Tikkun: Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and the American Jewish Community

March 10, 2014

by: Donna Nevel on March 7th, 2014

Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace

Many American Jewish organizations claim to be staunch supporters of civil and human rights as well as academic freedom. But when it comes to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, they make an exception. In their relentless opposition to BDS, they leave even core principles behind.

The Palestinian-led call for BDS, which began in 2005 in response to ongoing Israeli government violations of basic principles of international law and human rights of the Palestinian people, is a call of conscience. It has strengthened markedly over the last few years among artists, students, unions, church groups, dockworkers, and others. Media coverage of endorsers of the boycott has gone mainstream and viral. Recent examples include Stephen Hawking’s refusal to go to Jerusalem for the Presidential Conference, the successful campaign surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s support for Soda Stream and its settlement operation, and the American Studies Association (ASA) resolution that endorsed boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Alongside BDS’s increasing strength have come increasingly virulent attacks on, and campaigns against it. These attacks tend to employ similar language and tactics – as if the groups are all cribbing from the same talking points – including tarring BDS supporters as “anti-Semitic” and “delegitimizers.”

These ad hominem attacks simply don’t address or grapple with the core aspirations or realities of BDS. As described by Hanan Ashrawi, executive committee member of the PLO, in a recent letter in the New York Times, BDS “does not target Jews, individually or collectively, and rejects all forms of bigotry and discrimination, including anti-Semitism.” She goes on to explain that “B.D.S. is, in fact, a legal, moral and inclusive movement struggling against the discriminatory policies of a country that defines itself in religiously exclusive terms, and that seeks to deny Palestinians the most basic rights simply because we are not Jewish.”

The use of name-calling like “anti-Semites” and “delegtimizers” is problematic for a number of reasons, not only because its claims are untrue, but also because it takes the focus off the real issue at hand – whether and how Israel is, in fact, violating international law and basic human rights principles – and, instead, recklessly impugns the characters of those advocating for Israel to be held accountable.

Criticisms, even extremely harsh ones, of the Israeli state or calls to make a state democratic and adhere to equal rights for all its citizens are not anti-Semitic. Rather, anti-Semitism is about hatred of, and discrimination against the Jewish people, which is not anywhere to be found in the call for BDS, and these kinds of accusations also serve to trivialize the long and ugly history of anti-Semitism.

Most recently, the anti-BDS effort has moved to the legislative front. A bill, introduced in the New York State Assembly last month, would have trampled academic freedom and the right to support BDS in its quest to punish the ASA and deter any who might dare to emulate its endorsement of the academic boycott. Those supporting the bill were opposed by a broad coalition of education, civil rights, legal, academic, and Palestine solidarity organizations, as well as Jewish social justice groups. The bill was withdrawn, but a revised version has been introduced that is designed, like the original, to punish colleges that use public funds for activities related to groups that support boycotts of Israel, including mere attendance at their meetings.

The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) worked closely with the sponsors of the New York bill.

Like the JCRC, rather than engaging in substantive debate about the issues raised in relation to BDS, the Israeli government and many Jewish communal organizations choose, instead, to try to discredit and derail the efforts of those supporting BDS.

For example, as recently reported by Ha’aretz, the Israeli Knesset is debating how to continue to counter BDS efforts across the globe, that is, “whether to launch an aggressive public campaign or operate through quieter, diplomatic channels.” It is also considering what the role of AIPAC might be in introducing anti-boycott legislation and how to best bolster military surveillance–which has significant funding behind it–against supporters of BDS.

American Jewish communal organizations have also expended massive resources and energy in their campaigns to demonize endorsers of BDS. The Israel Action Network (IAN)–which describes itself as “a strategic initiative of TheJewish Federations of North America, in partnership with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), created to counter assaults made on Israel’s legitimacy”–has funded the anti-BDS effort to the tune of at least six million dollars over a three-year period.

The IAN website characterizes supporters of BDS as “delegitimizers”and says that, in order to gain support from “vulnerable targets,” which include “college campuses, churches, labor unions, and human rights organizations,” delegitimizers utilize Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) tactics, “the same tools used to isolate and vilify apartheid South Africa, Iran, or Nazi Germany. BDS activists, IAN continues, “present distortions, fabrications and misrepresentations of international law in an attempt to paint Israel with the same brush.”

