Statements from some of our organizers and protest participants:
As someone who with my immediate family was a child refugee from the Nazis, but who lost much of my extended family in concentration camps, I stand here on the grounds that the Holocaust did not confer impunity on the state of Israel. I reject the claim that the descendants of victims are therefore entitled to become victimizers of others.
As someone who was already politically conscious in the McCarthyite 1950s, I reject the notion that to oppose a country’s policies is to be against that country altogether. It is no more anti-Israel to oppose Israel’s illegal settlements and occupations than it was then and is now anti-American to oppose U.S. foreign policies.
The World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency does not speak for all Jews. It does not speak for me.
I was brought up to understand that as a Jewish person I had an obligation, as part of my Jewish tradition, to pursue justice. I had the honor of being a civil rights worker for 10 years in the South in the 60s and 70s, ultimately spending 20 years there, fighting for equal rights with my African American colleagues. I first went to Israel/Palestine in 2002 and was profoundly shocked when I saw with my own eyes the brutal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. If I fought for justice and equal rights here in the U.S., I am now compelled to speak up as a Jewish woman and say I will not allow either the Israeli government, an appalling human rights violator, or the established Jewish organizations, which refuse to disavow horrendous Israeli policies, to speak for me.
-Dorothy M. Zellner
I was born in 1944 with red diapers on. My father’s father and brother were rabbis. My grandparents kept a kosher home when they came to this country. My father was the only one of eight children who was born in the US. His siblings and his mother were born in northern Palestine, near the sea of Galilee. His parents had an arranged marriage. My uncle was a poet and wrote about growing up with Arabs in late 19th and early 20th century. Tension between the Jews and the Arabs was non-existent at that time. Jewish kids played with Arab kids and they went to school together.
I learned about the oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli government from a very early age. Just as I learned that about racism and discrimination in this country. As a Jew, growing up in NYC I never experienced anti-Semitism and never have since though i certainly know it exists. I’ve always been interested in the Middle East but it has only been since 9/11 when the most vicious racism toward Arabs reared its ugly head in this country accompanied by still ongoing attempts by right wing Zionists to suppress criticism of Israeli government policies, that I felt I needed to be more involved and speak out. The most recent crimes of the Israeli government against Palestinians in Gaza has compelled me for the first time in my entire life to speak out as a Jew and not just as an activist or as a citizen of the world.
My parents fled Germany during the Holocaust. They were among the lucky ones who managed to escape penniless but unharmed. Many of my relatives were not as lucky. Growing up as an American Jewish girl, I was taught that a Jewish Homeland was important so that if the atrocities like the Holocaust should ever happen again at least there would be a place for Jews to go. The Holocaust was used as a cover to justify expelling 750,000 Palestinians in order to create a Jewish State. Now as an adult, I have come to question how a people so victimized, persecuted, and killed could turn around and do unto others what was done to them. Israel sealed off Gaza and turned it into an open air concentration camp blockading needed goods and supplies, limiting water, cutting off jobs and otherwise oppressing the population. There was no justification to inflict this great harm on 1.5 million Palestinians, half of whom are children. And now, there can be no defense for the Israeli government’s recent massacre of 1500 Palestinians, a large number of them women and children. As a child of Holocaust survivors and as a Jew I reject the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency’s defense of Israel’s barbaric conduct in Gaza. We Jews know better. We must stand up for justice. Jews have no right to occupy Palestinian territories, destroy their infrastructure, deny the people their basic human rights, including their right to statehood. I do not want my children to learn that because Jews have been persecuted, they have a right to persecute others.
I have been a Jewish activist for Israeli/Palestinian peace for over a quarter-century, but the brutality of the 2008 Israeli assault on Gaza shocked me. I grew up strongly Jewish, shaped by my religiously Orthodox and Zionist mother and my atheist father whose Jewish passion for social justice I proudly embraced. As a teenager I read the Diary of Anne Frank and John Hershey’s The Wall. In the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, TV images of the siege of the Palestinian refugee camps at Sabra and Shatila reminded me, as a Jew, of the Warsaw Ghetto, and I deeply identified, for the first time, with Palestinians. The massacres in 1982 turned me into a life-long activist, mostly in Jewish and feminist organizations for Israeli-Palestinian peace; it shaped my scholarly work for the next 26 years.
The 2008 bombing of Gaza horrified me beyond all previous horrors. The moral question goes beyond the practical “How could the killing of Palestinian children protect Israeli children?” As a mother, seeing the pictures of infant corpses, I know I could not possibly bear such sorrow. As a Jewish woman I must say NO! Louder, and louder until the policy-makers in the World Zionist Organization, and their enablers in the U.S. government stop these murders and this murderous siege.