It’s Time to Put Our Privileged Jewish Bodies on the Line
IF WE WANT TO SEE an end to the Occupation, it’s time to put our privileged Jewish bodies on the line. That’s why hundreds of Jews from around the world will join with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence in the summer of 2017 to engage in civil disobedience and noncooperation with the unjust laws of 50 years of Occupation.
After living in Jerusalem for seven years and seeing the daily discrimination against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank while Jewish Israeli life went on largely unperturbed, I knew something more than another educational forum or another policy paper was called for.
The majority of the global Jewish world does not see the discrimination, segregation, and humiliation facing Palestinians living under the Occupation. But when Jews from America, Jews from Europe, Jews from Australia, and Jews from Israel stand together in solidarity with Palestinians, we will make the realities of the Occupation visible.
When Israeli soldiers and settlers treat Jews from around the globe the same way they treat Palestinians—with arrest and suppression of nonviolent activism—the realities of the Occupation will be impossible to ignore. Why? Because while the global Jewish community is unable or unwilling to identify with Palestinians, they identify with us—because we are Jews.
As we mark the shameful anniversary of 50 years of occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, the Center for Jewish Nonviolence has been invited by our Palestinian partners to join them on Freedom Summer-esque projects. Building a community cinema in the segregated city of Hebron—not because a bunch of Jews from L.A. are expert builders but because our presence deters Israeli security forces from coming down overly harshly on the Palestinians who are otherwise prevented from building. We’re invited to till the soil in the South Hebron Hills—not because a bunch of Jews from New York City are expert farmers, but because our presence deters the neighboring Israeli settlers from harassing the Palestinians and intimidating them from planting their fields. Just as it took the presence of white civil rights activists to step into the segregated South in the 1960s to shake the rest of America out of its complacency around segregation, so too will it take the presence of Jewish civil rights activists in the Palestinian Occupied Territories to open the eyes of the international Jewish community.
As a practitioner of nonviolent direct action, I agree with Rabbi Lerner that diaspora Jews must free ourselves from our deference to a moribund diplomatic process. However, there is a second, equally important habit of thinking that we must confront and reconsider: our preoccupation with Jewish views to the exclusion of Palestinians who are actually living under Occupation. Any theory of change that centers only Jewish concerns and leadership is doomed to fail. Fifty years on, we must learn this lesson.
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Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 2:33