‘End the occupation’: US Air Force member on White House hunger strike against Israel’s Gaza war

World
Sat, 6 Apr 2024 8:21 GMT
'There's no humanity in this, no justification for it. It's something that has been weighing on me for a while,' Larry Hebert tells Anadolu in his action in front of the White House.
‘End the occupation’: US Air Force member on White House hunger strike against Israel’s Gaza war

Larry Hebert, an active duty Air Force member currently stationed at Naval Station Rota, Spain, has been on hunger strike outside of the White House since Easter — six days now — for the civilians of Gaza, who he said are starving, being bombed, and shot dead.

Hebert, 26, was inspired by the resilience of the people in Gaza, as well as by Aaron Bushnell, the US airman who in February set himself alight in front of an Israeli Embassy in protest of the war.

Hailing from the state of New Hampshire and a member of Veterans For Peace, Hebert took authorized leave from his assignment to participate in demonstrations demanding a cease-fire in Gaza and to visit Congressional offices to press for stopping weapons shipments to Israel.

"I completely feel empathy towards what's going on in Gaza because I've been keeping up since a little after Oct. 7, and there's no humanity in this, no justification for it. It's something that has been weighing on me for a while because the military is directly responsible for aiding Israel, the weapons, and at the discretion of our government. And, it's taken a really massive toll on me personally, and a lot of other people as well," he told Anadolu in an interview.

Hebert will be around Lafayette Park close to the White House this week and as of Monday, when Congress returns from recess, he will be outside Congress to continue his strike.

"I don't have a cut-off for it. I just want a positive change within Gaza ... whether that's through a cease-fire and an increase to humanitarian aid.

"I think allowing aid to enter through Rafah is a major step," said Herbert, who hopes for an end to the blockade surrounding Gaza and ultimately an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

The aim of his action is not convince US President Joe Biden to change course from his strong "unconditional support" for Israel.

According to Herbert, unconditional support should not be a position afforded to anything "besides humanity."

"What I'm here for is to support the people in Palestine, but also to really give people a voice within the military or whether that be the State Department or the government and not be afraid to speak out.

"Because, I'm taking a big risk doing this. I could face serious repercussions. But I'm willing to do that because those repercussions don't surmount to anything that the people in Gaza are going through," he said.

When asked about what his colleagues think of the war in the Palestinian enclave, Hebert said there has not been little, if any, public support for Gaza.

"And I think part of that is due to the ignorance of not knowing what's going on in Gaza, although there shouldn't be any ignorance," said Hebert. "It's been going on for six months and 76 years. So, people should know by now."

"But I think there's also a level of fear that active duty members have for speaking out because of the possible repercussions, and being in support of Gaza could, in their own view, be considered publicly against the mission which is what our foreign policy is," he said.   

Killings of World Central Kitchen members

Hebert also commented on the Israeli killing of seven World Central Kitchen members in Gaza this week, saying "it's not unlike anything else we've seen from the side of Israel.

"I think it falls in line with what they've been doing in Gaza. You know, they've been lobbying very hard to defund UNRWA (UN agency for Palestinian refugees). They've been trying very hard to target journalists so that the Palestinians can't document their own genocide," he said.

"They've been attacking hospitals — hospital after hospital — to just create this massive humanitarian crisis. And, it's shocking that those aid workers died from a general sense, but I think it falls in line with how Israel's been conducting their war on civilians," Hebert added.

Israel has waged a deadly military offensive on the Gaza Strip since a cross-border attack in early October by the Palestinian group Hamas killed around 1,200 people.

More than 33,000 Palestinians have since been killed and 75,577 injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

Israel has also imposed a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip, leaving its population, particularly residents of northern Gaza, on the verge of starvation.

The Israeli war has pushed 85% of Gaza’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% of the enclave's infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which last week asked it to do more to prevent famine in Gaza.

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