Photo courtesy of Listen to Wisconsin

Hundreds marched in Madison and Milwaukee last weekend in anti-war protests commemorating Palestinian Land Day.


This story is the second of two stories about efforts by Wisconsinites to stop the killing of civilians in Gaza. See the first here.

Over 70% of Wisconsin Democratic voters strongly support an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, according to a Poll Progressive Strategies survey that sampled registered voters across the state last weekend. 

A January survey by the Arab American Institute found American voters in general are more likely to vote for candidates who support a ceasefire.

Yet, as the Palestinian death toll continues to grow, regardless of a United Nations ceasefire, the United States continues to send military support to Israel. The Biden administration will soon approve the more than $18 billion sale of as many as 50 American-made F-15 fighter jets to Israel, CNN reported yesterday. The administration is also “expected to notify Congress of a large new sale of precision-guided munitions kits to Israel, … even as Biden administration officials criticize Israel’s operations in Gaza, which have killed more than 32,000 Palestinians since October.”

Frustrated by national leaders, Americans, including a growing number of Wisconsinites, employ grassroots political action to stop the killing of Palestinian civilians.

Photo courtesy of Listen to Wisconsin

Taking it to the polls

“You can’t call for a temporary ceasefire and at the same time approve billions of dollars more in arm sales,” said Reema Ahmad, manager of the Wisconsin Vote Uninstructed campaign. “You can’t drop food aid and bombs on a population. That is unacceptable.

Photo courtesy of Listen to Wisconsin

Heba Mohammad of Milwaukee for Palestine has been urging voters to vote “Uninstructed.”

“When you see what is happening with our tax dollars, it’s incumbent on us to take a stand,” she said. “We have a duty to the people experiencing a manmade famine to do everything we can to stop it. That’s why we’re voting Uninstructed in the Democratic Primary—to push this administration to change policy and save lives.”

In a social media message this morning, released by Listen to Wisconsin, the newly formed group organizing the Wisconsin Vote Uninstructed campaign, Ahmad wrote: “We are telling this administration that we demand a ceasefire now, that we want an end to military funding of Israel and that our people deserve life, dignity and true peace. Polling sites are already open and will stay open until 8 p.m.—you can find yours at” 

Joe Biden and Donald Trump have already garnered enough votes to secure their parties’ nominations. The Uninstructed Vote will show Biden many people are opposed to his policies towards Israel and the Palestinians with the hope he will make changes before the November election, she said.

A grassroots movement

Following the success of the “Uncommitted” votes in Michigan, Minnesota, Washington state and Hawaii, “folks here were inspired,” she said. “We’re so lucky to be essentially the last swing state to have a primary with this type option.” (Not all states have “uninstructed” or “uncommitted” on their primary ballots.)

“This has been an incredible grassroots effort, largely built out of the last almost six months of organizing and marching and protesting, making calls and writing letters,” Ahmad told the Wisconsin Muslim Journal yesterday. “We’ve seen organic momentum as all across the state by people of all backgrounds, faiths and traditions came together.

“Wisconsin’s primary is critical because very slim margins decide our elections,” Ahmad continued. “The last two presidential elections were decided by less than 1%. In 2020, Biden won Wisconsin by 20,682 votes. If that portion of our community can show up at the ballot box April 2, we can make a statement. By taking our protest to the electorate when Biden and his administration have time to change policy, we want to register a protest to the genocide.”

Waukesha County Democratic Party takes a stand

Ann Zielke of Muskego is no stranger to political action. The mother of an 11-year-old with developmental disabilities, she has engaged in advocacy work based around education and disability justice and currently works for a small disability nonprofit.

Zielke considers herself a progressive Democrat. She has been active in the Waukesha County Democratic Party’s local community action team in Muskego, especially since the 2016 election, she said.  

“I worked hard and supported the Biden/Harris campaign in 2020,” Zielke wrote in an email to the Wisconsin Muslim Journal last week. “However, I believe strongly it is our duty to pay attention and be critical of bad policy, regardless of party.

“At this point, I believe it is a moral imperative for us to push the Biden administration to immediately change course in Palestine. By what I’ve seen happening and knowing the role the United States has played, I have honestly been forever changed. I want Gazans to know they are not alone, that there are people all around the world fighting for them.

“So, I sat down and thought about any tiny way I could influence things. And this is where I decided to start,” she wrote of her decision to bring a ceasefire resolution to the floor during the March meeting of the Democratic Party of Waukesha County. It was debated, revised twice, and then voted on by all members by voice vote. It passed.

“I really wanted to tell our friends and neighbors from here in Waukesha County to Palestine that we support them … that we will not simply stand by and watch the genocide of a people without doing anything.

“I also believe strongly that critique or dissent here does not imply support for the opposition in the 2024 Presidential election. Quite the opposite. I believe Democracy is on the line once again and we cannot allow America to fall to fascism. 

