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April 10, 2010

I am not self-hating. I am a practicing Jew and I am opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

I grew up in a Conservative synagogue. The first map I ever saw of Israel emphasized it was a "tiny outpost for Jews in a sea of Muslim countries." As you may imagine, the map didn't label anything "Palestine," nor did the history I learned in Hebrew School acknowledge the existence of Palestinians.

As a member of a peace organization with sections in Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon, I have been engaged in Middle East peace activism for many years. I respect the right of self-determination and I believe all people should be free to practice their religion and participate equally in civil society. As a student of political science, I find it difficult to understand how a religious state can be a truly democratic state. As my Israeli WILPF sisters often say - there is a class divide in Israel caused by religion. Many entry-level jobs are only open to people who have served in the military. Only Jewish Israelis can serve in the military. How is that a true model of democracy? How is this treatment different from any other denial of civil rights?

I'm tired of being labeled a self-hating Jew because I believe in equal rights. I'm tired of the accusation of anti-Semitism. For many years, my political convictions kept me from connecting with my religion. I wanted to talk with my rabbi about it, but he committed suicide before I got up the courage to ask. Currently, I belong to a Zionist temple. I joined the temple because I believe passionately that our rabbi's Neo-Hasidic Kabbalistic teachings will lead to my personal spiritual transformation. Though I accept on face value when he assures me that I'm welcome in the community whatever my political beliefs are, I hesitate to get too close to my fellow congregants, fearing banishment. (This is the fear that follows me to shul every Saturday.)

If I could turn back time, I'd figure out a better resolution to World War II. I'd ensure two political states were recognized at the same time, Israel and Palestine. And I'd work to heal the wounds of my people so that we could put aside the mantle of victim and focus on personal transformation and communal empowerment. Instead of making the Holocaust the world knows about the Jews, I'd encourage a re-birth of our religious/spiritual heritage.

I know what I'm writing is heresy to many people. I know some will find it particularly egregious because Yom Hashoah is tomorrow. I'm tired of staying silent when the topic comes up in conversations with family. I'm tried of biting my tongue when people talk at my shul.

I believe in freedom of religion. I believe in Judaism. I am a Jew by choice and by birth. And I believe the Israeli government is guilty of war crimes. I believe the Israeli government discriminates against its non-Jewish citizens. I believe the Israeli government is illegally occupying East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. And I believe it is time that more Jews of conscious stand up and speak out against the crimes done in our name.

Posted by cj at April 10, 2010 5:55 PM


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