Compiled by Mike Medow for Critical Moment
Young Jews Speak Out for Lebanon and Palestine
A recent item in the Detroit Free Press, entitled “Detroit Area Speaks Out,” featured four quotes from local people responding to Israel’s war on Lebanon. Two quotes were from Arab individuals from Dearborn lamenting the destruction of Lebanon, and two from Jewish individuals -- one from Birmingham, the other from West Bloomfield -- stating their beliefs that “Israel’s army had the right to protect us and secure our borders” and that “Israel is fighting terrorists.”
That section in the Free Press, inspired the creation of this collection in Critical Moment of young Jewish voices in the Detroit area who are not parroting Israeli propaganda, but are speaking out in support of the peoples of Lebanon and Palestine currently under assault by Israel. As Jews of conscience in Southeast Michigan, we need to work harder to break the kind of dichotomy that was presented in the Free Press. Mainstream Jewish organizations and the corporate media work hard to maintain the illusion that all Jewish Americans “stand with Israel.” We need to shatter that illusion and assert the fact that there are a growing number of Jewish people who do not support Israel’s policy of endless war, occupation and oppression.
This collection of statements from young Jewish people in the Southeast Michigan area, was compiled throughout early August, during Israel’s bombardment of south Lebanon and Gaza.
For some time now I have felt strong in my convictions about Israel/Palestine, but considered it to be too personal of a subject to publicly debate. I have sat on the fence for too long in fear of being ostracized from my “community.” But I now feel that I can no longer remain idle while the Jewish settler movement continues to occupy stolen Palestinian land, and the Israeli army continues their racist crusade against the Palestinian people. As a Jew, I cannot, in any way, support and sympathize with Israel’s right to “self-defense” in the current war against Lebanon, because it is not about self-defense, but rather Israel’s justifications for stealing more land, and seizing more power at any cost.
-Matthew Jaffe of Royal Oak
I am very sad. Not the kind of sad that can be grieved in the moment and then washed away, but the kind of sad that is constant and clouding, like a dull aching that is continuously in the back of my head. Every time I turn on the TV or the radio, or glance at a paper I am reminded of my sadness as I watch the images of Lebanon being obliterated. I am equally saddened by the lack of images and information on the destruction of Palestine. And, as this is being done in the name of keeping my people safe, I think of my relatives lost in Auschwitz who were also obliterated in the name of keeping people safe. I remember many dinners with my father where he would look pained, talk about the holocaust and discuss his hatred of Germans. I wonder in decades to come how many dinners people will be having with their fathers learning how to hate me.
-Rebbecah Kessel of Detroit
As someone who identifies culturally as a Jewish person, I am outraged by the continued atrocities committed by the Israeli government against the people of Lebanon and Palestine. I am equally outraged by the continued support of the United States. I am also an aspiring history teacher, a passion of mine that has developed as a result of not wanting to see history repeat itself. Sure enough, history is repeating itself and I wish more Jewish people and all people could see that we are all just being used as pawns by those in power.
-Kenny Rose of Detroit
As a Jew of color growing up in Oak Park, my mom would tell me to keep my Judaism a secret when going over to play with friends of Chaldean, Arab Muslim or Christian heritage. This warning was made out of fear that people in the neighborhood would treat us differently knowing our background. In the end I found that when my friends and their families did find out I was Jewish, there was always a mutual respect for the value of each of our lives and cultures. My personal experience tells me that there is no inherent reason for hatred or antagonism between Jews and Arabs. But today, the actions of Israel’s government and military are the greatest threat to co-existence between Jews and Arabs.
Israel is failing at its alleged mission of creating Jewish safety. As long as Israel uses violence and hate in the name of “self-defense,” and as long as it claims to speak for all Jews everywhere, the image of Jews everywhere will be seen as violent and hateful. Jews who are not in support of what Israel is doing to Lebanon and Palestine should know that there are more of us out here. Until we come together as Jews to speak out against the atrocities Israel’s government and military commits against Lebanon and Palestine, and until we stop silently supporting these injustices carried out in our name, these war crimes will pretend to represent every Jewish voice. I hope more of us can feel the urgency and courage to make an alternative Jewish perspective visible.
