Nearly four months since Hamas’s 7 October attack and Israel’s latest vicious assault on Gaza, global politicians and leaders of all stripes have opted for consistent ambiguity and vagueness instead of forthright calls to end the mass suffering. Close to 24,000 Palestinians have been killed so far by Israeli forces.
By contrast, at the grassroots level, there has been growing global energy to agitate, organize and generate sustained pressure for a ceasefire.
The chasm between what politicians call for and the demands of the people they represent has ostensibly never been wider. This climate of activism and collective action has consequently given birth to numerous campaigns around the world with different political objectives.
Countdown2Ceasefire is one of them. On Saturday 13 January, the campaign will be joining the Global Day of Action for Gaza, marching in the streets all over the world. They hope to be part of a united front of global voices calling unconditionally for an immediate and permanent ceasefire.
As Israel faces the charge of genocide, brought forth by South Africa to the International Court of Justice, protests are planned in more than 66 cities, in at least 36 countries across six continents over the weekend.
A different kind of countdown
Formed by young activists in London, Countdown2Ceasefire is rallying worldwide support for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. On their first day of action on 31 December, they aimed to transform the celebratory New Year’s Eve countdown to 2024 into a symbolic call for peace.
Underpinning this strategy was a commitment to emphasizing the stark contrast between the festive atmosphere in many places and the harsh reality in Gaza, where people are counting their surviving family members, not the seconds until the new year. Where the shockwave of sound is not from fireworks but from more bombed residential buildings.
The campaign rallied people in over 60 countries and culminated in millions of people worldwide united in their call for peace, spanning from the first countdown in New Zealand to the final one in Hawaii. Events were broadcast and livestreamed across various social media platforms and cities like Johannesburg in South Africa and Geneva in Switzerland all earnestly embraced the message.
A beacon of hope
Countdown2Ceasefire’s organizers are keen to ensure continuous pressure. Bushra Mohammad, the campaign’s spokesperson, said: ‘The success of this initiative signifies a beacon of hope for those affected by the conflict, as the international community unites to pave the way for a more peaceful and stable future.’
Local action has been a mainstay since Israel launched its brutal campaign in Gaza. As people have repeatedly taken to the streets, staged sit-ins at train stations, and urged festive shoppers in malls to boycott brands, the appetite for persistent action has been notable all around the world. By comparison, the institutions and actors within the international arena have been, at best, silent, and at worst, complicit.
From surging German arms exports to Israel, to the United States bypassing Congress to greenlight emergency weapons sales to Israel, to the British Parliament voting against a motion calling for a ceasefire, the notion of holding Israel to account and actively demanding an end to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is seemingly anathema to many of the world’s leaders and elites.
Meanwhile, just nine out of 36 health facilities in Gaza are left operating, most of them partially. All of them are located in the densely populated southern region. Every day more than 10 children in Gaza lose a limb and people are experiencing what is being described as the world’s worst hunger crisis.
Under these conditions, calling for a ceasefire might be considered the bare minimum and a fundamental moral imperative to many.
‘We’re always stronger together’
Palestinians have long championed and demanded outside pressure and diligent collective action. But it has routinely fallen on deaf ears or been disjointed in its application. But the precedent for success exists. Pressure at the local level coupled with the global boycotting and isolation of South Africa led to the fall of apartheid and the prevailing of justice.
And it was Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, who issued the powerful reminder that ‘our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians’.
At Countdown2Ceasefire, this directive has been heeded. Organizers say the stage is set for continued, collaborative efforts throughout this year to maintain momentum and ensure every available avenue is exhausted. ‘We’re always stronger together,’ said Mohammed.
‘The echoes of our campaign will resonate for years to come as a testament to the collective strength and determination of humanity to strive for a more peaceful world.’
Get the background to what’s happening in Palestine and Israel from our July-August magazine available from the Ethical Shop.