Rural Actions for Peace in Gaza

Over the past few months, rural Oregonians and people of all backgrounds have been organizing in solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis impacted by the terrible violence in Israel and Palestine. This work, rooted in the belief that everyone has a right to safety and self-determination, builds on more than three decades of human dignity organizing. In 1996 organizers launched a campaign responding to antisemitic flyers at a school in Salem. In the 2000s we came together to call for a stop to the wars abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ones at home involving increased government surveillance and the dismantling of civil liberties. In 2018 communities hosted demonstrations across the state to release refugees separated from their families at the border and sent to FCI Sheridan in Yamhill County. In 2022 we organized for peace in Ukraine. Time and time again, rural Oregonians have demonstrated that we won’t tolerate discrimination and violence and that all life is precious.

Nationally, Al Jazeera reported that according to the think tank Data for Progress, “60% of US voters want a ceasefire, while only 11% of lawmakers” have supported one. In response to Congress’s out-of-touch positions, many rural Oregonians are making their voices ring loud and clear for a ceasefire, the end to US military aid to the right-wing Israeli government, and a stop to the rise of anti-semitism and Islamophobia in this country. Many others are feeling stuck, recognizing the awful violence impacting innocent people but unsure of how to have a meaningful impact. 

Below you will find a round-up of stories and photos of solidarity actions from across rural Oregon and beyond. Don’t see your community represented here? Send us stories, photos, or articles about your organizing and we can post to social media or share another roundup! Do you have ideas about how you want to take action locally and want support to get started? Email us at emma@rop.org or message us directly on Facebook (@Rural Organizing Project) or Instagram (@ruralorganizingproject).

A round-up of organizing in rural Oregon and beyond

Hood River County

Since October, Riverside Church in Hood River has been holding space for the community to grieve the violence in Israel and Palestine as well as to learn and take action together. On December 22nd, the Justice and Witness team and the church Pastor hosted an Interfaith Vigil for Peace and Ceasefire for people of all faiths, ages, and backgrounds who are hungry for peace. Attendees were invited to bring candles and a sign or symbol for peace and ceasefire.

The invitation to the event also included a call to action: “You are invited to turn your anger and despair into action by asking your president, representative, and senators to call for an immediate ceasefire. A letter-writing table will be set up in the Riverview room after worship on Sunday. Stop by for a few minutes and take action to end the violence.”

People stand around candles, holding signs and listening to someone speak.

Here is their recap of the vigil:

“More than 75 people attended an Interfaith Vigil for Peace and Ceasefire in Gaza last Friday evening […]. Participants shared songs, chants, prayers and readings from a variety of faith traditions including Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Bahai, Unitarian Universalism and Buddhism. Attendees gathered in a circle around a pair of children’s shoes, urging President Biden and their congressional leaders to support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

‘The shoes represent the more than 8,000 children who have been killed in Gaza in the past eight weeks by weapons that we’ve paid for,’ said Pastor Vicky. ‘Though we don’t know their names, they had names. And we mourn the fact that they will never again run, play, hop, hope or laugh.'”

Wallowa County

Human dignity leaders have created a toolkit for rural organizers to take action in solidarity with Palestine. Check out their full toolkit here, including how to call your federal elected officials, information on boycott and divestment campaigns, and details on their weekly rally (also included below).

Organizers in Wallowa County have been hosting weekly rallies on Sundays from 4-5 pm at the County Courthouse. Here is the Facebook event link

“Following the October 7th attack in Israel by Hamas which killed 1,200 people, the government of Israel launched a campaign against Gaza that has killed, depending on the source, between 10,000 and 14,000 people, approx. 40% of whom are children, as of Nov. 25th…” Read the rest of their statement here.

Warm Springs Reservation and Jefferson County

Organizers in Warm Springs and Jefferson County have been organizing rallies and calling on their representatives to support a ceasefire. After one rally on the reservation in early December (first picture), they organized a second in downtown Madras (second picture) on December 16th to keep the conversation going.

About 30 people huddle for a photo holding signs and Palestinian flags.
About 40 people huddle for a photo holding signs and Palestinian flags.

Coos County

Youth organizers who are a part of Southern Oregon Coast Pride have been participating in and sharing information about nationwide boycotts against Starbucks and other companies that support the state of Israel as a way to pressure the right-wing government, currently in power. For more information on boycotts, check out BDS. One member is also presenting to her youth group about what’s going on in Israel/Palestine.

