I have been deported, no longer a good Jew. I have dissented. How?
I along with five Israelis and three other Jewish passengers tried to reach Gaza to show solidarity with the occupied population of Palestinians held hostage by the Israeli “moral army”. By what hubris can any army be called “moral?” Armies kill and are taught to hate. Armies fight immoral wars. I am a pacifist and believe the only way to conflict resolution is through compassionate listening to our enemy. I was the only American passenger, a refugee from Nazi Germany. I am a cultural Jew with a deep connection to my roots.
On the little boat, nine of us stood as one. We were activists, Israeli refusniks, captains of our destiny. We were the father of 14-year-old daughter Smadar who was blown up in a mall by a suicide bomber. Smadar translates as “blossom of the flower.” We were an 82-year-old former Romanian, now Israeli, Holocaust survivor and ongoing activist against war and separation in Israel. When he played his harmonica we heard both suffering and triumph of the human spirit in his music. We were the brave German activist, a dedicated co-founder of “judische Stimme” (Jewish Voice), her handmade flags represented 40 souls of solidarity, each name on individual flags. They flew along side the Palestinian flag, British flag, and flags of support from around the world. It was exhilarating. Joining us also were 2 photojournalists whose documentation of our journey was confiscated.
We were one in our hope to reach Gaza with our message to the Palestinian population held hostage. “We are a voice of Jews who support you in your struggle for liberation. We do not recognize the authority of the Israeli government to hold you hostage in collective punishment. These actions against you do not represent the entire Jewish population. This is a myth and we are attempting to break that myth.”
It is important to emphasize that we were a non violent group that would offer passive resistance if we were told to turn around. We would not follow the orders of the moral army but we were committed to non violence. We believe that only non violence and direct communication with our “enemy” can break the cycle of hate and violence and bring Israel and Palestine to live in peace. It was with this intent, that when we were stopped by 9 warships, our beloved Yonatan was tazered as he and his brother Itamar were thrown onto one of the scary dingy boats with guns, radar, tasers and filled with the moral army. They were there as if we were the mortal enemy. How dare we attempt to provide “comfort to the enemy? How dare we act against the policies of the Israeli government? How dare we dissent?”
So they towed us to Ashdod and we were arrested.And I ask stupidly and naively, “Why?” How has it come to this that nine warships surrounded a little boat with 9 peaceful Jews who only want to reach Gaza to express our solidarity, not as Jewish enemies to a population that has become victim to a harsh and frightening Israeli system that has created a divide between “them” and “us.” It is a system that has created generations of mutual hate and destruction. There are no enemies here, only victims on both sides . Because of the moral blindness of a country I want to love, I a refugee from Nazi Germany in my mid seventies have been deported. I can not go back. What about the right of return? Is not deportation what Jews have experienced throughout millenniums of their existence? How can a so-called democracy not allow dissent? What is the fear and where is the dream of Israel as a free society that we all long for in our hearts. Can we continue to justify the actions of the Israeli government, in the name of the Holocaust, in the name of a deep paranoid and irrational fear of annihilation brought about by their own tragic history as former victims of a hate so deep, it led to the worst crimes against humanity against Jews by the Nazi government. Is the moral army responding to an unconscious fear of what they lived through? Are they plagued by the intention of the Nazis to ethnically cleanse the whole Jewish population as well as millions of others deemed “inferior “ to the nationalistic standards of Nazi insanity?
It is time for Israel to become that beacon of hope and light once promised. It is time to step back and reflect, to let go of moral superiority, to remember we are all brothers and sisters to be treated with dignity and respect, to remember who we are. For God’s sake I beg you. Stop the endless cycle of hate, violence and the war machine. Take the first step.