By Kristin Szremski
This May marks the passage of 62 years since two major events that together have shaped the course of modern history. On May 15, Jews celebrate the creation of the state of Israel while on that day Palestinians commemorate Al Nakba, or the Catastrophe, which resulted in the deaths of 13,000 Palestinians and the expulsion of nearly one million more at the hands of Zionist Jews.
This year, though, these commemorations are occurring against a surprising backdrop: Increasingly more Israeli and American Jews are joining the growing network of activists protesting Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.
Israeli groups such as Breaking the Silence, soldiers documenting military abuses against Palestinian civilians, and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; as well as American groups like the Jewish Fast for Gaza or Jewish Voice for Peace, to name a few, protest the Israel’s flagrant violation of international law. Internationally, there are groups like International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.
Israeli Jews and Palestinians are cooperating as well. The Arab and Jewish organization Who Profits keeps a tally on companies profiting from the occupation industry, for instance, while Israeli Jews join Palestinian and international activists in peaceful protests against the apartheid wall in West Bank villages such as Ni’iln every week. Recently, Adalah, the Palestinian legal organization advocating for rights for Palestinian residents of Israel, and the Israeli Association for Civil Rights in Israel teamed up in a case before the Israeli Supreme Court.
And these are just a few of the many collaborative organizations battling the occupation together.
Jews in the United States are increasingly feeling disenfranchised from Israel’s right-wing Likud leadership under Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu or he Yisrael Beiteinu party, founded by Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Last fall, members of J Street, a progressive American Jewish organization, harshly criticized Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for his refusal to attend its annual conference. Meanwhile, Israel’s right wing Zionists roundly criticized J Street for publishing a poll that found a full 69 percent of respondents backed President Barack Obama’s efforts toward peace, even if it meant disagreeing publicly with Israel.
Moshe Yaroni recently wrote in the online magazine Zeek, supported by the Jewish Forward, that Israel’s vision of democracy is crumbling. “For years, the peace groups in Israel have been warning that occupation cannot co-exist with democracy without one eventually strangling the other.” Yaroni makes the point that Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, coupled with the fervent Zionist ideology, is consuming its own citizens from within.
“Defining a humane Judaism in the 21st century means condemning the brutal military occupation in the West Bank and resisting the ongoing siege of Gaza,” Antony Lowentstein wrote in “Why Aren’t Jews Outraged by Israeli Occupation,” published in Haaretz on July 17, 2009.
These are all compelling reasons for the American public to take a second look at the Middle East.
For more than 60 years, Palestinians have cried out about their dispossession but the world has not been listening. Now, however, the truth is getting harder to ignore because Israeli society is becoming increasingly divided over Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians. Yaroni writes in Zeek: “Israel is moving toward a very frightening future; a future where most Jews will no longer be able to support Israel.”
We need to ask ourselves, if Jews are finding they no longer can support Israel and its illegal occupation of Palestine, how then can the American government continue to lend unconditional support to the tune of more than $3 billion a year in foreign aid?
After 62 years, it is time for a new accounting. It is time to start looking for information about Israel and Palestine outside the mainstream American press. It is time to start calling upon our lawmakers to hold Israel accountable; to insist that Congress withhold aid unless Israel complies with international law and ends the siege and occupation.
It is time finally to stand with the values upon which this great country was founded and to admit that the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness extend to all people – including the illegally occupied people of Palestine.