In another example of name-calling without any substance, the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL’s) July 2013 report attacked Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), featuring ad hominem accusations (JVP “intentionally exploits Jewish culture”), rather than discussing JVP’s actual positions. (A JVP report on the ADL points out that the ADL not only targets JVP but is well-known for its long history of spying on Arabs and supporters of the Palestinian movement.)

On the charge of anti-Semitism, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in its call to fight the BDS movement, urges it supporters to “learn the facts behind this hypocritical and anti-Semitic campaign,” and the ADL’s Abe Foxman echoed those same sentiments: “The BDS movement at its very core is anti-Semitic.” And most recently, in his speech to AIPAC, Prime Minister Netanyahu, after shamelessly drawing upon classic anti-Semitic imagery of Jews to speak of supporters of BDS, says: “So you see, attempts to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, the most threatened democracy on earth, are simply the latest chapter in the long and dark history of anti- Semitism.”

The demonization of BDS is not only the domain of the Israeli government and the mainstream Jewish community. The self-declared liberal J-Street, in its seemingly relentless quest to stay under the Jewish “tent,” has also jumped on the anti-BDS bandwagon, sometimes in partnership with the IAN, which (precisely because J Street is positioned as a peace group) proudly documents its relationship with J Street in fighting BDS. Discussing how J Street is gaining acceptance in the mainstream Jewish community, JCPA’s CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow points to “its role in pushing back against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement…”

Further, the refusal of both liberal land mainstream Jewish groups to discuss substantive issues around Israel’s actions or BDS also reveals itself in language that admonishes BDS as being “beyond the pale.” Recently, for example, as reported by the director of JVP in an op-ed in the Forward, the director of the JCRC of Greater Boston, who has a history of involvement in liberal organizations, explained that “any organization that supports BDS…doesn’t belong at the communal table. In fact, he was referring specifically to Jewish Voice for Peace. He even argued that opening the public conversation to BDS is roughly akin to welcoming the Ku Klux Klan.”

This attempted silencing of those simply discussing BDS plays out even in seemingly minor local skirmishes. For example, last year, the liberal rabbi of a large New York City synagogue cancelled the synagogue’s facilities-usage contract with a group of Jews who, he feared, might, on his premises, discuss BDS. That, he said, would be “beyond the pale.”

These attacks against BDS appear to be an almost desperate reaction to the increasing successes of BDS, not only in the world at large, but also within the broader Jewish community itself. Respected members of the liberal Jewish community as well as a few liberal Zionist groups that were vehemently anti-BDS are now calling for boycotts against products made in the settlements and are engaging with the issue publicly. Further, the mission and vision of groups like Jews Say No and Jewish Voice for Peace – “a diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights” – are resonating with increasing numbers of Jews who support BDS as a natural outgrowth of their commitments. And that movement is growing in partnership with the broader Palestinian-led movement for justice.

How should the rest of the Jewish community respond? Ad hominem attacks on BDS just will not do. It is time for BDS opponents to take a deep breath. Consider this: BDS is a principled response to Israel’s actions and behavior as an occupier. It is a profound call by Palestinians – and supporters world-wide–for justice. It is not BDS that should be opposed, but, rather, the very policies and practices that have made BDS necessary.

Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator, is a long-time organizer for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. She was a co-coordinator of the 1989 landmark Road to Peace Conference that brought PLO officials and Knesset members together to the US for the first time. More recently, she was a founding member of Jews Say No!, is a member of the board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and is on the coordinating committee of the Nakba Education Project, U.S.

http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2014/03/07/boycott-divestment-and-sanctions-bds-and-the-american-jewish-community/

Two more letters to Mayor de Blasio

March 10, 2014

On January 29, the following letter was delivered to Mayor Bill de Blasio with 58 signatories http://mondoweiss.net/2014/01/letter-blasio-speak.html

An Open Letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio:

We are Jewish residents of New York who read, in the leaked transcript of your private speech to a meeting of AIPAC leaders, the following:

“City Hall will always be open to AIPAC. When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I’ll answer it happily ’cause that’s my job.”

We understand that the job of mayor of New York is a complex one that often calls for your participation on the international stage, and we would not presume to define your job for you. But we do know that the needs and concerns of many of your constituents–U.S. Jews like us among them–are not aligned with those of AIPAC, and that no, your job is not to do AIPAC’s bidding when they call you to do so. AIPAC speaks for Israel’s hard-line government and its right-wing supporters, and for them alone; it does not speak for us.

