Young Anti-Zionist Jews Talk about their Beliefs and Activism

I’ve blogged several times in my pieces attacking Binyamin Netanyahu, the Likud party and the Israel lobby, and the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour centre-left, that there are many very courageous Jews and Israelis, who are also strongly opposed to Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. This is another video I found on YouTube. It’s for an organisation, Young, Left and Jewish, and has the organisation’s website address at the end. In it, anti-Zionist Jewish young people describe their beliefs and activities to oppose and make people aware of the persecution of the Arabs.

One Jewish young woman describes how the trips to Israel provided by the Jewish organisations are designed to inculcate support for Israel, even going so far, if they can, to encourage Jews to immigrate there. Another young woman begins her story by telling a bit of her own family history. She is descended from two Holocaust survivors and a Nazi officer, and so is connected to both sides of the Holocaust. She shows a family photograph album, with photos of her parents and grandparents, including the tattoo of the number the Nazis’ had placed on the arms of their victims. She then describes how, on a trip to Israel, she and her friends encountered a group of Arab Israelis. She and they sat down to talk, and they discovered that they had much in common through their experiences of persecution, the Jews from the Nazis and the Arabs from the Israelis. She states that this is causing immense pain and outrage, and that this will continue for decades to come. Intercut with this bit is historical footage of Jews being herded into the cattle trucks to the death camps. Another young woman describes how she and her friends put on a play by Jews, for Jews, to explore and explain about the persecution of the Palestinians by the Israeli state. Yet another young woman tells how she heckled Ariel Sharon in order to tell ‘truth to power’.

In my posts about this issue, I’ve described the fierce hostility those Jews, who do campaign on the behalf of the Palestinians face from the Zionist establishment. Just as anti-Zionist gentiles are smeared as anti-Semites, Jews are accused of being self-hating, or ‘not proper Jews’. Or worse. Another young woman in this video talks about going to a Zionist meeting to hand round pamphlets and flyers about the Israeli occupation of Palestine. She describes how she and others like her are accused of being ‘self-hating’, or because they oppose Israel, they must somehow be in favour of terrorism or Yasser Arafat. She describes how she was cursed and spat at, with women she describes as looking like typical Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish) grandmothers raising their middle finger to her. One woman even turned away and covered her child’s eyes.
One Rabbi, R. Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun magazine, states that he has received death threat for his opinions.

The video is accompanied by a couple of pieces of traditional Jewish song.

I was particularly struck by the young woman, who found a common thread of experience through her family’s suffering under the Holocaust, and the Arab Israelis’ persecution by the Israeli state. The Palestinians refer to the destruction of their country as the Nakba, which means the ‘disaster’ or ‘catastrophe’. Amos Oz in his book, The Israelis, describes how just as the Israelis attempt to recover the history of the numerous Jewish communities destroyed in the Holocaust, so the Palestinians similarly attempt to document and trace their communities, which have been exterminated by the Israelis.

He also includes in his book accounts and statements by Israeli soldiers of their mixed feelings, including guilt and sorrow, at seeing Arabs forced off their lands and from their property. Several of them felt that it could easily have been them made to depart from their homes by an overwhelming power. It struck me that these feelings, like those of the young woman in this video, came from the collective Jewish experience of being repeatedly under attack, and forced to move on through violence, including armed force. The Holocaust is the best known, and most extreme and horrific of this, but just one example in the long persecution of the Jewish people. And some soldiers – unfortunately, not all – were bound to have profound misgivings when they found themselves ordered to do precisely the same thing to others.

Opposition to Israel and its systematic persecution of its indigenous population isn’t a simple case of anti-Semitism and Jewish self-hatred. it is a response by principled women and men to the persecution of yet another people by a colonial settler state. Very many of those who support the Palestinians against the likes of Netanyahu are sincere anti-racists, including Jews, who feel that this persecution runs counter to the teachings of their own religion. I put up a video a few days ago of a mass meeting of Orthodox Jews in New York to protest against the state of Israel and the conscription of Yeshiva students into the armed forces. One of the rabbis speaking declared that Israel was sinning by turning the Jews, a peaceful people, into a militaristic nation. He called this ‘the hands of Esau’. Oz in the Israelis also claims that the Jewish and Israeli peoples are not militaristic, giving a Yiddish word for militarism. This, translated into English, literally means, ‘the silly games of gentiles’.

Unfortunately, Israel is a highly militarised society, which has had the ethnic cleansing of the original people of Palestine as its goal from the start. If there is to be a just peace, and genuine reconciliation between Israelis and Arabs in the Middle East, it will be done by principled people like those in this video.

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