“Justice, always justice, shalt thou pursue,” my family says each year, quoting the prophet Micah as we bring a match to the third Hanukkah candle, adhering to a tradition in which each night’s light is dedicated to a different virtue in Judaism.
In the wake of over 150 reported deaths in Operation Protective Edge, I feel ashamed by the persistent disregard for justice by a state supposedly founded on Jewish principles. Lobbies like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have been appealing to American Jews for support by classifying the extraordinary violence perpetrated in Gaza as acts of “self-defense” in protection of the Jewish state, and thereby, the safeguarding of the Jewish faith.
Why must we remain silent when confronted with this manipulation of our identity?
My Judaism was passed on through emphasis on tradition, on the values of social justice, the pursuit of truth, and the solidarity that exists in standing with groups experiencing persecution today comparable to what our people suffered in the past.
The man I fell in love with exemplified these qualities in such a way that it allowed me to see them not as what distinguishes Jews from others, but what binds us, across many faiths, to the highest aspirations of humanity.
He is an Arab and a Muslim.
His father, who passed away before we could meet, once spoke of a time in living memory when our peoples—Arabs and Jews—openly referred to each other as ‘cousins’ and not as enemies. Today, this happens only in whispers. When I see images of Palestinians bearing my partner’s name, speaking his language, professing his religion, standing outside homes leveled by a Jewish army, it is difficult to imagine such a time returning to us again.
Less than a year ago Israeli PM Netanyahu suggested that today’s American and Israeli Jews are “brothers and sisters”, part of “one big Jewish family” that must “face challenges together.” In times of crisis, Jews around the world are reminded that we belong not only to the countries in which we have citizenship, but to a diaspora, a people perpetually displaced from a homeland. Our “fates”, we are told, “are intertwined” with the Israeli state. To question this connection in during a time of great political turmoil can feel to many Jews to be a traitorous act.
But, let us not forget: we can choose the people with whom we create our families and our futures.
For most Jews, we are no longer a true diaspora, having built homes and lives anchoring us to once-unfamiliar lands generations ago. It is possible to challenge and even reject a concept which defines Jewishness by proximity—politically and physically—to Israel. Let us liberate ourselves from the obligation to support unconscionable acts by a government which we did not elect, from telling ourselves that our security and our identity are threatened by a people whom so many of us have never even met. Let us instead offer our voices in solidarity with the small but persistent political Left, who are being beaten on the streets of Tel-Aviv for their anti-war stance. And then, let us act on the basis that many of us are citizens of countries whose governments support or tolerate, both financially and ideologically, the systematic dehumanization of the Palestinian people.
Let us say together, enough.
As air strikes show no sign of cessation, a handful of American and European Jews and Jewish Israelis are publically crying out “not in my name.” It is imperative that we remain unafraid to condemn yet another siege on Gaza, the same way in which we condemn other acts of terror in the Middle East and abroad.
The state-sponsored killing of ‘the other’ throughout modern history—whether they are Palestinian, Rohingya, Tutsi, Sudanese, Yugoslav, or Jewish—in order to mold the future of a nation or religion, should force us all to ask what type of country and what type of faith those of us who identify with either will inherit.