I was born in Israel to American parents. My mother and father came to Israel and found kinsmanship in Israeli culture that they had not experienced in the United States. As someone who exists across two national consciousness, I can attest to this kinsmanship — it is missing from my everyday American life. My parents love Israel and spent the greater part of their lives there. But they also saw the dark, unconscionable effects of Zionist expansion, and actively worked to correct it for years before I was born. This was my normal — engaged Jewish citizens who were morally outraged by the occupation. So I can speak firsthand to the nuance and multiplicity that exists in Israelis and in Jews who live in the region. And yet, over and over again I encounter what I find to be a disturbing side of current American Jewish politics, especially as we enter the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War: the narrative that Jews who criticize Israel are self-hating.
As I grew up in the Midwest, I understood the ability to exist in complexity. Traveling back and forth from Israel to the States, each time with a growing awareness of what Israel sacrifices morally to achieve “homeland,” I saw the value in Israeli citizenship while maintaining that the occupation is a travesty. As I educated myself, I began to have immense sensitivity to the deepening threat to Jews before World War II, while still staunchly rejecting stereotypes of Palestinians as terrorists and thieves. I met people who fought for a displaced and oppressed people, and engaged in impossible conversations about land rights, understanding that there is no simple answer to the future.
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.
This in large part brought me to IfNotNow. We are Jews with a wide range of political affiliations who share a commitment to resist the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. As someone who has seen first-hand the architectural, social, and physical violence that the occupation enacts on Palestinians, I can say unequivocally that we have very little to celebrate of the Six Day War’s outcome. But I resent the idea that my dedication to addressing the evils of this conflict means that I do not believe that Israel has the “right” to exist. Israel does exist, and I have no plans to work against that. But I do plan to work against the ravaging violence of the occupation and to work against the idea that Israeli politics represent American Jewish sentiment. The time has come for Jews of the world to say enough is enough. End the occupation.