Dozens of members of Congress are now calling for a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities in Israel and occupied Palestine. We speak to Democratic Congressmember Becca Balint of Vermont, the first Jewish member of Congress to join these calls. “The horrific violence has to stop. Hostages must be released. We have to end the suffering in Gaza. Palestinians and Israelis both deserve safety and security. And now more than ever, I believe that we need a true, negotiated ceasefire to get to a two-state solution,” Balint says of her position. We also discuss her friendship with fellow Democratic congressmember and the only Palestinian American in Congress, Rashida Tlaib.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
We turn now to the growing calls for a ceasefire in Gaza coming from lawmakers in Washington. On Monday, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon became the second senator to demand a ceasefire, joining Dick Durbin of Illinois. According to one count, 42 members of Congress have now called for a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities in Israel and occupied Palestine.
We’re joined now by Democratic Congressmember Becca Balint of Vermont. Last week she became the first Jewish member of Congress to call for a ceasefire.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Congressmember Balint. Thanks so much for joining us. Talk about why you’ve made this decision. You’re senator from Vermont. Bernie Sanders is not there yet, but you are. Talk about why.
REP. BECCA BALINT: So, I want to be really clear, Amy, with folks who are listening and watching, that I wrote the op-ed to express to Vermonters — it was really geared towards my constituents, and I should have anticipated that it might get national attention, but I actually didn’t. So, I wrote it for Vermonters, and what I wanted to do was really give voice to all the things that I had been feeling and thinking and wrestling with since the beginning of October, and wanted to articulate clearly for Vermonters what I thought needed to happen, so, you know, wanted to just lay it out there: The horrific violence has to stop. Hostages must be released. We have to end the suffering in Gaza. Palestinians and Israelis both deserve safety and security. And now more than ever, I believe that we need a true, negotiated ceasefire to get to a two-state solution.
And as you mentioned, both my senators here in Vermont have not yet made the call. But I know, in my conversations with them, that we actually want the same things. Where we differ is just in the strategy that is needed to get us there. But we all want to find a way to stop the violence, to stop the bombing. We don’t want to continue to see innocent civilians, including so many children and babies, die. And I just felt that it was really important for me to articulate clearly for Vermonters all of the complexity I was holding. And I honestly — when we released the op-ed, I was very focused on how my constituents would feel about what I said, and I didn’t anticipate that I was the first Jewish member of Congress to call specifically for a negotiated ceasefire, because I know we’ve been saying a lot of the same things for weeks. So, what I do know is there are no exact words right now that will sum up the totality of what we are all thinking and feeling about this situation, but I do know that we have complete agreement on an immediate cessation of hostilities, pausing the violence, ending the suffering, and trying to get to a negotiated ceasefire that will hold.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Representative, you’ve said that you and Representative Rashida Tlaib have been brought together by your people’s suffering and are now friends. Could you talk about the vitriol directed toward her as the only —
REP. BECCA BALINT: Yeah.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — Palestinian congresswoman?
REP. BECCA BALINT: Yes. I really appreciate the question. It’s disgusting. The Islamophobia right now is completely and totally out of control. And I was disgusted by the fact that colleagues are trying to go after the one Palestinian American member of Congress.
And as I said, you know, Rashida and I became friends early on in my tenure. We were brought together, I think, by — we both have big hearts. And she’s known a little bit like a mama bear in the caucus. She is very loving and gentle towards, you know, specifically new members, like making sure we have what we needed. I was really drawn to her because we are, as I said, two people that have people within our family that have endured suffering over a very long time. We are both parents to teenagers, and we share the struggles of that.
And actually, I don’t think it’s betraying a trust to say, you know, she sent me a message last week saying what she hopes is that in the future she and I will be able to walk together in a true democratic Palestine and in Israel, both of us together as friends, as people who understand the horrific suffering that is going on right now.
And I have really tried to use my platform, and will continue to do so, to stand up against the Islamophobia, and also the antisemitism. And we’ve discussed this, as well, that you can be critical of Israel, and you should be critical of Israel and Netanyahu and the policies — and I’ve never shied away from that — and I also am very uncomfortable in this moment by some of the outrageous antisemitism hurled at Jewish members of Congress, specifically progressive Jewish members of Congress who are trying to do the right thing in figuring out the correct strategy going forward. But, you know, Rashida will always be what I call one of my heart people.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, on the day after Rashida Tlaib was censured by the House of Representatives, we brought on Marione Ingram, 87-year-old Holocaust survivor, protesting outside the White House, calling for a ceasefire, and she condemned the censure —
REP. BECCA BALINT: Thanks.
AMY GOODMAN: — of your colleague, [Representative] Tlaib.
I want to thank you very much, Democratic Congressmember Becca Balint of Vermont. She is the first openly LGBTQ member to represent Vermont in Congress, the first congresswoman to represent Vermont, and now the first Jewish member of Congress to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. We’ll link to her op-ed in the VTDigger headlined “Cease-fire needed to stop bloodshed in Israel-Hamas conflict.”
Coming up, we go to Argentina, where the far-right political outsider Javier Milei has been elected president. He’s called “the Trump of Argentina.” The first to congratulate him was President Trump and the former Brazilian President Bolsonaro. Back in 20 seconds.
AMY GOODMAN: “En el país de la libertad,” “In a Country of Liberty,” by the Argentine León Gieco, who signed a letter protesting Milei’s erasure of the horrors of Argentina’s 1976 to 1983 right-wing dictatorship that killed over 30,000 Argentinians.