On February 4, 2014, the Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ) sent New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio a letter inviting the city’s new “progressive” mayor to tour Palestine/Israel, meet with Palestinian representatives, and witness Palestinian reality with his own eyes. The letter was prompted by Mayor de Blasio’s recent, behind-closed-doors meeting with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in which he declared to the largest pro-Israel lobbying organization in the United States that part of his new job as mayor is to defend Israel.

Read the CODZ letter here.

Mayor de Blasio: BE OPEN TO ANOTHER VIEW FROM THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

February 5, 2014

 

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Dear Mayor de Blasio:

We are New York Jews who are dismayed by your speech to AIPAC and the unqualified support you offered them, especially since you ran your campaign as a progressive. There is nothing remotely progressive about AIPAC. We do not believe that AIPAC’s unconditional support for the Israeli occupation is consistent in any way with the values of fairness and justice that you articulated during your campaign—values that led to your receiving an overwhelming election mandate.

AIPAC is a right-wing organization that strong-arms elected and other government officials to support brutal Israeli government policies and actions that are dangerous for Palestine/Israel, the Middle East, and the United States.  These policies are also in violation of international law, including of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying country from moving its citizens into the occupied area as residents.

As a result, more and more Jews are questioning and opposing AIPAC and Israeli government policies. Indeed, many Jewish groups in New York City, across the U.S.A., and in Israel have organized with Palestinian and other groups–through such non-violent means as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)–to forge a more just, equitable, and yes, progressive future for Israel and Palestine. This would also mean a very different kind of relationship between Israel and the United States, which now funds Israel and its military occupation to the tune of at least $3.1 billion a year.

Many of us have crossed the Israeli borders into the areas of military occupation and have seen with our own eyes the conditions of Palestinians living there. We have met parents in Gaza and the West Bank who have faced attacks by the Israeli military, which uses missiles, drones, tanks, helicopters, tear gas grenades, “stink” bombs, and sound bombs.

  • Do you know that Israel holds nearly five thousand Palestinian prisoners, many not charged with any crime and without access to legal assistance?
  • Do you know that Israel has created hundreds of checkpoints, where Palestinians are routinely harassed and humiliated?
  • Do you know that the Israeli government’s occupation policies, involving roughly half-a-million settlers, have involved extensive expropriation of Palestinian land, demolition of Palestinians’ homes, and uprooting of their olive trees?
  • Do you know that roads exist that only settlers and other Jewish Israelis—but not Palestinians—can use?
  • Do you know that many Palestinian children are arrested in their homes in the middle of the night by armed Israeli soldiers, typically without being told where they are being taken or for how long?

Further, AIPAC’s support of virulent Islamophobia does not represent those of us who work for a city and country in which members of the Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities can be safe and respected. We support your announced plan to stop the NYPD program that has long engaged in secret surveillance, including the use of informants in mosques, that target people because of their religion, ethnicity, or native language. Do you know that AIPAC supports such anti-Muslim programs? AIPAC has, for example, repeatedly included anti-Muslim speakers at its annual Policy Conferences, including one who claims that Islam “sanctions genocide, planned genocide, as part of its religious doctrine.”  These views are totally inconsistent with the values expressed by your administration.

Do you also know that veterans of the Civil Rights Movement in this country have condemned Israeli policies that make such legal disparities possible and have likened them to the conditions that African Americans in the South experienced for many generations? The story of Israel and Palestine is, without question, a tale of two different realities—with its inequalities fully supported by the power of the Israeli government, the disproportionate political influence of AIPAC, and the U.S. government.  We believe these fundamental inequalities should resonate with you, who campaigned against the idea that NYC should no longer be “a tale of two cities.”

We look forward to the opportunity to meet with you and discuss the issues raised by your statements about Israel and AIPAC.

http://chn.ge/1narhbV

The Israeli Settler Movement Not Welcome in New York City!

November 19, 2013


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On Sunday, November 17, several groups protested a conference supporting the Israeli settler movement, featuring leaders of the Shomron Regional Council, the Zionist Organization of America, a U.S. congressional representative, and others. They met to discuss “why Judea and Samaria [which is the Israeli-occupied West Bank] must be the main focus of today’s Israel advocacy.”

All Israeli settlements in Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories violate international law, according to major human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the International Court of Justice, and governments worldwide. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying country from moving its citizens into the occupied area as residents.

