Today we have an excellent report from Allison Deger on the Jerusalem Day demonstration by rightwing Jewish zealots in the Old City. And look here: the Forward also has published an account documenting the racism at the rally that several folks have passed along to me. Author Leanne Gale is an American rabbi’s daughter and recent college graduate, interning for a year with Ir Amim in Jerusalem. Gale’s anguished report is a reminder of why the Jewish community must depend on young Jews for leadership; they lack the programming of older generations, and don’t attempt to apologize for atrocities. Excerpts:
Growing up at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Long Island, I have fond memories of Jerusalem Day. We celebrated every year with school-wide assemblies and dances, singing “Sisu et Yerushalayim” (Rejoice in Jerusalem) and “Jerusalem of Gold” with pride. Even in high school, I never knew the political significance of the day or imagined that my joy might be at someone else’s expense. Today, I know better…
I made a conscious decision to attend the March of Flags this year. As an intern at Ir Amim, an Israeli organization committed to fostering a more equitable and sustainable Jerusalem, I helped coordinate a group of volunteers to document racist slogans, police responses to incitement, and restrictions on Palestinian mobility. While I thought I knew exactly what to expect, I find myself feeling numb as I write these words.
The sea of celebrants convened at the Damascus Gate, outside the Muslim Quarter, seemingly ready to fight…
The crowd continued down through the Muslim Quarter, shouting “Death to Arabs” as young Palestinian children stared out of second story windows….
But the March of Flags, if we pay any attention at all, reveals the violence of Jewish power in the holy city. This violence has simultaneously violated the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and poisoned the Jewish community from the inside out. And these days, even as the daughter of a rabbi, I question if I have the strength to stay in the game.
Yesterday, I participated in a direct action against the Israeli occupation along with fellow members of All That’s Left. The action was simple and powerful. We brought giant American flags to the Shuk, Ben Yehuda Street, and Zion Square—places where American Jews tend to hang out on their trips to Israel. In each location, we staked out a spot and performed a bit of street theater. “We are here. To Announce. That from this day forward. This piece of land. Belongs. To Americans Only.” As we forcibly occupied these spaces, appearing to be some really crazy right-wing Americans, curious Israelis and American tourists gathered to watch. And then we handed out these fliers:
…As we approached our first Birthright group, I’m not really quite sure what I expected. I do know that I felt relatively calm. These were American Jews, my people. Nothing to be afraid of. We set up our flags, stood on our chair, and chanted our takeover. At first, the Birthright group was enthused and attentive. But then they got our fliers.
“Go fuck yourself!” said the first brave young man.
As the group awkwardly looked to one another for guidance, their trip leader informed them that we were a group of “anti-Israel activists” and began leading them in an IDF song to drown us out. That was all it took for the “fuck yous” to come out in a torrent. Also: “go home,” “you’re a fucking embarrassment,” and “get the fuck out of here.” Some of the young women called out to the men in our group, “what you really need is a blow job!” As the Birthrighters began to leave, they walked past us one by one, ripped up the fliers, and threw them in our face. It felt a bit like Mean Girls. I also saw a few middle fingers…
These young American Jews, as individuals, had taken a trip to Israel to learn about the country. And instead of asking questions, engaging, disagreeing, all they could do was dismiss us out of hand, and pretty grossly at that. Despite our exceptionally near-sighted modern discourse on Israel, it is indisputable that the Jewish people have been a questioning people throughout history…
I like her takeaway. No excuses for racism:
I suppose we have gotten to a place where a white American Jewish woman from New York, who probably votes Democrat and considers herself to be a progressive, can throw back a flier in disgust at the mention of the word “Palestinian.” It’s not racist right? Just self-preservation. You know, from a race made up entirely of terrorists.
This is also good, from February:
“Are you planning on making Aliyah?”
“I would feel guilty using that privilege knowing that thousands of Palestinians living in Jerusalem can’t even obtain residency status, much less get citizenship. Not to mention the Palestinian refugees who don’t even have the option of making Aliyah.”
Isn’t it amazing that when young American Jews learn about the right of return they don’t find it a nightmare aimed at pushing Jews into the sea, but regard it as a legal principle?
Oh and this is good, about reactionary orthodoxy in the Jewish community, including from the people who have nurtured Gale from birth:
There is an acute sense of psychological instability that comes with doing work that most of your friends, family, and community don’t really understand. In fact, a huge proportion of my community doesn’t even believe that there is a real Israeli occupation, certainly not of East Jerusalem. That means constant cognitive dissonance between what I see on a daily basis and what I hear from so many of the people who have surrounded & nurtured me from birth. The gulf between the reality of suffering on the ground and the knowledge of much of the Jewish community is enormous and crushes me daily. (I think I’ll devote a post to this too.)