How the War in Gaza Mobilized the American Left

Support for Palestinians, a cause once largely championed on college campuses and in communities with ties to the region, has transformed into a defining issue of the Democratic left, galvanizing a broad swath of groups into the most significant protest movement of the Biden era.

Through daily organizing sessions on Zoom and grass-roots campaigning in battleground states, a sprawling new iteration of the pro-Palestinian movement is now propelled both by longtime — and sometimes hard-line — activists and by mainstream pillars of the Democratic coalition.

Organizations that are usually focused on climate, housing or immigration are regularly protesting Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, which followed the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack and has killed more than 33,000 people, according to local officials.

Labor activists are calling for a cease-fire. Black clergy leaders have appealed directly to the White House. Young Americans are using online tools to mobilize voters and send millions of missives to Congress. And an emerging coalition of advocacy groups is discussing how to press its case at the Democratic National Convention this summer.

“Maybe there was an idea that over time, the movement would lose steam, or it was just like a campus thing or it was like a far-left sort of protest movement,” said Maurice Mitchell, the national director of the Working Families Party, a progressive group that has often been more focused on domestic issues. “The opposite is happening as the humanitarian toll becomes so clear.”

Interviews with more than three dozen activists and others involved in the cease-fire cause, as well as their critics, reveal an effort that is at once increasingly powerful and also disjointed and difficult to clearly define. There is no single leader or organization at the helm, nor even a single name for the effort.

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