Hello everyone and thanks for inviting me to give my perspective on this issue as a Jewish peace activist.
Like Alison mentioned, I’m Jewish. I grew up, I could say pretty much as typically Jewish as any other Jewish family would in Canada. I went to synagogue, although not all the time, however to be honest I was never too thrilled to go. Although it was a real chore for my parents to get me to go to synagogue, I had a Bar Mitzvah when I was 13, which I was very excited about.
Growing Up As A Normal Jewish Kid
This is called a tallit, it’s something you receive on your Bar Mitzvah, the theme of the one I have his based on Joseph’s coat of many colours (displaying a Jewish garment used at religious activities). So I grew up in a family that embraced Judaism. I grew up understanding I was Jewish, but like many Jews growing up in Canada, or the United States or Britain, basically everywhere outside occupied Palestine or Israel, lacking an understanding of what Israel is.
I’ve been to Israel likely half a dozen times as a kid. My parents would bring me, I still have lots of family there. Going to Israel, for me, was the same as my parents telling me “Hey, we’re going to England!” What was the difference to me? I thought Israel was a country like any other country. I didn’t know about the Palestinian cause. I didn’t know that the place we were going was on top of another people’s land. For me at the time, it might as well be Disneyland. The politics weren’t an issue of discussion in my family.
I wanted to bring that point because I think it’s important for us to understand that this is the reality of a lot of young Jews outside of Israel. Most of us not only do not know the truth about Palestine and Israel, we don’t know anything about Palestine and Israel at all.
So that gives people a better understanding of what we’re dealing with when we’re talking about unity between Palestinians and Jewish people or bringing Jewish people to the struggle for Palestinian self-determination. The reality is, like many people in the US or Canada, not many people are concerned enough unfortunately about what’s going on around the world, what our governments are involved in, and that’s the trick. That’s where we need to aim our sights with Jewish people, the same with all people. With education about the reality of what’s going on there, because Jewish people, like Muslim people, like people in Canada, the US or anywhere, typically when we know the truth we make good decisions. We make correct decisions, because at our base we all believe in a good life. We want a family, a nice place to live. All of these things are basic human interests no matter what our religion is.
There Are Indeed Good First Steps to Take
If you haven’t come to a MAWO rally, I suggest you do. We do tabling in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery in downtown Vancouver and get into all kinds of debates and discussions with people. We receive a lot of support, less and less people who don’t support us. But we run into this argument a lot: “But isn’t war human nature?” Who hasn’t heard that argument before? I thought about that argument for a long time. I thought to myself, “is it true?” Is it human nature to do war? I mean, it is true that wars have been going on since the beginning of recorded history, there have always been fights going on, there have always been killings, so is it possible it’s true? Is war human nature?
Then I thought, “I’m human and it’s not my nature.” So when people tell me that, I ask them “Is that your nature?” “Are you for war?” “Are you for killing people?” And they say, “well, no… not me but…” and I say “Well, aren’t you human?” and they say “…yaaaa…” then I say, “So what’s human nature then? Your nature or those who do wars nature?” It turns out it is a reasonable argument to show people it’s not human nature. In fact, it is something very alien to human nature which brings about war, which brings about killing and murder, occupations and all of these things which are symbolic of the Zionist occupation of Palestine.
Can Holocaust Be An Excuse to Suppress Palestinians
One of the closest resemblances to the occupation of Palestine by Israel ironically is Nazi Germany, especially for what they did to Jewish people. You can see many similarities between the methods used against Jewish people and the methods used by the state of Israel against Palestinians. I think that there are a lot of interesting conclusions and arguments to be made about what the government of Israel is doing to the Palestinian people.
I almost forgot to show, and I’ll pass it around so you can see (a photo of Noah as a child holding an Israeli flag in Israel). I stole this from my father it’s the only copy. I don’t know if he even noticed that it was gone. It’s not something I feel ashamed of because I was a child but to give you an idea of my past this a picture of me at three years old in Israel on my grandparents farm in Israel. Just to give you an impression of my life as a child or my memories. When I was in Israel these little lizards would climb up on the screen door and me and my sister would spend hours flicking them off. Those are the types of memories I have from going there as a kid.
