Call For One State
by Marcy Winograd
Speech Delivered at Friends of Sabeel Conference
From Occupation to Liberation: Voices We Need To Hear
February 15-16, 2008, All Saints Church, Pasadena, CA

Thank you for inviting me to participate on this panel.  Though I am speaking  as an individual, not as a representative of an organization, much of what I have to say will incorporate the work, the dialogue, the struggles of those involved in LA Jews for Peace.


First and foremost, I want to emphasize my belief that peace is the way – that violence, whether it be state-sponsored Israeli terrorism that blankets southern Lebanon with cluster bombs or individual terrorism that sends Palestinian suicide bombers across borders – violence only begets violence.  Our message, our narrative, must be hopeful and life affirming if we are to ever resolve this seemingly intractable conflict.


LA Jew for Peace, one of the sponsors of this conference, is a collective, not yet a mass movement – more like the Greek chorus that serves as the conscience of the Jewish community.  In many ancient Greek plays, the chorus expressed to the audience what the main characters could not say, such as their secrets or fears. 


As a collective, we have raised money for the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, demonstrated our support for Jimmy Carter with Jews for Jimmy placards, implored Mayor Villaraigosa not to appear at pro-war rallies; brought our Feed the Children of Gaza signs to the Santa Monica Promenade, and organized picket lines in front of the Holocaust Museum and the Israeli consulate, most recently to protest US support for the Israeli fuel blockade of Gaza. 


As Americans, our focus is on ending US complicity in crimes against humanity.


As an organization, we call for negotiations, not military interventions or mass incarcerations of the 1.5 million Israeli prisoners in Gaza.   Our emphasis is on humanism, not heightened nationalism – and for this reason we ask people not to bring flags to our protests. 


LA Jews for Peace was born in the midst of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon two summers ago, almost immediately following my congressional challenge to Jane Harman in the 36th District.


During my campaign, I prayed no one would ask me to clarify my position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  On my candidate web site, I said I supported the Geneva Accord, a two-state solution.


Don Bustany invited me on his show on KPFK and I did my best to focus on the criminality of the US invasion of Iraq. 


The truth was I felt no one in America could get elected on a platform that was critical of Israel and I was committed to ending the war in Iraq and stopping a future US attack on Iran – a possibility that still looms large, certainly on AIPAC’s web site where, despite the latest National Intelligence Estimate confirming that Iran has no nuclear weapons capabilities, the case against Iran is being made with calls for sanctions and divestiture and warnings that we cannot be lulled into a false sense of security.


A few weeks after my campaign for congress ended, Israel invaded Lebanon.  Anguished by the relentless bombing I watched on CNN, I asked some of the volunteers on my congressional campaign if they would join me in a protest in front of the Israeli consulate.  Those who came included Jeff Warner,  our lead organizer, Dick Platkin, our resident intellect, Wally Marks, our bridge builder, Lillian Laskin, our conduit to the affiliated Jewish community, Barry Weiss, our regular attendee at interfaith breakfasts, and Rick Chertoff, our outreach coordinator whose articulate voice you may hear on the radio or at a rally.


Rick and I met when our children attended the same Jewish preschool at University synagogue over 20 years ago.  During the early days of our friendship, he and his wife Deena came over for dinner. After the meal, we sat in the living room, where Rick’s eyes perused my book shelf and landed on a title by Uri Avnery, Israel without Zionism.


Interesting idea.


Two years ago, during our protests at the Israeli consulate, a reporter from the Jewish Journal called to interview me.  Before he asked me the tough questions, he asked me the toughest question – Are you a Zionist?


Today, my answer would be NO in capital letters, but at the time I wasn’t sure what to say for I grew up in a strong Zionist household.  Though I only attended synagogue on High Holidays – and even then only rarely, the truth was I had grown up in Jewish neighborhoods with children whose parents lived through Auschwitz and whose relatives settled in Israel, seeking safe haven from persecution. Though my family was not religious, we kept biographies of Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan on our bookshelves, thanked my grandmother for the Israel bonds – which in all likelihood helped pay for Israel’s horrific nuclear arsenal --  and traveled to Israel in 1982 to attend the Jewish Olympics, where some Israelis welcomed us and others vilified us for not moving to Israel to live with the real Jews.


So when the Jewish Journal reporter asked me, Are you a Zionist? – I hesitated, mindful of my upbringing and wanting to appeal to the readers of the Jewish Journal to reject a military solution to the Middle East conflict.


But if I abandoned the Zionist label, I feared losing my audience entirely.


Well, I said  -- My father’s extended family died in the Holocaust, so I understand the history of the Jews has been a history of persecution and annihilation.;


Yes, he said, but are you a Zionist?


Well, I said – I oppose persecution – of Jews, Muslims, Catholics – all people.


Yes, he said, but are you a Zionist?


I never answered him and he finally gave up  -- running the story of our picket line –  and of the larger story of  Jews rejecting the “self-hating” label to publicly criticize Israel and disassociate themselves from the aggressor.


