Ever since going on Birthright, I was so revolted by the treatment of Palestinians that I ran from any association with Israel. And my reactiveness made it difficult to have any dialogue on the topic. Every time I encountered somebody with even moderately different viewpoints, conversation quickly spiraled into argument. I was completely incapable of hearing the opinions of those with different views than me. It was more than unconstructive, it was alienating me from the Jewish community.
These tiny doses of life under occupation, these microcosms of the arbitrary violence that Palestinians experience on a daily basis, took me out of my “normal.” It forced me to examine my atypical privilege, not through a book or a movie but through active participation in the struggle I claimed to care about. I can acknowledge the differences between my life and that of a Palestinian, but how entitled have I become in my environment of predictability, my ability to control my surroundings, the routine in my fishbowl? Am I ready to give up elements of my own safety, like so many of my friends did on our CJNV trip, to fight for a world where everyone’s “normal” is free of state violence?
And yet in the United States, all I found was blind, unquestioning support for the Israeli government. Before I became politically awakened, this bored me. After, this deeply troubled me. I became exhausted at defending myself against dubious accusations that questioned my dedication to Israel — even from people who had never been and who had no immediate plans to go outside of Birthright. Complexity was completely missing from my American Jewish life. So instead of persisting, I avoided American Jewish institutions altogether.
50 years of occupation is too much, 70 years of occupation is too much, and I know unequivocally that this is not my Judaism.
We are here to remind American Jewish institutions that there will never be an excuse for dehumanization and occupation. We are here to remind everyone that we can acknowledge the necessity of ending occupation as a strong Jewish community that also seeks to improve conditions for diaspora Jewry. Our incomparable position is that fighting for a future where we discuss peace without sacrificing the freedom and dignity of all people is the first step towards an actual solution.