I was really involved in my Jewish youth group and community in high school but never really felt like I connected with people on Israel/Palestine politics. My sophomore year of college I got to spend a month in Israel/Palestine where I had a radical awakening when I realized there was an entire discourse that I was not exposed to as an American or as a Jew, and that being Jewish did not have to mean being Zionist. After a long personal journey I felt it important to continue the fight for Palestinian freedom and against the Israeli occupation within the Jewish community, which led me to Jewish Voice for Peace.
This past summer I was a fellow for Jewish Voice for Peace in Durham (a radical Jewish group that does Palestinian solidarity work). JVP hosted a national membership conference in Chicago this past weekend and I had the opportunity to attend. It was intellectually stimulating, emotionally rejuvenating and spiritually engaging. It felt like a marker of a turning point in my life, especially in my religious identity and my activist passions. I was utterly shocked by the fact that there were so many other Jewish folks out there who are unapologetically anti-Zionist while still remaining true to their personal Jewish values. I am someone who strongly identifies as Jewish while simultaneously not supporting Israel, and I have lost almost all of my Jewish community because of these ideas. I was able to start rebuilding a new Jewish community this summer when working with JVP with a few people who aligned with my values, but this weekend gave me faith that there are actually large groups of people out there who are doing this work from a Jewish place.
To me there is a lot of hypocrisy in the American Liberal Jewish communities (and this is something that I have thought a lot about, grappled with extensively). To me, my Jewish values enforce my internal compass for social justice and my support for the Palestinian people. Similar to what Margaret Wertheim said in her interview “I feel that my mother’s Catholicism has been one of the greatest and deepest influences on everything I do — basically believing that we all have a moral mission on Earth to try to make things better for people less fortunate than ourselves. And although I’m by no means a practicing Catholic anymore, I believe that Catholicism — that in some sense, in my heart, I will always be a Catholic because of that social justice issue that I got from my mom.” I still identify with Judaism but I can agree with that the values I feel as if I have gained from Judaism have not helped other Jews reach the same conclusions.
Dr. Wilczek and Ms. Tippett talk about Niels Bohr’s notion of complementarity, that two conflicting things can both be true at the same time. I think about this a lot, especially in the context of the Jewish place in the Israel/Palestine conflict. They discuss: “But, almost, to that give-and-take, that seeming conflict — which, in fact, was as much collegial as it was conflicted — you have such an interesting way of talking about complementarity that I feel is evocative in human terms as well as scientific terms. One of the things you say is that “in ordinary reality and ordinary time and space, the opposite of a truth is a falsehood.” But, you say, “Deep propositions have a meaning that goes beyond their surface.” This is so interesting. “You can recognize a deep truth by the feature that its opposite is also a deep truth.””
For the my Jewish friends and family that I have grappled with and lost, their Truth is opposite than mine. They see a version of the Truth that I have to be able to respect (while deeply disagreeing) in order to engage in any discussions of justice for Palestine. Dr Wilczek says that “the lesson of complementarity, the idea that you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes, it’s very, very helpful in dealing with the human comedy” while Ms. Tippett replies “Your truth may be true, and my truth is true, and that can just be.” This is crucial to understand when wanting to work in collaboration with Jewish groups while also doing non-Zionist work.
This weekend (for the first time) I was able to recognize that I am not alone in this complex tension of being Jewish as well as anti-Zionist. I heard from some incredible speakers such as Judith Butler, Robin DG Kelly, Fadi Quran, Linda Sansour, Erfat Yerday, Lubnah Shomali, Rachel Gilmer, Arther Goldway, Brant Rosen (who I interviewed for my paper), Chande Prescod-Weinstein and so many more. I was rejuvenated and inspired in my fight against oppressive systems such as Zionism, white supremacy, colonialism and imperialism. And remembered why I want to do what I want to do, and got to share knowledge with so many inspirational people.
Wesley Reid advice’s to us was “don’t be afraid” “follow your dreams but be realistic” and “you’ll find your way.” But the advice I identified with most want the fact that nothing makes Reid more motivated than when someone thinks he can’t do it. While sometimes discouraging, I also agree that when something is more challenging, that makes me want to do it all the more. It’s hard to explain how deeply and personally meaningful this conference was to me is reminding that while some fights are challenging, they are ultimately worthwhile.
Feeling blessed for this opportunity and from UA’s article about new genetic possibilities “The keys to unlocking these potential breakthroughs may lie in centuries-old pieces of information waiting to be discovered. To quote author James Baldwin: “Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”