My grandparents lived on a chicken farm. I remember being punished when my work was to collect the eggs with my sister. I somehow got it into my head that my job was to throw the eggs at the wall. Which it turns out was in fact not my responsibility.
I explain these things to give an idea of where I’m coming from and where many Jewish people are coming from and that Jewish people and Palestinian people are fundamentally the same as any other human beings. So what’s the problem then? If we come to the conclusion that basically Jewish people and Palestinian people are the same. Once we understand that we are similar then we look at what the problem is. It’s a government, a state, the state of Israel. What’s the ideology behind that state? It’s something called Zionism, which goes back to well before the state of Israel was established. An ideology of a pure Jewish state, founded in the description of Zionism. Now does that remind you of anything? Purity? In fact this was used before actually against Jewish people by Nazi Germany. So we see a lot of interesting similarities between what Nazis did to Jews and what Israel does to Palestinians. This is an ideology, a racist ideology, a pro-war ideology, a conquest ideology. Do you think this is the final plan for Israel? What we see on the map? Heck no! That’s not the plan, that’s nothing compared to what the state of Israel and Zionism has in mind. What Zionism wants is a project a lot bigger than what you see in front of us now. And that’s a scary thought. Going back to what we call similarities between fascist Germany and Israel is the expansionism we saw from Germany at that time.
State of Israel and Zionism
The state of Israel, and I want to bring a quote from Lord Belfour who, on behalf of Britain, was the third party who gave the land of Palestine to the Zionists. They thought it was in Britain’s reasonable power to give away other people’s land. He said in 1917 “In Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country… The four great powers have taken up the Zionist cause. And Zionism, be it just or false, good or bad, is rooted in long-standing traditions, in present needs, and in future hopes that are far more important that the desires or the frustrations of the 700,000 Arabs who live on this ancient land today.”
From something said 100 years ago, we can see the idea, the plan and the concept that he was translating from Zionists for the four powers to understand is exactly what is happening today. How can all these U.N. resolutions pass in favor of Palestine? How come the majority of people in the world support Palestine and still nothing happens? Because the same powers that established Israel, today still rule and make sure Israel continues to exist and expand. Which is why, with all their power you can say a majority of human beings are against it, but the majority of human beings still, and I’ll talk about this a bit more while wrapping up, are not strong enough in action to reverse this situation.
The other thing I wanted to talk a bit about, within what Azza was describing and what we saw in the videos of this assault by Israel against Palestinians, is this heroic resistance of Palestinian people. In very classic form since the beginning of the state of Israel until now, within the same idea of not caring about Palestinian people, like Balfour said, the state of Israel continues today. I don’t think it’s very surprising coming from the mouth it does, we’ve all heard some of the most ridiculous things stated, in public, to date, by Prime Minister of Israel Netanyahu. Some of you will remember his comments from October 20 of this year, in his speech called “The 10 Big Lies” and his justification for the occupation of Palestine, which he read to the World Zionist Congress.
Netanyahu said, “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time. He wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem, went to Hitler and said: ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here.’ 'So what should I do with them?' Hitler asked. The mufti said: 'Burn them.'" When Netanyahu made this statement in public, it brought this issue far beyond progressive-minded forward-thinking people like us in this room. Even Zionist opposition parties within Israel were like, “this guy is crazy”. One: The complete fabrication of history. Two: Isn’t this the same state that always accuses people of holocaust denial? What greater holocaust denial could you have, than taking the blame of the holocaust off of the executioner and putting it on some individual in Palestine, and then collectively punishing an entire population of Palestinian people as justification? And more strange, that this is coming 70 years after the occupation of Palestine, or what we see as the occupation of Palestine today. All of a sudden there is a new piece of history that nobody knew before, that actually the Palestinians were to blame for the Holocaust. The reality is that not that many people bought his statement, and Netanyahu had to apologize for his comments. And of course, as things go the retractions or apologies for stupid things done never unfortunately outweigh the impact of stupid things said in the first place.
Within all this resistance of Palestinian people and this crackdown by Israel, you have comments like this, which fuel the fire. But comments like this come from something very concrete, it wasn’t pure stupidity on Netanyahu’s part. This is part of a campaign, because Netanyahu knows something very important, the United States knows something very important, and Palestinian people know something very important. Which is that the state of Israel is losing a lot of the blind faith that Jewish people living in Israel used to give, that Jewish people around the world used to give, and this is a serious problem.
