill that would provide billions in assistance to Israel’s military operations. Shannon refers to the $95.3 billion emergency spending package passed by the Senate that includes $14 billion to support Israel and $9.1 billion for humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza and the West Bank. 

The MAPA website calls for Warren to “reverse course, call for an arms embargo on Israel and for a permanent ceasefire, release of hostages, massive humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, and end to Israeli murders in the West Bank.” 

Shannon raised concerns over the U.S. government’s foreign assistance decisions and their effects on the local economy in Massachusetts. He said that the money should be going to programs for people here in the U.S. who need government assistance rather than taking funding away from them.

“It comes from cutting programs that people here need. People need a place to live, and we need money for affordable housing,” Shannon said. 

Funding Israel’s war operation is also contributing to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Shannon continued. Because of this, Shannon’s recent work with MAPA focuses on protesting the U.S. government’s funding allocations.

“The best way to help the situation is to stop providing the weapons that are being used to support the genocide,” Shannon said.

Like Shannon, a demonstrator named David, a founder of Somerville for Palestine who wished to keep his last name anonymous, said he assembles with his group to demand action from the local government. He started advocating locally after leaving an extremist Jewish community in Colombia and moving to Massachusetts. 

“Somerville for Palestine helped pass the first ceasefire resolution in Massachusetts, and we’re trying to grow the coalition for Palestine in Boston,” said David. 

In late January, Somerville became the first city in Massachusetts to formally call for a ceasefire in Gaza following a tense three-hour city council meeting. Councilors invited a dozen local community members, including descendants of Holocaust survivors, Palestinians, and a rabbi, to speak at the meeting.

David’s work with Somerville for Palestine includes amplifying Palestinian voices, especially during this time when so many identities and expressions are wrapped up in the crisis, he explained.

“We work to organize, elevate, and channel Palestinian voices,” David said. “The power of this movement is that everyone is getting together because there are so many identities and issues that are connected to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, from colonialism that touches people from all over the world to climate justice.”

MAPA continues its advocacy in future events, including an appearance at a march for the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign on Saturday and a webinar on Women’s Health Justice on March 7. 

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About the Contributor
Margaux Jubin, Staff Writer
Margaux Jubin is a sophomore journalism major from Los Angeles, California. She is currently a Staff Writer for the Berkeley Beacon. Outside The Beacon, Margaux loves live music, hanging out with friends, and spending time in nature.

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