‘Dear American Jewish community, It’s time to talk about Zionism’

by Benjamin Silverman – 1 August 2014, Mondoweiss

http://mondoweiss.net/2014/08/american-community-zionism.html

Ft. Lauderdale, FL Woman with sign is Elena Stein

Dear American Jewish Community,

Its time for us to talk. I know for many of you that you still don’t want to talk – many of you have spent the last few weeks effectively covering your ears and eyes, endlessly repeating IDF talking points, as if they will magically make the reality disappear – but if there was ever a time to take the plunge and really look in the mirror at where we have gotten ourselves, this is the time. It’s time for us to talk about Israel, it’s time to talk about Zionism.

Those of us, those Jews who have spoken out against Israel’s inhumane actions or Zionism’s warped nationalistic beliefs, have never been well received within our community. When we have argued for human rights and international law, we have been ostracized and excluded from all aspects of mainstream Jewish life. When we have argued against an exclusionary, segregationist regime, we have been attacked with the most vicious of slanders; “self-hating Jews,” “Nazi collaborators,” and worse. When we have tried to stand up against colonialist violence and occupations, we have been met with angry rejection from our closest friends and family. When we have tried to reaffirm the values that Palestinians are human beings, deserving of equal rights and a future with dignity, we have been met with the full force of an incredibly powerful and well-funded Pro-Israel public relations machine. A climate of neo-McCarthyism has reigned within side the Jewish community stifling all debate, dissent and free thought on the issues of Israel, Palestine and Zionism. But its time for all of that to end.

I understand that the last few weeks may have been hard for you. From a young age we all have been raised – indoctrinated even – on Pro-Israel ideology. Every facet of our Jewish life has been infected with Zionism, from our youth groups, to our synagogues, to our Hebrew schools, to our family Seders. “The world hates us, Israel protects us, there we are free and safe and democratic”– we’ve come to believe. But in the last few weeks we have seen that supposed progressive, freedom loving, democratic Israel unmask itself before the whole world as a lynch mob society. We American Jews have been tricked into projecting all of our hopes and insecurities onto Israel, and to have those beautiful dreams and illusions shattered so brutally can be difficult. But for all the emotional pain we may be going through in seeing our Star of David pasted on the bombs being dropped on innocent civilians, it’s nothing compared to the pain being felt by those civilians.

Palestinians have suffered greatly at our hands. They have been violently forced from their land and homes to appease the Holocaust guilt of Europe and the greed of Zionist colonists. They have been forced to live under an openly Jim Crow, discriminatory and segregationist “Jewish Only” apartheid state. And the whole process has become endemic in its repetition, with wave after wave after wave of land theft, oppression, segregation and violence. The Nakba has been made into a continuous, never ending, 66-year-old ongoing catastrophe. Palestinians have been bombed, shot, detained, brutalized, tortured, dehumanized, occupied, and worse. All in our name.

We Jews have a lot of blood on our hands, we have been made complicit in these inhuman acts, and we have a responsibility now to do something about it. We need to rethink what “Never Again” really means; does it mean for us “Never Again for Jews Only,” or does it mean “Never Again For Everyone”?

I am not asking or expecting you, the whole American Jewish community, to renounce everything you have been taught to believe overnight, just yet. But I am asking and expecting you to open your minds a little, to start questioning what you have been taught. The Pro-Israel bias in our community has corrupted and stifled open free discourse for far too long. The exclusion of any dissenting Jewish opinion outside of the most narrow of ultra-Zionism has led our people into a cul-de-sac of intellectual dishonesty, moral poverty and political thuggery, where questioning is discouraged and obedience is rewarded. This must come to end, now, if we are to redeem ourselves and pave a path for the future.

All I ask is the following; that you reopen our community to dissenting opinion, that you open up every synagogue, every Jewish community center, every Hillel, every Hebrew School, to a free debate and discussion on Israel, Palestine and the core beliefs of Zionism. I and others like me, want to make our case to you, directly, as Jews to Jews, on why the Palestinians deserve our solidarity, on why Israeli militarism must be opposed, on why the “Jewish State” of Israel necessarily leads to apartheid, and on why the nationalistic and supremacist beliefs of Zionism have led to the corruption of our people with the sins of racism and colonialism.

I don’t expect a warm reception. But I do expect at least a moment of your time, and a part of your attention. You owe it to yourself, to your people, to your children, and to all Palestinians, to enter into this discussion with open minds and open hearts and start confronting the hard questions. Please help us in taking this moment and reassess who we are, what we have done, and where we want to go from here.

I look forward to the discussions ahead.

Benjamin Silverman isa long-time Palestinian solidarity activist, and self-identified Jewish Ant-Zionist, involved in Jewish Voices for Peace andStudents for Justice in Palestine at The New School. Jewish Voice for Peace welcomes all people, Zionist, non-Zionist, or anti-Zionist, who stand up for justice and human rights.
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One Response to ‘Dear American Jewish community, It’s time to talk about Zionism’

  1. Abdeen Jabara says:

    This is excellent. Let the conversation about Zionism and its dark side begin now, this day, this hour, this minute. Since I’m an Arab American I have no voice in this since as I see it this is
    Essentially an inter communal struggle. Thank you Benjamin Silverman and as the poet writes in Abou Ben Adhem, “may your tribe increase”

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