Opinions & Commentary

To regain liberals’ support, Israel must make peace

By Shifra Freewoman


Shifra Freewoman is a Brooklinebased published writer, visual and performance artist, poet, storyteller and feminist- and racial-justice activist. Shifra Freewoman is a Brooklinebased published writer, visual and performance artist, poet, storyteller and feminist- and racial-justice activist. As the person who spoke at the forum of Knesset members at Kehillath Israel on March 29 [“MKs’ consensus on Palestinians stuns liberal U.S. Jewry,” April 7, p. 1], I would like to respond to some negative reactions I have received from fellow Jews, including in a letter to this newspaper [“CJP head must address ignorance on Israel,” May 12, p. 6].

While I was emotional, because I care very deeply and passionately about the issue of Israel and Palestine, my statement was simply true; i.e., Israel is losing support among many, many American Jews. Please don’t let the truth of what I said be lost in the notion that I am simply an emotional woman, nor have what I said be trivialized or me be patronized and dismissed, because I show emotion. The current situation is utterly heartbreaking. I wish more people got emotional about this crisis and worked to end it. Many, many Jews no longer feel that we can support the policies of the State of Israel.

The issue is not about having a better public relations or information campaign to counter what is out there. What must happen is for Israel to change how it treats the Palestinian people. We are not upset with Israel because of misinformation. We are not misinformed. We are upset because of gross injustices. The way to win our support is stop the injustices and do everything in your power to create peace and justice.

Specifically, Israel needs to stop stealing Palestinian land, building new settlements, knocking down homes both in the territories and in Jerusalem, enforcing curfews, and creating endless and humiliating waits at checkpoints.

She needs to fund Palestinian education at the same level as that of Jews, do away with Jewish-only roads, share water equally, stop starving Gaza, lift the blockade, and end indiscriminate killing in response to the murder of Jews.

She needs to acknowledge how she drove out 780,000 Palestinians in 1948. She must treat Palestinians as equals and begin immediate negotiations.

Though I hate Hamas, they are, unfortunately, the government in Gaza, and therefore we must be willing to negotiate with them.

Israel must be willing to coexist with a viable Palestinian state with contiguous borders, or build a binational state, federation or some other mutually acceptable solution that offers self-determination, dignity and respect to Palestine with a viable economy and a just solution to Palestinian refugees, as well as true security and peace for Israel.

When a magnificent organization like Combatants for Peace, made up of former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters who advocate for a peaceful solution to this conflict, commemorates all the people on both sides who have died, Israeli leaders ought to be thrilled that Palestinians support nonviolence and peaceful coexistence with Israel. They must not prevent Palestinians from attending such a commemoration, as they did a few weeks ago. If this government is for peace, why on Earth keep nonviolent Palestinians from coming into Israel?

Nothing short of a complete change in Israel’s approach, policies and actions will influence us to support the current Israeli government.

The way to win our support is for Israel and the American Jewish community to insist upon justice and equality.

When that happens, I for one will be glad to support Israel. Until that time, I cannot and will not, and until that time, many, many Jews cannot and will not support Israel.

I believe the American Jewish community has an enormous responsibility in its hands. If our community, as a whole, makes it clear to Israel that there will be no economic support for Israel, unless and until she takes the steps outlined above, I believe that Israel will do the right thing and do her part to make peace. It is not fair for Israel to ask us for economic support and then insist that we have no say in how that money is spent. As long as the Jewish community funds these injustices, nothing will change.

I am well aware of the how much violence Israel has faced: the acts of terror, the many wars and lack of security. I want to make it perfectly clear that I unequivocally condemn all acts of violence on the part of Palestinians, such as suicide bombings, other acts of terror, stabbings, rocket attacks on Sderot, etc., along with any acts of violence by Israel.

I know it will not be easy to make peace, but in the long run, it is the only way to go. This way will be far better, not just for Palestine, but for Israel and all Jews. I also know how much Israel wants security. However, peace and true security can only be built on a foundation of justice

So, go for it, Israel: act in such a manner that is truly worthy of our support.

Gain our support by acting in a way that is worthy of support.

That is a campaign I will gladly get behind, and I dare say that it will be a campaign many, many progressive Jews will get behind.



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