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Smoke rises from the Gaza Strip after Israeli strikes Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Smoke rises from the Gaza Strip after Israeli strikes Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

The images of mass graves, dead babies, grieving families, and absolute destruction have left me numb, enraged, depressed, and in shock.

I am Palestinian. They are Palestinian. I feel helpless.

Even as an elected official, I feel helpless. And my Jewish colleagues have expressed the same feeling of helplessness.

And like many, I have cried for peace — cried out for an end to the violence, an end to the carnage, an end to this cycle of killing. I know I am not alone. And yet – there has been incredible pushback over the calls for cessation of violence, and specifically around one word, “ceasefire.”

And though I have spoken to many, I am left wondering, “Is asking for a ceasefire unreasonable? Is even using the word “ceasefire” unreasonable? Why is wanting an end to the violence so inflammatory?”

This past week, I penned an open letter addressed to the Colorado congressional delegation to urge the administration to push for an immediate, bilateral cease-fire.

The letter, says the “sole focus of the United States should be to facilitate the immediate release of the remaining Israeli and all foreign national hostages and arbitrarily detained Palestinians; the restoration of clean water, fuel, electricity, and all basic services to Gaza; and the passage of extensive humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.”

It is also intentionally brief. We continue to condemn and grieve, as we should. So this was focused on calls to action. This did not reiterate condemnation, it did not talk numbers, it did not point fingers, it did not talk about the past or future. But the purpose of this was to ask for what needs to happen now. An immediate ceasefire.

While many did not hesitate to sign the letter, a few were honest in their reasoning for not signing, admitting they are struggling with the word “cease-fire.”

And this is indicative of the discourse we’re witnessing around the country.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said “ceasefire, stop the bombing, cessation of hostilities, are the same thing.”

It’s been said that if people are concerned that a ceasefire will prevent the eradication of Hamas, then we need to come to terms with the fact that you can kill the person but not the idea.

Israel’s choice to inflict the degree of damage and loss of life currently unfolding is ultimately allowing that idea to thrive and fester in generational trauma that is multiplying ten-fold by way of an estimated death-toll of 16,000. Compounded by 2 million internally displaced people within an area that is 25 miles long and some 7 miles wide, within which 60% of homes have been damaged or destroyed across Gaza.

The same generational trauma is happening to Israelis with the deaths of 1,400 people and 240 hostages. But anti-Palestinian sentiment is on the rise and it will also thrive and fester. The Associated Press reports that Israel is “still under rocket and missile attacks on several fronts, they have little tolerance for anyone railing against the steep toll the conflict has exacted on the other side. They have rallied to crush Hamas, which breached the country’s borders from the Gaza Strip, killing more than 1,400 people and taking over 240 hostages in an Oct. 7 rampage that triggered the war.”

We need an immediate cease-fire.

Here at home, the masses have spoken, and they agree. The Hill reports that “Nearly 70 percent of Americans said the Israeli government should pursue a cease-fire, including three-quarters of Democrats and half of Republicans.”

Millions around the world have rallied for an immediate ceasefire from Manila, Tunis, Karachi, Beirut, Tokyo, London, Johannesburg, Quezon City, Milan, Istanbul, Berlin, Jakarta, Santiago, Caracas, Paris, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Seattle to right here in Denver.

Every week, for the past 60 days, hundreds, to thousands have descended upon the state Capitol steps and other places around the state, with one goal, to demand an immediate ceasefire from Washington. And over the past 60 days, the crowds have only gotten larger, the marches shutting down city streets, and their rallying cries growing louder.

“Cease-fire now! Cease-fire now!”

Rally-goers are not just Arab Christians and Muslims marching. On the contrary, rallies are filled with allies that do not share my identity. But they do share a sense of urgency and humanity; they have taken to the streets, universities, and the halls of government demanding that elected officials take action to stop the war — a ceasefire, if you will.

Which brings us back to semantics. If it feels safer using “stop the bombing” or “cessation of hostilities,” why wouldn’t they just use the word ceasefire? Do they worry about winning the war on words, or ending this actual war?

And the response cannot be “yes” to the war on words when constituents who’ve lost 24, 42, 50, 19, and 60 members in each of these respective families are asking to end the actual war, with a ceasefire.

If “ceasefire” has become so taboo in a matter of weeks, what word is next? “Peace”?

Does the use of safer synonyms preferred by our congressional delegation silence their constituents, the masses that rally every week, that are expecting them to represent their will and call for an immediate ceasefire?

The answer is simple – when the people of Gaza face eradication, and others risk being silenced, people will turn to protests, rallies, lobbying, writing, and meetings, and then ask them for their support by appealing to their humanity.

At the end of the day, this needs to stop. So call it “stop the bombing” or “cessation of hostilities,” but at our core, we all have one message — cease-fire.

Iman Jodeh represents the Colorado House District 41. She is a Democrat from Aurora.

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