Next a reporter from CNN called.  I thought I’d have to go to San Francisco to find Jews opposed to the invasion of Lebanon, she told me.


But before she would schedule an interview, she wanted to ask me one question.


Well, I knew what was coming.


You are a supporter of Israel’s right to exist, aren’t you? she said.


Well, I told the CNN reporter, I certainly support the right of all people to exist.  No one should be persecuted for their religion and everyone deserves protection from religious persecution.


She gave up trying to get a straight answer out of me, but she covered our protest in front of the Holocaust Museum and then filmed us at the Jewish deli down the street, where we sat down for bagels and coffee and an argument with another deli patron who thought the Israeli attack on Lebanon was justified.


Personally, I think it is too late for a two-state solution.  Israel has made it all but impossible for two states to exist.  With 400 to 500 thousand Israeli settlers on the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and with more and more settlements under construction each day, no one can convince me that those settlers are leaving any time soon – or that they will leave voluntarily – or that they will ever leave. 


What is left of the Palestinian state? 


With Jewish-only bypass roads running like varicose veins through the West Bank, a Palestinian state would be nothing but bantustans.


Not only do I think a two-state solution is unrealistic, but also fundamentally wrong because it only reinforces heightened nationalism.   You cannot establish a democracy in a state founded on the institutionalized superiority or exclusivity of one of religion, ethnicity or culture.  I do not support the notion of an Islamic state or a Christian state any more than I support a Jewish state.


As a citizen of the United States, I do not want my tax dollars to support institutionalized racism. 


As a Jew, I do not want my name associated with occupation or extermination.


But it is hard to speak out. 


You are accused of abandoning the tribe.


You remind them there is a larger tribe – the human race.


You are accused of supporting Hamas or Hezbollah.


You remind them you oppose violence, be it state-sponsored terror or individual terrorists.


It is an arduous and painful journey to speak out on this subject.


But sometimes we must go where we are least wanted because that is where we are most needed.


And you never know who is waiting in the wings, listening to your voice, struggling with their own doubts, ready to shift into another way of thinking, of looking at the world.


One of my friends, a life-long Zionist, bought me Jimmy Carter’s book Peace, Not Apartheid for Hanukkah.


A friend who has spent many summers in Israel confided not long ago that her father opposed Zionism in 1948.


Another friend whispered … I never agreed with my husband or his mother when they insisted Israel belonged to the Jews.


I feel hopeful today because thousands greeted Jimmy Carter when he came to Pasadena, because the University of Michigan Press will continue its contract with Pluto Press to distribute Joel Kovel’s book, Overcoming Zionism, because Israelis, Palestinians, US citizens and citizens of Switzerland, Spain, and England met last summer in Madrid to issue a one-state declaration; because there are well over a million unaffiliated Jews who are not flocking to synagogues with Israelis flags, and because those Jews who are affiliated with synagogues are beginning to have their doubts about Israel.


Otherwise why would AIPAC be launching a synagogue “initiative” – advertising for a director to strengthen the Israel lobby’s ties with organized religion?


I feel hopeful because the dream of peace, of equality, of one nation is ultimately a more compelling narrative than a nightmare of never-ending war.


To Jews who think being Jewish mandates support for a Jewish-only state, I remind them that the real answer to Auschwitz, to the pogroms, to discrimination anywhere and everywhere is not to sequester yourself in  a corner of the globe or to build walls around yourself or to use the Bible as an escrow statement, to steal other people’s land and then attempt to make those others invisible through insidious slogans such as “Israel, a land without a people for a people without a land" – to act as though Palestinians never lived in Palestine, as though the streets in Israel never had Arab names, as though the olive trees never grew branches.” 


The answer, my Jewish friends, is not to erase or transfer or confine the Palestinians, not to refuse their yearning to return home, not to bar them from marrying other Arabs, but to fight discrimination and persecution in the world at large and to reclaim what it means to be Jewish by denouncing the violence and racism being perpetrated in our name.


As a Jew, as a humanitarian, I cannot condone Israeli laws that ban marriage between Israeli Arabs and Arabs in occupied land or Jewish-only bypass roads or walls that tear apart families or policies that monopolize the water supply.


Likewise, I cannot condone cross-border rocket attacks or discotheque bombings that send blood running through the streets of Tel Aviv.


Let us acknowledge the pain and suffering of the other.


Let us hold a peace and reconciliation commission.


Let us recognize the Palestinian’s yearning to come home.


Let us, here on the outskirts of Los Angeles, where a parallel universe is possible, let us declare a one-state solution.

Give everyone a voice and a vote and a constitution that offers sanctuary to all persecuted people.

And let us remember the words of the great poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti who wrote:

      I am waiting
      for a way to be devised
      to destroy all nationalisms
      without killing anybody
      and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
      to lie down together again
      in a new rebirth of wonder.

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