There are some matters of deep injustice that even feminists would rather turn away from. The pictures of wounded, bleeding, dying children in Gaza are on that list for me. They have been in the newspaper as I eat breakfast. They have been in my Twitter feed. I haven’t wanted to see, and I haven’t known how to speak. I knew why I didn’t want to see: I couldn’t heal, or save, that baby in front of me. But why couldn’t I speak? Why did I see the pictures without engaging with the issue, even as I watched others engage?
The answer came to me when a friend of mine, a philosophy professor and blogger who is of Jewish heritage, posted this article by Gabor Maté, in which the author recognizes the deeply emotional nature of the conflict, rightly calls Hamas attacks terrorist and unjustifiable, and speaks the truth about Palestine: “…Israel’s ‘right to defend itself,’ unarguable in principle, does not validate mass killing.” He also mourns both the “beautiful old dream of Jewish redemption” and the innocent dead: “Can we not grieve the death of innocents? I am sad these days. Can we not at least mourn together?”
Thank you, thank you, I wanted to say to my friend, and to Mr. Maté. Thank you for giving this issue a Jewish voice. And then I understood: I was frozen by a sense of privilege, of guilt. I don’t know what it is to be Jewish, to live with a history of persecution, of mass murder. I don’t know what it is to seek a sanctuary, a holy land where no one can ever hurt you again. Somewhere within, I thought I couldn’t, shouldn’t, speak against what Israel is doing to carve out a holy land for itself.
But Palestinian children are dying in large numbers.
This is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong. And it must stop.
The Jewish Voice for Peace
Many Jewish people are protesting Israel’s actions in Gaza. The Jewish Voice for Peace, which seeks true peace and equality between Israelis and Palestinians, is chief among them. Check out these resources:
- #GazaNames: A video expressing support for Palestinian freedom, equality, and justice, featuring American celebrities and activists, including Gloria Steinem, Wallace Shawn, and Tony Kushner.
- Israel-Palestine 101: A brief, historically accurate animated introduction to the creation of Israel, the subsequent unfair treatment of Palestinians, and the necessity of seeking a true, just peace for all.
- End the Bombing: A list of resources, including a petition to sign, to protest U.S. aid for human rights violations.
That last item—end the bombing—calls out the fact that Americans are funding the killing of civilians in Palestine, providing weapons to the Israelis. If we want this to stop, Americans are major players in making it stop.
The Treatment of Palestinians
Reading the words of Jewish people, and seeing pictures of Jews protesting the latest bombings of Gaza, gave me courage to learn more about what is happening in Gaza, and why. And in that courage, I found a voice—the one we all need to speak against injustice.
What does that injustice look like, exactly? Consider this graphic from Oxfam, an international organization that works for peace and justice:
Palestinians living under the blockade in Gaza have nowhere to go as bombs are falling. That fact is chilling enough. It is even more horrific in the context of these words, written in a November 2012 op-ed by Gilad Sharon, the son of Ariel Sharon:
“We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima–the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire. Were this to happen, the images from Gaza might be unpleasant—but victory would be swift, and the lives of our soldiers and civilians spared.”
Seeking True Peace
So. What do we do?
We join together to speak truth, and to seek a just peace that is NOT based on anti-Semitism (some “protests” have been fueled by anti-Semetic attacks on Jews, which must not be tolerated), that does NOT condone terrorist attacks on civilians by Hamas or bombing of innocents by Israelis. A peace that recognizes the full humanity of Jews and Palestinians.
To seek and create that peace, Americans must recognize our own culpability, in our fear, our paralysis, our unwillingness to speak and to see, to engage. As I write this, there is a ceasefire in Gaza, the second in the last several days. If it is to last, we need to address the goals of the Jewish Voice for Peace mission statement, which include:
- A U.S. foreign policy based on democracy and peace for all people
- An end to the Israeli occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem
- An end to all violence against civilians
Meeting these goals would ensure the safety of innocents. I cannot save or heal the injured children I see in the news, but I can do what we each can—look within, learn, and then speak and act for peace.