Forget Solutions, We Are the Problem

ON THE FIFTEENTH DAY of Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza, the United States Department of Defense agreed to resupply the Israeli military with 120 mm mortar rounds and 40 mm grenades. Israel’s own stock had presumably been depleted in the offensive, which at that point had taken almost 700 Palestinian lives.

Why My Jewishness Compels Me to Stand for Justice in Palestine


THIS PAST JULY I RISKED ARREST alongside dozens of Jews and Palestinians in Hebron as we attempted to build the city’s only movie theater in the remnants of a Palestinian-owned metal factory. Hauling rubble and singing songs of freedom in English, Hebrew, and Arabic, I felt more grounded in my Jewishness than I ever have in my life. The action, which we called #CinemaHebron, was the most profound demonstration yet of my reinvigorated rootedness in Jewish heritage and values. A renewed energy and dedication that came after a long and painful journey navigating the intersection of Judaism, personal and historical trauma, and my relationship with Israel. That journey culminated with a choice: succumb to a Judaism of xenophobia and fear or embrace a Jewish tradition rooted in social justice and loving-kindness.

Where Do We Begin?

AS SOMEONE WHO WORKS to organize Jews into the movement for Palestinian rights, this is the question I hear most often from those just encountering the injustice Palestinians face and have faced because of Israeli policies. I think most people mean something along the lines of “What concrete action can I take to help?” But I think it’s also a deeper and truly vital question. Where do we begin? As we try to answer the question of what we can do now to end the unjust status quo, it matters where in history we start to tell the story. Just as this is not an intractable religious conflict dating back centuries, neither did it begin 50 years ago.



THOUGH I AM A WRITER BY TRADE, I am an attorney by training, one with a near fanatic devotion to the ideals of the United States Constitution, as revised and expanded beyond its slavery-tarnished origins. What I love most about America is its as-yet-unfulfilled promise of egalitarianism and equality, of one person/one vote, of the ability of a multicultural nation to live in fractious harmony. And yet, until recently, I had never allowed myself to question the wisdom of the classically framed two-state solution—Israelis here, Palestinians there, separation begetting peace. Then, in April of 2016, on a trip to Israel-Palestine as part of a group of writers working on the forthcoming anthology Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation, I met the Hebrew University professor Bashir Bashir. Dr. Bashir views the question of whether the governing system of Israel-Palestine is one of a single state or of two states as all but irrelevant.

The Threat of BDS


AS AN ISRAELI BORN AND RAISED in Jerusalem, when I visit with Jewish communities of the Diaspora—from San Francisco to Melbourne to Rio de Janeiro—I hear a global discussion regarding current realities in Israel and the “question of Palestine” that sounds entirely outdated. It is evident there is a disconnect between the ideological notions of the Diasporic Zionist narrative and present-day circumstances and factors of the realpolitik in Jerusalem. I assume you, the reader, are familiar with the classic historic narrative: The biblical roots tying the Jewish people to the land of Eretz Yisrael, the need for a Jewish safe haven in the aftermath of the Holocaust and World War II, and finally, the return home after 2,000 years of exile and persecution. We are all familiar with the story of hope and promise for the Jewish people facing constant hardship since it sprouted just seventy years ago: The miraculous triumph against seven enemy Arab armies and gaining independence in 1948, followed by the victorious Six-Day War in 1967, tripling the country’s size in six days. Foreigners often reminisce about volunteering on a 1970s kibbutz, hitching rides across the romantic Middle Eastern landscape to eat delicious hummus in Nablus and drink good coffee in Jerusalem.

BDS is the Peace Talks


THE BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT, AND SANCTIONS (BDS) movement is how we talk about the need for equal rights in Israel/Palestine. It is the most effective tool for ending the Occupation. As a rights-based approach it seeks to remedy the injustices that began in 1948, escalated in 1967, and continue to devastate the Palestinian people today. While engaging the international community in conversation about the inequality and human rights abuses Palestinians live under, BDS campaigns simultaneously have a direct effect to bring about a just, peaceful, and nonviolent solution to the conflict. Below are three examples of strategic BDS campaigns that engage and educate the public:

CODEPINK’s “Remodel RE/MAX: No ‘Open House’ on Stolen Land” campaign asks Denver-based real estate giant RE/MAX to stop allowing its Israeli franchise to sell homes in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

50 Years of Occupation: Working Principles for Where We Go from Here

FIFTY YEARS OF Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian territories is a sobering anniversary that warrants a thoughtful reassessment. Over the years, many have tried to end the Occupation and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Strategies for ending the conflict have included diverse tactics: forging relationships on the ground between Israelis and Palestinians, listening compassionately to the concerns of both sides, criticizing Israeli government policies, or pressing for sanctions against Israel with the goal of ending its government’s oppressive practices. As we take stock of these past efforts, it may be useful to identify four guiding principles that may inform our work to end the Occupation as we move forward. 1.

Born Into Occupation, Fighting for Basic Human Rights


JUNE 5, 2017 MARKS 50 YEARS since the Naksa, or “setback,” when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza strip (2017 is also 69 years since the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when 700,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homes and lands to make way for the establishing of the State of Israel). Qiryat Arba, the first Israeli settlement in the West Bank, was established in the outer Hebron area in 1968. Eleven years later the Beit Hadassah area of Hebron’s Old City was taken over by settlers who squatted in buildings in order to take them over. The Israeli government later expanded the Beit Hadassah settlement and built a yeshiva. There are now 560,000 illegal Israeli settlers living the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

When Anti-Zionism Becomes Anti-Semitism and Zionism Becomes Anti-Palestinian


IS ANTI-ZIONISM ANTI-SEMITISM? This question flared up in the British Labour Party in April 2016 and led to an internal inquiry. We Jews ourselves don’t agree about whether or not anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Zionism emerged as a political movement in Europe in the late nineteenth century in response to anti-Semitism. For Theodore Herzl and other exponents of Zionism, the establishment of a Jewish state was the only solution to the persistence of anti-Jewish persecution in the diaspora.1 Nevertheless, not all Jews at the time agreed with the Zionist argument. Many Jews in Eastern Europe, for example, rejected Jewish nationalism in favour of international socialism, hence the establishment of the Bund—shorthand for the General Jewish Workers’ Union in Lithuania, Poland, and Russia.

