By David Mandelzys
Dear Mom, Dad, your Zionist friends, and Bob Dylan too,
I’ve got news for you all: The times they are a changin’! Remember last Passover? Remember when we sat around the Seder table and listened to you rant about Israel`s victimhood? About how ethnic cleansing really isn’t that bad? And about how if they try to kill the Jews this time, we will at least take them all with us? Remember the rolled eyes of my cousins and the looks we exchanged thinking you were all nuts?
These are the four questions we were thinking of:
1) Why, on this night we dedicate to remembering our own history as an oppressed people, do we justify Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians?
2) Why, on this night when Israelis are free to celebrate, are the Palestinians locked down under curfew – as is done on most Jewish holidays?
3) Why, here in Canada, where we are a minority amongst a Christian majority, do we advocate for and support a ‘Jewish State’ in the Middle East, where the non-Jewish minority are treated as second class citizens?
4) Why should anyone think that just because we say ‘next year in Jerusalem’ at the end of our Seder, that we had a right to kick others out of their homes so that we could live there?
You see, our generation is different. We are not blind Zionist ideologues. We did not take the lesson of kill or be killed from the stories our grandparents told us about the Holocaust or the anti-Semitism they faced. Alongside our lessons about Zionism and about why the Holocaust meant that Jews need a Jewish state for themselves, we couldn’t help but absorb the need to oppose racism, to fight oppression and to not justify the subjugation of one ‘people’ for the benefit of another.
At first, we may have believed your myths about ‘Israel the good’, about the Israel Defense Forces being the world’s only ‘moral’ army, and about how it’s not Israel but ‘the Arabs’ who don’t want peace. But we have grown up now, and like our Christian peers who come to understand Santa Claus is not real, the growing majority of us have come to see myth of Israel the good as a relic of our childhood Chanukahs.
For those of us who have followed developments in the mainstream Jewish community, we see more to your ranting, too. We see a sick hierarchically organized Jewish community that is not only serving as a smokescreen to allow the ongoing genocide of a people; we also see the twisted irony that you, our parents who claim we need Israel as a safeguard from anti-Semitism, are actually putting us and the rest of World Jewry in danger. By tying our fate (and our children’s) to that of the leadership of the dying American empire, you are setting us up as a scapegoat.
Israel is an offshore American army base and the Israeli leadership and its North American lobby are so in bed with the neo-cons that our community will be suffering consequences for years. Even worse, in Canada and the United States, the lobby has deluded itself into actually thinking it controls the hand that feeds it. The lobby happily plays the role of the dirty cop on the beat using underhanded (but not so secret) ways to try and eliminate what it sees as threats to Israel’s support, or the lobby`s own domestic power. I’m sure that Harper, Bush, and their corporate masters are not disappointed that the targets the Israel lobby chooses for career or character assassination (in the media, academia, public life, etc.) typically line up with their own. But, what will happen if: Oil prices keep rising? The war in Iraq and Afghanistan keeps failing? Housing foreclosures keep increasing? And world anger at the West keeps growing?
The Jewish community’s leadership certainly makes it easy enough to paint a picture that the Jews are behind it; sometimes they even gloat. Will it really be a surprise if, when shit hits the fan, our supposed allies in the US/Canadian elite cut Israel’s strings and point the blame at home towards Jews?
Hypotheticals aside, luckily this too is changing! From the disenchanted, once isolated Jews, a new community is rising. Remember the article I wrote on “The Fall of Zionism” last October? Remember how you thought I was a dreamer and that there was no way a threat to the Zionist control of our community could ever take hold? Well, a lot has happened in the past eight months. The kids are coming home! All those ‘self-hating’ Jews who isolated themselves from the community not because of a dislike for our culture, heritage, or religion, but because they were told to leave after speaking their mind on the oppression of the Palestinian people, are finding each other, organizing, and coming back.
In Canada, for example, there is a new national umbrella organization called the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (ACJC), which represents Jews who are opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The ACJC was launched in March when internationally renowned author, journalist, keynote speaker and Canadian Jew Naomi Klein kicked off a national conference that brought together over 100 activist Jews representing 23 different Canadian Jewish groups. The purpose of the ACJC is to provide a counterweight to Jewish organizations that serve as apologists for Israel’s crimes, such as the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). The ACJC has since put action to words. Recently, for example, it lent support to the Canadian Union of Postal Workers when it became the first national Union in North America to courageously pass a resolution supporting the Palestinian campaign for a Boycott of Israel, and recognizing that Israel has become an apartheid state.
Likewise, in May the ACJC, along with other anti-occupation Jewish groups across North America and the world, heeded the call of the Palestinian people to declare the 60th anniversary of the Naqba (disaster) as No Time to Celebrate (this is a common slogan being used in protest of Israel’s celebrations). Protests were organized worldwide, and in Canada and the United States Jews protested alongside Palestinians and other concerned citizens. In San Francisco, twenty Jews were (unjustly) arrested trying to make themselves heard as Jews opposed to Israel`s crimes. In Britain, over one hundred Jews signed an open letter published in The Guardian, one of the United Kingdom’s leading newspapers, declaring they would not celebrate Israel’s birthday. In Paris, French Jews hung the Palestinian flag on the Eiffel Tower in protest. Here in Canada’s capital of Ottawa, Jews, Palestinians, and other concerned individuals formed a one hundred person-strong DMsilent protest outside the official Israel celebrations at the Convention Center on May 8th, and then repeated it a few weeks later at another event at the National Arts Center on May 20th. Despite the money and glamour being thrown into making 60 years of Israeli oppression a propaganda campaign to whitewash Israel’s crimes, Jews around the world are promising not to celebrate (one US-based online pledge not to celebrate has over 500 Jewish signatures). The actions I am describing did not have millions of dollars for publicity like the official events organized by the Jewish community’s elites. Instead, they grew through grass root networks and traveled by word-of-mouth from committed activist Jew to committed activist Jew. The Jews taking part in these events are the ones who are informed and willing to put themselves on the line to oppose the mainstream Jewish community’s official position, and I am growing increasingly confident that their support runs deep.
This letter may sound angry, and at some points it is. It upsets me to hear our Passover conversations, and I won’t just quietly roll my eyes anymore. But the reason for that is love and respect. We are forming a new community, with a humanist core that ties us together strongly. Seders are being held that tell the story of the Palestinian enslavement along with that of our own. Events are being held where Jews celebrate Jewish culture from a place that recognizes how our history gives us a responsibility to speak out against oppression. I will continue to celebrate my heritage as part of our family, just like all those supposed ‘self-hating’ Jews will celebrate with me, as Jews and as part of the Jewish community. We are committed to justice, and through this we are finding our Jewish souls. And when you are ready to join the multitudes of other Jews opposing Israeli oppression, our door will be wide open.
your Young Non-Zionist Kids
Copyright 2008 (Cult)u’re Magazine. Reprinted with permission of (Cult)u’re per Creative Commons. Photograph by Ryan Davies. No further republication without copyright owner’s permission. Visit (Cult)u’re Magazine at CultureMagazine.com