“Because of this, we must push the Biden administration to do everything they can to make this right. There are a lot of folks who, rightfully so, feel abandoned and betrayed by this administration. It is our responsibility as Democrats to bridge that gap. It is our responsibility to make that right. We must continue to push the administration AND the Party towards embracing an immediate and permanent ceasefire.”

“I’m glad we passed it,” said Waukesha County Democratic Party chair Matt Mareno in a phone interview with WMJ. “I’m also glad to see the Biden administration taking steps toward a clear resolution moving forward, with Kamala Harris and the Biden administration calling for an increase in the distribution of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians and a just two-state solution.”

Photo by Yaseen Najeeb

Michigan activists, as well as many from Wisconsin, protested the Biden administration’s military support of Israel at a march in November at the U.S. Capitol. Wisconsin Vote Uninstructed campaign organizers said Michigan’s success in its primary “Uncommitted” vote inspired them. 

Citizens bring ceasefire resolution to Racine City Council

Racine City Council is expected to consider a ceasefire resolution brought before it in March by three women and a 9-year-old girl.

The three women, Racine residents Mariah Casso, Lizbeth Fierro and Rose Ormond, recently founded a small grassroots organization, the Green Light Project, a social justice advocacy group. 

“We went in front of the Racine City Council to bring awareness to the war on Gaza and to ask for our city to stand in solidarity with Palestine and all the other U.S. cities that have passed a resolution,” Casso told WMJ. 

In testimony March 19 to the Racine City Council, Casso said, “Our ask is simple. Major cities all over the U.S. have taken this stance to pass a ceasefire resolution. Our committee has done the work in creating the resolution for you. We are hopeful you will add this to the agenda and we look forward to the opportunity to work with you further on this case that has deeply wounded our community.”

In support of the resolution, Casso described the suffering of Palestinians she knows personally both in Wisconsin and in the Middle East, including the constant fear of drones overhead in Gaza and the loss of loved ones, demolished homes and forced migration. She also spoke of the local ostracization of Jewish friends who oppose Israel’s military invasion in Gaza by pro-Zionists.

Casso compared Black Americans’ struggle for civil rights with the Palestinians’. “Why should we Americans find it acceptable to support injustice and inequality and segregation for the Palestinians in Palestine?” she asked. 

“It is my hope Racine will choose to stand with humanity,” she said. “There is nothing more telling and painful than our silence in the wake of a humanitarian crisis.”

Casso’s daughter, Aria, 9, also testified. “If I were a Palestinian child in Gaza, I might not be alive right now to tell you that I am worthy of living and I deserve rights to live like everyone else. I am angry and sad this is allowed to happen.”

Fierro said the issue requires attention from the Racine City Council because citizens’ “efforts to speak to our state representatives have failed as they continue to ignore their constituents and shut the door on us time and time again.” 

She asked the City Council to raise their voices to say,  “We don’t condone what the federal government is doing and we stand with a number of Americans who are against this genocide.”

Ormond highlighted the manmade starvation Palestinians in Gaza are facing. “Within the last 30 days, countless aid trucks were turned away by Israeli troops and 118 Palestinians were killed and over 700 injured as Israeli troops opened fire on a food truck that was bringing aid.

“Newborns are dying of starvation every day there. Mothers can’t produce milk because they are malnourished and dehydrated. Children in Gaza are dying of severe dehydration and malnutrition.

“In our community, we show concern about people who are hungry. We feed the hungry, shelter the homeless … That’s what we do … I hope we feel the same way about anyone who is starving.” 

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution in March call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

More work to do

In an interview following Milwaukee County’s successful vote on a ceasefire resolution, State Rep. Ryan Clancy (D-Mil), who is finishing his term as a Milwaukee County Board supervisor,  told WMJ , “I was proud to be on the State legislation authored by Senator Larson and Representative Hong (that called for a ceasefire in Gaza). As the Republican-led Senate and Assembly would never allow that bill even a hearing, as they’d be afraid of the sort of overwhelming response that we saw so clearly this month, I felt compelled to bring similar legislation to Milwaukee County, where we could (and did) pass a ceasefire resolution. 

“There is a great deal that we need to do at the state level to assist, including repealing the legislation banning BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel) that Scott Walker signed into law in 2018. 

“And I am grateful to see elected officials at every level of government in Wisconsin—from State to school board—sign on to support of the Listen to Wisconsin campaign which encourages folks to vote “Uninstructed” on their April 2nd ballot. This movement, coupled with similar ones in Michigan, Minnesota and elsewhere, and the policy change from it, is Biden’s best chance of defeating Trump in November. 

“Americans are coming to the realization that Biden can end this genocide with a phone call, and that we have the ability—and the responsibility—to push him to do so. I’ve never been more hopeful that we will see a free Palestine not just in our lifetimes, but soon.”