On Sunday, IfNotNow NYC was one of several groups that disrupted the Celebrate Israel Day Parade in a series of coordinated actions led by Jewish Voice for Peace. I’m still processing a lot of the day, but I’ve been thinking a lot about young Naomi, and the sadness that she felt when her mother, taking issue with the parade’s messaging and sponsors, wouldn’t let her attend with her day school contingent. Seeing my classmates the next day, fresh off of a spring Sunday in Central Park and wearing that year’s parade t-shirt made me feel like I had missed out on something truly great.
My heart broke for the kids that I saw who could have been me, with shirts, hats, and tote bags commemorating 50 years of a “unified Jerusalem” (as Israel’s “eternal capital”) and waving Israeli flags taller than them. I saw the college students marching with Hillel International giving my friends dirty looks and booing them. I saw groups that really should know better joining in on the parade’s celebration of the erosion of Palestinian rights and Jewish morality.
Let’s be real. It takes a staggering amount of head-burial-in-the-sand on the part of the Jewish community to want to participate in this parade. To be clear, the Hebron Fund (which helps fund the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arba), the One Israel Fund (which literally had a float with a heart over the words “Judea and Samaria”), and the Kushner Family Charitable Trust (which I probably shouldn’t even have to explain) are all major sponsors. We cannot let those who uphold endless occupation claim to speak for American Jewry, and even those who can offer up a flimsy “I don’t agree with the settlements” should find a different way of celebrating their Judaism or their Zionism.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Occupation of Palestine. Sunday, after the parade disruption, I led my first-ever teach-in, where we read works spanning from 1967 — 2017, all calling out the American Jewish community’s complicity in economically and socially upholding the occupation’s brutality. Teaching children the word “reunification” instead of “occupation” is exactly how we do that. Fifty years is a dark and sobering anniversary, and our work in changing the hearts and minds of our community is definitely cut out for us. Still, I believe that we will win, and in the meantime, I’m so grateful to all of my partners and teachers in the fight to build a better world.