The protest was sponsored by Jews Say No! and Jewish Voice for Peace NY and several endorsing groups— Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, Brooklyn For Peace, NYC Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, John Jay Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Rutgers Newark SJP, Brooklyn SJP, Hunter SJP, Rutgers New Brunswick SJP, CUNY Law SJP, New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership

 Press Release

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In the Press:

Mondoweiss:  Yesterday in New York there was a gathering of settlers and their supporters at a synagogue on the Upper West Side…..Thankfully, there was a robust demonstration against the settlers conference outside, and many of the speakers inside were jarred by the protest, and referred to it angrily.

Jerusalem Post:  A small group of protesters representing left-wing Jewish groups marched silently in single file outside the synagogue during the conference, holding signs against Israel’s presence in the West Bank. The signs bore such slogans as “Jews say no to occupation,” “Jews say justice for the Palestinian people” and “Jews say not in our name.”

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Jews Speak Out Against Racist Violence

September 26, 2013

JAI Condemns New York City’s Latest Incidents of Racist Violence & Religious Bigotry

 September 26, 2013  Members of the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition were angered and saddened to learn of the vicious bias-related attacks on Saturday, September 21, in New York City, and join with all those who are fighting to ensure that we live in a city that is safe for all residents.

Dr. Prabhjot Singh,  a professor at Columbia University, and a companion, a fellow Sikh, were assaulted in upper Manhattan by about a dozen individuals who called them “Osama” and “terrorist”  and broke Dr. Singh’s jaw.  As part of his Sikh faith, Dr. Singh was wearing a turban.  According to a new report, Turban Myths, put out by SALDEF (Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund) and Stanford University, 48% of Americans mis-identify urban wearers as Muslim, and over 20% of Sikh schoolchildren suffer violence as a “price for maintaining their Sikh identity.” As Dr. Singh commented two days after the attack,  “Our turban and beard are a trigger for fear in the minds of many Americans” (NY Times, September 23, 2013).]  Additionally, an individual assaulted a New Jersey woman wearing a hijab and called her a “f**king terrorist,” as she attended a pro-democracy rally in Times Square.

Even as we deplore these vicious attacks on individuals, we view them not as isolated incidents but as part of a systemic assault on the rights and liberties of Muslim, South Asian, and other targeted communities in NYC.  While the police are investigating the attack on the two Sikh men as a possible hate crime and have arrested the alleged perpetrator of the assault on the Muslim woman at the rally, the NYPD and public officials, along with right-wing media and a network of anti-Muslim ideologues, must share responsibility for fostering an anti-Muslim atmosphere that encourages people to view both Muslims and those mistaken for Muslims as terrorists. A police department that has guidelines associating those who wear a beard and other signifiers of religious observance with “terrorism,” and implicitly labels all Muslims as terrorist suspects by its surveillance of New York City’s entire Muslim community, sends a message of suspicion and bigotry that fuels such attacks.

We urge members of the Jewish community and all New Yorkers to speak out strongly in our schools, workplaces, community organizations and houses of worship against bigotry, wherever it may occur; and to demand strong responses and action from government leaders and representatives that must include, first and foremost, requiring that the NYPD abandon its anti-Muslim policies.  We also encourage as many of us as possible to join community actions and responses that are called by our allies during this time. (Our website will list actions as we learn about them.)  Attacks on individuals because they are “walking while Sikh” or “standing on the street while Muslim” are simply unacceptable in our city.

The Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition (JAIC) consists of three groups: Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and Jews Say No! (JSN!). http://www.jewsagainstislamophobia.org/

Objectifying Palestinians in Beinart’s ‘American Jewish Cocoon’ Essay

September 19, 2013

by Donna Nevel, Rebecca Vilkomerson Sep 18, 2013 11:00 AM EDT

Peter Beinart’s recent New York Review of Books piece, “The American Jewish Cocoon,” makes an important point about the Jewish community’s lack of understanding of Palestinians. However, while it initially reads as a progressive call for deeper understanding, at its core it continues to reflect many of the damaging assumptions of the mainstream Jewish community that he claims to assail.  read more

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Israel/Palestine is an LGBT issue

May 29, 2013

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Jews Say No is pleased to co-sponsor a forum on Israel/Palestine at Queens Pride House, featuring a panel discussion with Sarah Schulman and Pauline Park: Israel/Palestine as an issue for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. They will discuss their work to challenge the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Sarah Schulman is Distinguished Professor at the College of Staten Island and author of many books, most recently Israel/Palestine and the Queer International, published by Duke University Press.