Benton County

Corvallis Palestine Solidarity (CPS) is rallying every Saturday at noon at the Courthouse! They also shared: “We in Corvallis send Israel nearly $900,000 per year for military aid through our federal taxes. Through our Resolution, we as a community are calling for […] an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and substantial amounts of humanitarian aid to enter, but also calling out Israel’s war crimes […]” 

Corvallis organizers are pressuring the City Council to pass a resolution “Affirming Support and Solidarity with the Palestinian People.” They collected petition signatures and packed the Council Chamber on Monday, December 4th to show support for the resolution. They also encouraged community members to submit written testimony before the council meeting, and/or to contact the councilors by phone and email. 

The December 4th meeting included a wide range of testimony, with people speaking both in favor and against the proposed ceasefire resolution. Most of the opposition seemed to believe that supporting Palestinians is inherently antisemitic–a claim that the right-wing Israeli government has worked for decades to reinforce through the media and popular culture. The council decided to delay their vote on the topic and has continued to hold space at subsequent meetings for additional public comment. The council has drafted its own language for a peace resolution, but some organizers are worried that this will result in watered-down language that doesn’t take a strong enough position for justice and peace.

Deschutes County

Central Oregon Human Rights Advocacy Group (also known as Central Oregon for a Free Palestine) has been organizing weekly rallies at the Peace Corner in downtown Bend (the corner of NW Greenwood Ave and NW Wall St). As of the writing of this ROPnet, the rallies are on Saturdays from 12-2, but follow them on Facebook, or read The Source, for shifts to that schedule. Check out local TV news coverage of their work!

Organizers from across Central Oregon have been visiting Senator Ron Wyden’s Bend office to pressure him to support the Ceasefire. So far he has refused to meet directly with community members.

Central Oregon for a Free Palestine also gathered in Bend a few days before Christmas to sing “ceasefire carols,” renditions of traditional Christmas carols with modified lyrics. In their press release, they wrote “Carolers held signs with stenciled doves and holly leaves stating ‘Ceasefire Now’ and ‘Good Will to All’ as they sang songs titled ‘I’m Dreaming of a Ceasefire’ and ‘O Broken Town of Bethlehem.’ As they sang, members of the group promoted their Change.org petition to the public urging Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer to call for a permanent ceasefire.” 

Ceasefire now graphic.

They also hosted a film screening of Radiance of Resistance, created by Bend filmmaker Jesse Locke of Unlocked Films on January 9, and facilitated a panel of local Palestinians afterwards. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund. More details can be found here.

50 people sit listening to a panel of four Palestinians and the white film maker.

Statewide Action

Corvallis Palestine Solidarity and organizers in Wallowa County are also recommending folks take the following statewide action: The Oregon State Treasury has invested Public Retirement funds in Israel’s largest military contractor, Elbit Systems. Corvallis Palestine Solidarity shared:

“In 2022, OR PERS secured a 500-share stake in Elbit through a private equity firm. Given the atrocities committed in Gaza with Elbit munitions, this investment is unacceptable. Please send a public comment to the Oregon Investment Council, which oversees the management of the Public Employee Retirement Fund, by emailing OIC.PublicComments@ost.state.or.us. 

Let the OIC know that Oregon taxpayers do not want to be invested in war crimes and other crimes against humanity. Below is a sample script and talking points. If you are a PERS recipient, please note that in your message… But no matter when it is sent, it will still be noted.

Dear members of the Oregon Investment Council,

Please immediately divest the Public Employee Retirement Fund from the Israeli military contractor Elbit Systems. As an Oregon [taxpayer/PERS recipient], I object to my [taxes/pension] being used to support Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people. In the last two months, Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has killed nearly 15,000 civilians, including more than 6,000 children, using munitions and other weapons of war made by Elbit. The Oregon Treasury’s investment in Elbit makes Oregonians complicit in the crime of collective punishment, which is forbidden by the Geneva Conventions. We will not be complicit, and we will not be silent. Divest Now!”

Action beyond Oregon

Corvallis Palestine Solidarity is also recommending folks take national action through Jewish Voice for Peace: “Power Half-Hour for Gaza: Channel grief & fear into action to stop a genocide.”

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Wallowa Organizers also suggest: “You are encouraged to call our representatives daily to ask for a permanent ceasefire (please thank Senator Merkley, who is only the 2nd US Senator to have called for one). You can use the 5 Calls app or the call tool and script found at https://act.uscpr.org/a/callforgaza.”

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Party for Socialism and Liberation hosted a film screening of Gaza Fights for Freedom on Friday, December 8th from 5-7 pm at the public library in Walla Walla. They are also creating a list of recommended films. Want to see their list? Email emma@rop.org and we can share it once it’s done!

Image of a poster titled "Gaza fights for freedom."
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