--The conservative American Jewish stance on crtiticism of Israel is fast becoming a totalitarian mindset. A university disinviting Bishop Desmond Tutu because a group of reactionary rabbis said they should? Since when do university heads go to religious leaders to get permission for campus debates? A friend hearing about my blog says, "she better be careful, she's going to get hate mail." Professors being fired because they do not toe the Derkowitz line on Israel's actions in the world, the need for a Jewish internet cite, Muzzlewatch, because so many who want to raise the vision of other roads to take in Palestine and Israel are being refused speaking platforms and loosing jobs, the refusal to allow the word "intifada" to be used with respect in a New York school, Jews telling other Jews do not speak, do not question, do not infuse new information, do not give Palestinians name and faces, do not honor another people's need for self respect in the face of decades and daily restrictions and humiliations. As dissenting American Jews, we cannot use words like racism or apartheid--we cannot assert that a police state that isolates and constricts one group of people is akin to other police states we have known in history--while in Israel itself these conversations are publically possible. This is all meshugah--this is Bush's America where some of us think being righter then right will make us safe--while the Christian right solidifies its behind-the- scenes hold on power, its control over mercenary soldiers and electoral politics. Oh how sad, how stupid, how familiar--historical shame lusts after military might, we will be the best soldiers in the world, we will be famous because of our toughness, governments will court our expertise on interrogations, torture, no nonsense, no sentimental respect for the humanity of our opponents, we will run Bush's military errands for him into Syria, into Lebanon, men like Sharon and Dayan will be our national heroes--we have risen from our ashes and now can conduct our own incarcerations, our own killings, our own nationalism swelling with religious permissions--my words must stop--it is the madness I see all around me--million dollar right wing think tanks churning out plans to expand the cleansing of the middle east--the free market economy marries the military and kisses the religous right and all I see are the people of Katrina standing on their roof tops, the people without oil, or powerful geographic positionings--no think tanks for them--not even a decent wall to keep out the flood waters--and my queer self, this sex writer self--what is she doing swimming in these waters of international concern--this Bronx Jew who is part of the generation romanticized in public interest stories of now famous men who grew up playing stick ball in the streets of the Bronx, the little pink ball that bounced so high, who first saw history inscribed on the wrist of Jerry, the delicatessen owner, the blue numbers one by one showing themselves as he reached to wrap our pickles, way back in 1949--this Jew raised by an embezzeling mother who told her Paul Robeson was a great man after a teacher's tirade against this "enemy of America" in PS 94 again back in the old days forbade any mention of his name. There are many American Jews like me, who refuse to non-think, who remember not the centers of power--oh how good it is to live there, says the Harvard woman professor--but the smaller places where people joined hands, all kinds of people and caught each other's sighs in their own breaths and turned their backs on the obscenity of a safety built on the sorrows of others made nameless, made lifeless.
A letter from Alex, Jewish daughter of Holocaust survivors, a tireless advocate for respect for all in Israel, September 19, 2007:
Just a quick note to let you know what I have been up to--yesterday I went with a 75 year old woman and a 60 year old couple to the occupied territories to meet and listen to Palestinian stories.
Dorothy is amazing, she came to live in Israel from America years ago and has raised a family and is not a grandma. She never in her life thought that at the age of 75 shewould begoing to women's demostrations n the occupied territories and getting beaten up and gassed by Israeli soldiers, her story alone is amazaing.
What amazes me most about the women I meet herr is how much of their lives they give toward making this a better place, but I have to say every time I come here things just get worse for everyone--more Israeli Jews who were Zionists are now becoming anti-Zionist--they are realizing that most of the history they learned was at best distorted --for those who are interested read Ilan Papel or Benny Morris.
So off I was to Mas Ha, a Palestinian village not far from Tel Aviv. It took us 20 minutes to get there. Our first stop was to speak with Honey, a man that owns some land and a well with water, is house is 100% surrounded by the wall and barbed wire fences, the Israelis could have built the wall around his house so that he could still be a part of his village--Honey supplies water to many of the village people but because of the wall and the settlers, it now costs him more money to deliver the water then what he brings in. He tried to set up chicken farm, but soldiers destroyed it, he tried a hot house and they destroyed that too. He is trapped with no way to make a living. What the Israeli government has done is surround Mas Ha with a settlement which ultimately means all of the land has been stolen by the Israeli government for the settlement. In Mas Ha, families grow but there is no way they can expand their village.
Another man, Nizha, has olive trees outside the wall and it can take him from a few hours to a day to get there depending on whether the Israeli soldiers at the check point lets him--a couple of years ago when I visited him, I went from his house to his land, it took us 15 minutes. The policy is not to let them move freely or far, not to let them grow food, to make it difficult to access water, to earn a living or expand their buildings. The wall is more about making their lives difficult and in all of this the settlers harass the Palestinians and never get punished for their violence.
Dorothy was telling me how one settler hit her car once and another one tried to run her off the road.
This was just one village. In the next village, I met a man who was shot in the back and now can not walk. He does not hate, he just wants freedom and an end to violence like all the other Palestinians I have met. The ones I have spoken to have given up hope on a two state solution because when one looks at the maps and all the settlements I srael has built, it is no longer viable, They just want the right to be free to live and work and raise a family like the rest ofus. It is amazing how things have changed for the worst.
The next stop was a house with a family of 8--the Israeli army took over the top floor, the young girl in the family is doing year 12 and wants to study but her books are upstairs and they won't let her get them and they won't bring them down. They even had the chutzpa to stick an Israeli flag out side the window of the top floor-You should all know that I was on my best behaviour. When I leave it is the Palestinians who will pay the price fdor whatever I do or say.
Needless to say, I finished the day by going to visit Lina, who some of you know. She is a 5 year old Palestinian child who had a kidney transplant and need medication. We have been raising money to pay for her medication which keeps her salive. From Farid and Amena and her family, thank you to all those who helped.
I must say, I met the most amazing people yesterday from all sides, people who care enough to do something to make this a better place. I have only told you a little about what I did, there is always a lot more. Hope you are well,
We cannot say we did not know what was happening--people have names and lives no matter what the military and right wing governments and fanatic religous movements would have us believe-as Jews we know this on our bodies.