The struggle for human decency, Orwell argued, is also a struggle for honest language. Our community’s complicity in the human nightmare in Gaza should fill every American Jew with shame. The first step toward ending that complicity is to stop lying to ourselves.
“In our time,” wrote George Orwell in 1946, “political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.” British colonialism, the Soviet gulag and America’s dropping of an atomic bomb, he argued, “can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face.” So how do people defend the indefensible? Through “euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” By obscuring the truth.
So it is, more than 70 years later, with Israeli policy toward the Gaza Strip. The truth is too brutal to honestly defend. Why are thousands of Palestinians risking their lives by running toward the Israeli snipers who guard the fence that encloses Gaza? Because Gaza is becoming uninhabitable. That’s not hyperbole. The United Nations says that Gaza will be “unlivable” by 2020, maybe sooner.
Hamas bears some of the blame for that: Its refusal to recognize Israel, its decades of terrorist attacks and its authoritarianism have all worsened Gaza’s plight. Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority bears some of the blame too. So does Egypt.
But the actor with the greatest power over Gaza is Israel. Israeli policies are instrumental in denying Gaza’s people the water, electricity, education and food they need to live decent lives.
“It doesn’t matter to me if they shoot me or not. Death or life — it’s the same thing.”
— Saber al-Gerim
No one would ever pick out Saber al-Gerim from the crowds of Palestinians demonstrating against Israel along the heavily guarded fence that has helped turn the Gaza Strip into an open-air prison.
Not for his youthful appearance. At 22, he wears ripped jeans and white sneakers, has a modish haircut and carries a few extra pounds from too many months without work.
Not for his anger. Screaming “Allahu akbar!” and hurling stones with a sling, or straining to pull a cable hooked onto Israel’s barbed-wire barrier in hopes of tearing it apart, he is just one in a fevered multitude, a protagonist in nobody’s drama but his own.
Not even for his willingness to risk death, or his dream of going home to a patch of land he has never seen and cannot really visualize.
“Equality and justice are strategic threats. As a member of the Knesset, I am asked to be loyal to racism, loyal to apartheid laws, loyal to my oppressor. In Arab schools, we cannot study our own history, our own literature. We cannot control our own textbooks. We learn that we don’t have any special relation to our homeland. We pay taxes so that our children can learn how inferior we are in our homeland. We must thank Israel every day for not expelling us in 1948.”
— Haneen Zoabi, Israeli member of the Knesset
Haneen Zoabi is a member of the Israeli Knesset and the first woman elected to the Israeli Knesset on an Arab party list. She’s an unrelenting advocate for equal citizenship rights for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and despite repeated attacks of all kinds, she remains unrelenting in her call for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian Lands.
Zoabi considers herself a straight up feminist. She says “real feminism must acknowledge the discrimination against Arab women in Israel, and real feminism must know to identify with and struggle alongside them, at the national, civil and social levels.”
Zoabi joined forces with the Balad Party a year after it was founded in 1997. A key guiding principle of the Party is to maintain a one-third quota for women candidates. The party advocates for the rights of Palestinians, legally designated as ‘Arab Israelis’. Zoabi has been banned from the Knesset five times for taking strong stands in support of Palestinian rights.
Pushing for Change: Mideast Focus Ministry Film Series V
“Disturbing the Peace” is a story of the human potential unleashed when we stop participating in a story that no longer serves us, and with the power of our convictions, risk and push to actions that create new possibilities. This film follows former enemy combatants who have joined together to challenge the status quo and say “Enough.”
Our concern is to help balance the limited and confusing media coverage of the Holy Land. We use compelling films as an entry point for reflection and discussion. As Christians, we respond to Christ’s call to seek justice and love the oppressed. As Americans, we ask: Can we reconcile this calling with our government’s massive financial support of Israeli military operations? We hope the time will come when Jews, Muslims and Christians will again come together in harmony in the Holy Land.
In this series, we see how people pushed to bring about a safe country for the Jewish people, and how today others are still push- ing for safety and change. Do our efforts for change lead to peace and justice . . . or not?
“The only place on earth that Donald Trump is beloved, admired, adored, and appreciated is Israel. The only place that Benjamin Netanyahu is admired, adored and beloved is the United States. If this is not shared values, what is shared values?”