At 50 We Dare Not Give Up


WE SEEM TO BE at an intersection of incompetence and invidiousness as we draw closer to the fiftieth anniversary of the Occupation. We are almost to the point that both right and left agree that the term “occupation” should no longer be used. On the right, the argument is either for stasis—building out the settlements and expanding the area controlled by settlers; pressing the Palestinians economically and geographically until they leave or surrender—or, legally annex the territory and bestow limited rights upon the Palestinians. On the left, the call is now for recognizing the de facto annexation and granting full political rights to the Palestinian residents. The political powers in Israel and Palestine are in a state of constant strategic dithering—one step forward and two steps back.

A Lifeline to the Values We Hold Sacred

AS WE ARRIVE AT 50 YEARS of Israel’s occupation of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, and as some of the most extreme right-wing, hate-filled voices take the helm at the highest levels of office in Israel, the United States, Europe, and beyond, we’re all being called to ask: what propels us forward? As a Palestinian, Korean, American queer woman who has had her sundry identities questioned and sometimes disparaged, my motivation has always been clear: to uphold the inherent freedom, dignity, and equality of every human being. If we are to change the historical tide in Palestine and Israel, we must start by finding expressions of those values and amplifying them around the world. Just Vision, the organization I lead, is charged with doing just that—putting up a media megaphone to the Palestinian and Israeli activists, journalists, and human rights defenders who put their bodies and lives on the line to demand change in the face of inequality and injustice. This work is vital because the extent of grassroots activism and the degree of exposure it receives simply doesn’t match up, a result of the mainstream media’s too frequent emphasis on sensationalist violence at the expense of movements for values-based change.

Israel, Palestine, and the Language of Genocide


THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip has now reached the half-century mark. There is little, if any, chance in the foreseeable future that Palestinians will achieve even a small measure of independence, sovereignty, or statehood; never mind a measure of political rights in a Greater Israel. As Israel intensifies its control over the Occupied Territories, the violations of international law that have long been at the heart of the Occupation continue to grow in number, kind, and scope. At the same time, Israeli religious, political, and military leaders make increasingly racist statements that call into question the possibility of the Zionist state ever coming to terms with Palestinians. The list of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel includes torture, kidnapping, human shields, theft (of land, money, and resources), denial of education, collective punishment, detention without trial, home demolitions, extrajudicial executions, imprisonment of minors, a massive settlement complex, and even worse from the perspective of international law, persecution on political, racial, ethnic and religious grounds, and racism.

When Land is God


MY WIFE REMEMBERS huddling in a bomb shelter in 1967. Whatever revisionist historians may tell us today, many in the bomb shelter were asking whether Israel was about to be destroyed. When we not only survived, but ended up with most of the Biblical land of Israel under our control, this “miraculous” victory was incredibly intoxicating. Einat and her family were among the thousands who lined up to get to the kotel (Western Wall) when it was opened for visits for the first time on the Shavuot holiday. If we were already saying in our prayers that the creation of the State of Israel was reshit tzmikhat guelateinu (the beginning of the sprouting of our redemption), this was God’s hand in history and one further step towards full redemption.

50 Years of Israel Imposing a One-State “Solution”

DOESN’T 50 YEARS of Israeli military occupation call for abandoning the two-state solution and adopting the one-state solution in order to threaten Israeli society into facing the implications of maintaining the Occupation? Not only is this question being asked much more frequently by younger Palestinians, but versions of it have emerged from the editorial board of The New York Times and even the former Obama White House itself. The one versus two states debate has recently received increasing media focus and academic input, particularly in light of the seemingly impossible-to-achieve two-state solution that has, rightly or wrongly, long been considered the internationally-approved mantra for the resolution of the historic conflict between Palestinian nationalism and Zionism. I do not subscribe to the notion that Palestinians should be using “threats” to articulate a strategic goal. I believe that such an approach weakens our ability to mobilize political alliances, solidarity communities, and most importantly, to mobilize our own people around a clear political goal.

Finding Nonviolence in Jerusalem: The Palestinian Boycott of Jerusalem Municipal Elections Since 1967

PALESTINIANS IN JERUSALEM, who have the legal status of permanent residents and are permitted to vote in municipal (but not national) elections, have largely chosen not to participate in the city’s electoral process since the start of the occupation in 1967. Boycotting the municipal elections is the longest lasting—and arguably most important—method of nonviolent resistance to the policies of discrimination and exclusion that Palestinians contend with in this contested city. While Jewish Israelis portend to be searching for a nonviolent Palestinian leader as a partner for peace, they fail to recognize the strength of the election boycott as one of many legitimate tools seeking justice and peace. Palestinians boycott municipal elections as an unequivocal refusal to legitimate the Occupation of East Jerusalem and Israel’s claims that Jerusalem is the “complete and united” capital of Israel. It is a technique used to refute the oft-cited assertion made by Jews, in Israel and the United States, that Israel’s democratic system allows Palestinians to participate equally in the political process.