-Carinne Silverman-Maddox of Detroit
About three years ago I told my dad: “Hey, dad, my friend (also Jewish), went to Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement. She came back and told me what she saw with her own eyes. Israeli troops armed with U.S. tanks and other weaponry dictated every facet of life there. Tanks would patrol some parts of town every night, and would sometimes demolish a house with the family inside. There were heavily fortified roads built for Israelis and Israeli troops only; the other roads’ intersections were impassible by vehicles from troops leaving huge piles of building debris and rubble from demolished homes in them. People were forced to stay in their homes by sniper-enforced curfews that sometimes were only lifted for two hours a day. These curfews could go on for weeks. Often when a curfew would be lifted and the people would try to get provisions at the market, troops would suddenly re-impose curfew and open fire on the people. Clearly the people were being terrorized, yet any Palestinians acting in self-defense were considered ‘terrorists.’
My dad said I had no authority to tell him these things. He hadn’t heard any of this on television or in the papers, and I was too young to know. My dad’s whole family died in Poland and Russia during the Holocaust, and in a sense he has never recovered from the horrors of that war which ended before he was born. Striking, how often the wounds of the past blind us to our own capacity to wound, maim, and kill. How after years of anticipated discrimination, one may become perpetually victimized, steeled and unfeeling, jaded to love and acceptance.
I wish to state very clearly for the record that I wish to honor the legacy of my family who died in the Holocaust by standing firmly in solidarity with those currently under assault by Israel, and for that matter with all peoples under the gods or godlessness of their choice, despite the despots that exploit us as cannon fodder and beasts of burden.
Identifying more closely with my nomadic Jewish roots than ever,
-W. Rosenthal of Chelsea
After having grown up with Jewish holidays and gatherings serving not only as celebrations of family and faith but also as space for lively political discussion, I have seen our arguments and dialogues altered by mainstream media coverage of the Middle East. I have seen some of my relatives, both young and old, transition from sincerely believing in a viscous kind of Zionism, to slowly starting to consider other viewpoints.
This current war has been a catalyzing agent for some of my family -- the people I’ve had the most heated discussions with, who have been on the verge of tears or screams when I’ve expressed opinions critical of israel and Zionism. I have been surprised by recent conversations with some of my relatives, and have discovered that some of the people whom I’d given up arguments with in the past have suddenly become critical of Israel and Zionism. This has put me in a position that I’ve never been in with my family in the past: we are all suddenly uniting around similar critical political perspectives. I hope this is a moment in which families like mine can join together in fighting the dominant forces claiming to represent us.
-Ben Chodoroff of Detroit
It is important for me to be in Palestine now working in support of Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation, and for rights and self-determination for Palestinian people. I have chosen to work in solidarity with Palestinian non-violent struggle and am trying to bring international media attention to the collective punishment and human rights abuses of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers and settlers.
I am ashamed when an Israeli military Jeep with a star of David on it shoots at kids standing on the sidewalk with me, or when men wearing kippas and tzitzim throw rocks at Palestinian children and encourage their kids to throw rocks and spit on them. I am really ashamed to say that I am Jewish after witnessing the victims of Jewish brutality. And I am disgusted by the arrogance and racism that not only keeps Jews silent, but applauds Israel’s inhumane policies.
-Lauren Heidtke from Michigan, currently living in the West Bank
I have noticed that for many Jewish people -- the current situation, rather than revealing Israel’s brutality as it destroyed an entire country, only confirms their belief that Israel is an underdog besieged by merciless Arab hordes out to destroy the Jewish people. In response to this, I think that more Jewish people must be more visible, outspoken, and organized about their criticisms of Israel and of Zionism. We cannot remain silent as violence is done in our name.
We need to create ways to talk about these issues with people who don’t have a radical critique of Israel, but might agree on many other points. There are many Jewish supporters of Israel that I think of as potential allies rather than a group to write off. These liberal, progressive Jews already have a commitment to social justice, human rights, and anti-imperialism, and need to be shown how these values can and must be applied to their beliefs about Israel.
-Max Sussman of Ann Arbor