People talk about being “pro-Israel” as being in support of the occupation. I disagree. I love Israel just as I love the US — because it has been a special place to me and members of my community. I have travelled to Israel, learned Hebrew, and love the frank, tender Israeli friends in my life. Yet, just as Thanksgiving brings to mind the history of indigenous massacre, enslavement, and genocide, my relationship with Israel is incomplete if it does not include a critique of British and Israeli settler colonialism and its displacement and destruction of Palestinians. I cannot have the allegiance to Israel that we were taught to have in Hebrew school or United Synagogue Youth. I am a proud American Jew, rooted in the plurality of my Jewish community and my organizing communities here in the US. I hold myself accountable for recognizing the ways indigenous land has been taken and indigenous peoples have been slain here in the US…and when I think of Israel, I hold that same tension.
I believe holding that tension does not run counter to being a patriot of the US or a supporter of Israel. In fact, it is the best way for me to be an American, as it keeps me accountable to the democratic ideal. Similarly, holding the tension of the occupation together with my love for Israel is the best way to be pro-Israel, pro-Jew, and pro-human. It is the most powerful way to fight anti-Semitism, because in showing the world that we will not put up with injustice within our own ranks, Jews can earn the trust and support of other marginalized populations.
I joined IfNotNow as soon as I heard it existed. I met a member of the Austin Hive at the Women’s March this past January, and was excited for the opportunity to join a concrete but ideologically-driven fight against the occupation with other Jews. The community I have found among my fellow hive members here in Austin has been a bonus, but it’s come to be an invaluable part of the fight. I feel so lucky to have community with Jews who, like me, cannot think about their Judaism or Israel without thinking about our obligation to push back against the trauma and propaganda-induced psyche that perpetuates the occupation and leads fellow Jews to avoid it.
For me, serving as a leader in the Jewish movement against occupation is about carrying on a family legacy. For nearly 50 years, my father has been researching Arabs in Israel, encouraging many American Jewish undergraduates to challenge the myths and half-truths about Israel that so many of us are fed by mainstream Jewish institutions. While I admired his work, I never felt I could successfully stand up to Israel advocacy groups without being quickly intimidated into silence. I turned instead to fighting racism in the US.
If Not Now is giving me the platform, community, and information I need to lend my voice and leadership skills toward ending American support of the occupation.