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May 9, 2006

1001 Preachers and No Choir

Last Sunday, I went to the annual Walk for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine. Just once, I'd like to see an even organized primarily by concerned Jews list Palestine before Israel.

Nitpicking aside, it was an intriguing event. Definitely a disappoint after the incredible display of organization and solidarity at the May Day immigrant marches held throughout the country. This march is always held to coincide with Jewish United Fund's Walk With Israel According to JUF, they mobilized 12,800 people through 8 Chicago-area marches, including 600 people at their Oak Park / River Forest march (the closest one to the event I attended). I'd say about 200 people showed up for the reality-based march.

According to Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada, 17,000 Palestinians live in the Chicago-area. I'm unclear why more of an effort wasn't made to bring them to the event. Abunimah was definitely the most charismatic leader: he offered insight into the desperation situations faced everyday by Palestinians and encouraged us to hold our government responsible for its collusion with the Israeli government.

The "marquee" attractions: Phyllis Bennis and Danny Glover gave uninspired speeches at the end of the day that made me feel like they either had too many events on their schedules or like me were disappointed in the size of the crowd. I don't fault what they said; I simply think their message was to simplistic for their audience.

There comes a time when speeches have little impact on you. Perhaps that's the point when you should stop being an observer and become a speaker. I'm tired of the rhetoric; I'm tired of leaderless movements; and I'm tired of doing actions that lead nowhere.

On a personal note, it continues to be difficult for me to find pride in my Jewish heritage. I want to have an asterisk by my ethnic identity: yes, I'm glad I know where I came from on both sides of my family (Russia, aka the Ukraine, by way of pogroms that killed some of my ancestors); but I have no interest in patriotism. I have even less interest in religion-based nationality. The actions of the militaristic Israeli state and its thousands of supporters here in the US make me question why I maintain my Jewish identity. In the end, my religious conviction impels me to continue my work, so I will.

I watched Frontline / World's account of Hamas and Palestine tonight. I'd say more, but I'm falling asleep.

Posted by cj at May 9, 2006 10:50 PM


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