A peaceful future depends on democracy and equality
An article published online last week reported on opposing local rallies that addressed the recent outbreak of violence in Israel-Palestine (“Separate rallies for Israel, critics, held in Oakland on May 14”; see pg. 1, this issue). It’s common to assume that the Jewish community routinely supports Israel during these crises. However, your reporter noted that a Jewish group was among the protesters criticizing Israel.
In the same vein, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, recently issued a strong statement on the conflict. Sen. Sanders, a Jewish American, expressed deep concern for Palestinian rights and Palestinian lives.
A few days earlier, a prominent Jewish journalist, Peter Beinart, expressed similar views in the New York Times. He spoke of the ongoing campaign by the Israeli government to push Palestinians out of their homes and villages to make way for Jewish settlers. This began with the formation of Israel in 1948 and continues to this day. A case in point is the recent attempt to evict Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem to allow Jewish expansion. That effort, done in the context of the hardships of life in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, ignited ongoing tensions and sparked the terror that is now happening on both sides of the Israel-Gaza border.
In the conflict’s first week, 10 Israeli civilians, including two children, died from Gazan missile strikes. Almost 200 Palestinians, including 92 women and children, died from Israeli bombs. The lives of these families have been changed forever.
That these writings by prominent American Jews should be remarkable is sad. The Jewish community is known for its progressive stances on systemic racism, immigration and asylum, voting rights, and the social safety net. “Black Lives Matter” signs stand on many of our lawns.
Faced with this seeming contradiction, some of my friends point to the special status of Israel. It’s a home for a people that experienced a horrific genocide. It must do whatever it takes to secure a peaceful future. I would argue, however, that this future is more likely if Israel-Palestine can come to embody what our community wants for our own country — a shared land of true democracy and equality.