Pauline Park, led the campaign for the transgender rights law enacted by the New York City Council in 2002 and was an organizer/participant in the first US LGBTQ delegation tour of Palestine in January 2012.

Tuesday, June 4      7-9 PM

Queens Pride House

76-11 37th Ave., Suite 206 Jackson Heights

The event is co-sponsored by Brooklyn For PeaceJews Say No, New York City Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, the New York Association for Gender Rights AdvocacyQUEEROCRACY, and Women in Black – Union Square.

Queens Pride House 
76-11 37th Ave., Suite 206
 in Jackson Heights                                                                                   E, F, M, R trains to JACKSON HTS – ROOSEVELT AV or #7 train to 74TH ST – BROADWAY

For more information, contact Pauline Park PPark@queenspridehouse.org (718) 429-5309

.**Please note** the site is a second-floor walk-up and is not wheelchair-accessible.

Thank Stephen Hawking for taking a stand against Israeli Apartheid

May 12, 2013
Dear Prof. Stephen Hawking,
We, the undersigned, wish to express our appreciation for your decision to respect the Palestinian-led boycott of Israeli academic institutions by pulling out of a conference hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres. As students, professors, scientists, activists, organizations, and people of conscience across the world, we are inspired by this powerful demonstration of morality and the respect that you have demonstrated for your Palestinian colleagues.Your decision comes as Israel’s settlement project expands unimpeded; as nearly five thousand Palestinian political prisoners are held in Israeli jails and prisons — many indefinitely and without charge; as millions of refugees are denied their internationally-inscribed right to return to their homes and lands; as Palestinians within Israel are denied equal protection and rights under the law; as freedom of movement is denied in the West Bank and the Gaza blockade continues mercilessly; and as the U.S. government funds Israel’s violations of Palestinians’ human rights and international law with $3 billion in military aid annually.We are proud to stand with you – a leader, role model, and household name worldwide – in solidarity with Palestinians working for freedom, justice, and equality.

http://org.salsalabs.com/o/641/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=13380

Elisha Baskin and Donna Nevel in Mondoweiss

May 12, 2013

Thoughts about our role and work as Jews committed to justice in Palestine

by Elisha Baskin and Donna Nevel on May 8, 2013

Recent debate and discussion in Jewish activist spaces have raised questions about the role of “Jews identifying as Jews” in work for justice in Palestine. These conversations have led us to think more deeply about this question. In this piece, we explore the particular significance, strategically and otherwise, of the relationship to being Jewish and how we enter this work, and how we can be meaningful and genuine partners in the struggle for justice.  

Elisha Baskin

Elisha Baskin

As we enter this work as Jews for justice in Palestine, we do so with a firm commitment to principles of self-determination, liberation, and the right of return; to the leadership of the Palestinian movement and its call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions; and to support for the organizing going on in Palestine itself.

Being Jews standing in solidarity with Palestinian movements for justice and equal rights means, for us, bringing our full selves into the movement with great thought and care so that we can be genuine allies and partners with the Palestinian movement for justice. It means always trying to act with intentionality and integrity so as to participate in liberatory processes, rather than recreate patterns and systems of oppression. To be strong allies and to organize effectively, we must consider our positionality and our different forms of privilege as Jewish individuals and as part of Jewish communities. That includes being aware of how voices become silenced and marginalized; whose voices are being elevated; whose interests are being served; and the ways in which structures, including those within the community(ies) we are part of, have facilitated and perpetuated injustice and continue to do so. It is not a call to becoming paralyzed or inactive, but to act with principle and consistency.

Donna Nevel

Donna Nevel

For many of us who are Jewish activists in this work for justice, we begin with our own stories as a foundation from which we make connections and build together with other communities. We do not view integrating who we are as Jews into our work for justice as a distraction or as an impediment. In fact, we all come to this work, not as empty vessels, but with rich histories and experiences.

Different entry points exist from which we can and do become involved with our collective work as Jews standing in solidarity with Palestinians. Jews who choose to work for justice in a specifically Jewish framework (like, for example, as part of Jewish Voice for Peace) do so for a variety of reasons, including 1) as a political or strategic response (e.g., challenging Israel’s claim that it speaks and acts in the name of the Jewish people and wanting to challenge the highly funded, organized Jewish establishment and lobby in the US); 2) because they feel inspired by Jewish traditions of social justice or are deeply connected culturally or religiously, which is a manifestation of the identity they want to bring to this work; or 3) because it feels like the most genuine way to play a role in this movement. For some, more than one of these often intersecting (or other) points of entry and engagement, are true.