— Gideon Levy speaking at the AIPAC Summit, Mar 2018
I first learned of Gideon Levy many years ago, during a casual conversation with an Israeli human rights activist. He told me that he had asked Levy why was he such a serious critic of Israel’s government and its policies with the Palestinians. Levy, whose own father was a German Jewish refugee who had settled in Israel, responded, “I don’t want Israelis to say that they didn’t know.”
Levy frequently travels to and writes about the Occupied Territories. As a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Levy wants to show the evils of the occupation and how it hurts not only the Palestinians but also the Israel that he loves so much. “I am an Israeli patriot. I want to be proud of my country. I want us to do the right thing,” he declared. His writing has gained him several prestigious awards, but also the hatred of many Israelis and several personal attacks.
“Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation. I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance. Israel was created exactly 70 years ago as a haven for refugees from the Holocaust. But the mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power.”
— Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman said she wouldn’t attend a prize ceremony in Israel because of her feelings about its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and “atrocities” committed on his watch, but emphasized that she would not shun Israel itself.
The Jerusalem-born director and actor, posting Friday night on Instagram, explained her decision not to accept in person the $2 million Genesis Prize, which calls itself the “Jewish Nobel,” after a day of speculation in the media that she was turning down the prize because she was joining the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. The prize foundation had the day before announced Portman’s decision not to attend the ceremony.
“I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony,” said Portman, who in 2011 won a best actress Oscar.
“By the same token, I am not part of the BDS movement and do not endorse it,” Portman said.
Trump, who formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced the embassy relocation on December 6, had mulled attending the inauguration, but reportedly decided against it.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is to lead a delegation of 250 people from the United States, including some 40 politicians, to the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem next month, Channel 10 news reported Sunday.
Mnuchin will be accompanied by US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, as well as 40 senators and representatives, the report said.
The Times of Israel first reported last week that Kushner and Ivanka Trump were likely to attend.
“Not only is the purpose of the settlement regime discriminatory in itself, it is further maintained by a system of discriminatory measures, severely depriving Palestinians of their fundamental rights.”
Palestinian diplomats in Geneva have filed a complaint against Israel for what they say are breaches of its obligations under a UN anti-racism treaty, triggering what may be a lengthy and high-profile investigation.
The complaint, handed in by the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim Khraishi, to the body that monitors the implementation of the UN convention, accuses Israel of policies and practices that have “the common aim of displacing and replacing the Palestinian people, for the purpose of maintaining a colonial occupation.”
Violations in the occupied territories, which the complaint defined as the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, sought to maintain “a Jewish demographic majority in the entirety of historic Palestine,” claims the 350-page document, of which the Guardian has seen a summary.
“After decades of egregious human rights violations against Palestinians, Israel’s recent massacre of peaceful protesters in Gaza has made its brand so toxic that even well-known Israeli-American cultural figures, like Natalie Portman, now refuse to blatantly whitewash, or art-wash, Israeli crimes and apartheid policies.”
— Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) statement
In an unexpected rebuke, Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman has declined to attend the June award ceremony for the Genesis Prize, sometimes nicknamed the “Jewish Nobel,” citing recent and “distressing” events in Israel. Portman, in declining to receive the prize, will still receive $2 million in prize money, which she previously announced she would be donating to programs focused on advancing gender equality. Her mention of “distressing” events in Israel is an apparent reference to the brutal crackdown and murder of unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli soldiers.
Palestinians in Gaza have been participating in the “March of Great Return” since March 30. The march is aimed at securing the right of exiled Palestinians to return to historical Palestine. The protests have been widely attended — attracting thousands of participants — but have been targeted by the Israeli military, which has opened fire on the protesters numerous times, killing at least 35, including journalists, and wounding nearly 2,000 people.
Israel’s government has come under fire for its repression of the protests, but Israel has defended the actions of its soldiers, claiming that the protesters presented a threat to the border wall. However, many Jews — including Israelis — have been critical of Israel’s response and lack of concern regarding the deaths of protesters.
“The decision not to let him into the country was made for a series of reasons in connection to his activity in the BDS movement and his promotion of boycotts against Israel.”
— Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry statement
France requested that elected officials be permitted to enter Israel and the Palestinian territories, its Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, a day after Israel prevented the mayor of a Paris suburb from entering because of his support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
A spokesperson for the ministry said Patrice Leclerc’s planned visit was part of attempts to supervise implementation of international programs in the Palestinian territories.
Israel’s Interior Ministry said that Leclerc, who is mayor of Gennevilliers, was blocked from entering Israel through Jordan, while the French ministry said Tuesday that he was detained for several hours on the Israel-Jordan border.