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
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.
Americans, our focus is on ending
organization, we call for negotiations, not military interventions or mass
incarcerations of the 1.5 million Israeli prisoners in
for Peace was born in the midst of the Israeli invasion of
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.
Bustany invited me on his show on KPFK and I did my best to focus on the
criminality of the
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.
weeks after my campaign for congress ended,
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
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?
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
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
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?
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
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
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.
up trying to get a straight answer out of me, but she covered our protest in
front of the
Personally, I think it is too late for a two-state
What is left of the Palestinian state?
Jewish-only bypass roads running like varicose veins through the
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.
citizen of the
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.
who has spent many summers in
friend whispered … I never agreed with my
husband or his mother when they insisted
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
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.
here on the outskirts of
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.