For many of us, working in Jewish organizations sometimes also includes directing our work within the mainstream Jewish community (for example, holding programs on BDS within Jewish institutions or, as the Open Hillel campaign has done, challenging Hillel’s exclusion of groups that support BDS). This work is by no means what everyone chooses to do. But we believe making room, as part of our solidarity work, to work within those spaces–and to push to open up access for pro-Palestine organizing–can be a potentially valuable component of making change that, for example, breaks the normalization of a pro-Israel politics and encourages resistance to US foreign policy on Israel and Palestine.

An important question raised about Jewish-identified work for justice and the way it’s played out relates to the potential dangers of “exceptionalizing” the Jewish people. The notions of being a chosen people, or Jews having a particular premium on social justice, are often accepted as a given or as part of our historic legacy. We agree that it’s essential to strongly challenge these notions of exceptionalism. But we also believe that exceptionalizing one’s community is not the same as, and should not be conflated with, valuing one’s culture and identity and that which one most admires and respects from within one’s history. Caring about one’s community is not the same as privileging it. As Joseph Nevel (Donna’s father) often said, “Feel proud of, and connected to who you are, but never ever think you’re better than another human being or community.”

Another concern that comes up in relation to Jews organizing in solidarity spaces is how to address issues that arise when Jewish allies, even inadvertently, try to take over movement spaces to process emotional and social realities they face when beginning to align themselves politically with justice for Palestine. As part of our solidarity work, we believe one of the values of having some separate, intentional spaces amongst Jews who are unlearning years of what they have been taught and undergoing a process of conscientization is to offer support that both strengthens our broader organizing and doesn’t try to turn Palestine solidarity spaces into support groups for Jewish activists.

Finally, in all this work, we are committed, in how we act, to reflecting the world as we want it to be. We believe deeply—even as we challenge one another in critical and often difficult ways—that we must be kind and open to there being multiple entry points into, and points of engagement with this collective work. We must also not neglect to address head-on the impact and consequences of the oppression and exclusion and various relationships to privilege that exist amongst different Jewish communities, including in social justice circles, on the basis of, for example, ethnicity, class, gender, and formal education.

We believe that those of us who are Jewish participating in this movement need to be both rigorous and generous so as not to limit possibilities for meaningful solidarity work for justice, limit the humanness of our political work, limit the endless connections we can make. We can build, for example, from the kinds of liberatory and transformative processes Paolo Freire–“reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it”– writes about so powerfully.

We greatly believe that the focus is and must be about justice for Palestine and that this work has many dimensions to it. We hope that some of these questions and reflections might resonate with others and can help deepen and strengthen our thinking and actions as we participate in movements for justice.

Elisha Baskin, an activist and scholar, and Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator whose work is rooted in Participatory Action Research (PAR) and popular education, have had both similar and different entry points and relationships to this work. Elisha is an Israeli citizen who feels that Israel has hijacked her Judaism. She was never able to be comfortably Jewish in Israel and to participate in Jewish ritual because of the deep conflation of Jewish practice and Zionism/nationalism/patriotism/militarism and other oppressions. In the U.S., she feels able to reclaim her Jewish identity, which JVP and other radical Jewish circles have supported and helped make possible and which she believes strengthens her work for justice and enriches her life as a whole. Donna is an American Jew who participates in Jewish groups as part of her work for justice in Palestine because she thinks it is a meaningful way for her to be an intentional and accountable ally and because it feels true to who she is. She also wants to be part of groups challenging the grip that Israel and the Jewish establishment have on the Jewish community’s politics.

http://mondoweiss.net/2013/05/thoughts-committed-palestine.html

April 15, 2013

Jewish space plays host to spirited debate over whether Israel is a democracy

by Alex Kane  April 5, 2013 

Panel

From the left: Kathleen Peratis; Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark; Lizzy Ratner; Rebecca Vilkomerson and J.J. Goldberg

The back-and-forth over the question of Israeli democracy was aired in a Jewish space: Beit Simchat Torah, a progressive synagogue that caters to lesbian and gay Jews. All of the panelists were Jews, and the discussion was organized by progressive Jewish activists and moderated by Lizzy Ratner, a New York-based journalist  read the article on Mondoweiss


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