There Are Good People Everywhere
There have always been Jewish people’s organizations that on some level or another have supported some part of the Palestinian cause. Just a few months ago we were doing our monthly rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and a woman came by and saw our information about Palestine and said “Hmm… I’m Jewish” and I thought “oh no, I know where this is going.” She said, “Every month I go out with a group of women and we go to the border checks and make sure that Israeli soldiers don’t harass Palestinian people.” So this is a Jewish woman, she was in her mid-60’s, and she works in an organization of women who go to the check-points and monitor them to make sure Israeli occupation forces are not harassing Palestinian people, and they document harassment done by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) against Palestinian people.
Now, this woman, maybe she believes in some part of Israel. Maybe she is what they call a “soft Zionist”. But let’s understand a reality, even though that’s not my belief. This is someone who’s living in the condition that every day since day one that brain was pounded that the state of Israel is the Jewish people’s land, that we have to take if from the Arabs, and on and on. Every day, taught in school, on every piece of information. Israel is likely, I would say, the most politicized place on earth. Everything you look at is political there, you just can’t avoid it, and that’s the condition people are growing up in there. So when somebody does an act against the state of Israel and for the Palestinian people, we have to understand that’s a big step, even though we want much more.
A Little History
I believe the signs of change are becoming clearer, and became clearer around the time of the Occupy Wall Street and MENA popular resistance movements. Around that time of different social movements happening around the world, Israel and people in Israel were a part of that. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish Israelis went to the streets against the government of Israel. Some of them with causes for the Palestinians, some of them causes for Jewish people, because the reality is, life isn’t that sweet for Jewish people in Israel. The reality is, a lot of the decision makers and very wealthy ruling class, capitalist class Jewish people aren’t living in Israel. Who would want to live there? They live in New York, they live in London, Toronto, they live in many places. A lot of these Jewish Israeli people are working class people, oppressed people, unemployed or under-employed people.
So going back to Netanyahu, and the state of Israel’s fear is something really important and something we need to be constantly observing and constantly pushing for. Something that could dramatically and completely change the course of events is Jewish people in Israel, Jewish people around the world, separating more and more with the state of Israel, finding conflict with the state of Israel, changing opinions, changing ideas to completely alternate ideas. What that does, when they move away from the state of Israel, is it brings them closer to their natural ally: Palestinian people.
They are both oppressed, although at very different levels, by the same force, which is the state of Israel, backed by the US, backed by Britain, backed by Canada. So this dynamic is the scariest thing that could possibly happen to any oppressor state, when oppressed people unite and fight them. This is what is important and where I wanted to conclude for the day. This is exactly the concept that we need to rally behind: Jewish and Palestinian people, together, fighting the Zionist state of Israel. Because, I believe that we’ve finished with the argument of ‘if war is in our nature,’ we can realize that basically people’s nature is peace. Jewish people and Palestinian people can live together, in fact they did for many years before the state of Israel. This is what I would argue is the solution to the ‘Palestinian problem’.
Two-State or One-State Solution?
The two-state solution, since they came up with that idea, was only a way to shut up the world community, shut up the Palestinian community while Israel expanded their occupying forces across the map. It was a stoned, completely drunk idea, an impossible idea. Impossible not just because it was not possible, but Israel was not doing it. They don’t want it, it’s not in their interests to do it, it is not in Zionist’s ideology to do it. It just wasn’t their plan and they have shown that it was not in their plan. However what is possible is Jewish people and Palestinian people uniting, together, in one country called Palestine, where each person gets a vote, where the millions of Palestinians who were thrown off their land and their children who have been born and grown up since then, have the right to return to that land, everyone lives together with one vote, one state that they share together. And I think that’s the only solution.
Imagine the possibilities, the examples that would mean for the world if such a thing happened. That’s what our job is, to push for peace in this situation because as long as the state of Israel exists, there will not be peace in the Middle East. As long as the state of Israel exists, you will see constant torment, war, plunder, occupation, oppression in the Middle East. So one of our main goals, as peace-loving people, should be to dismantle the state of Israel, all of its aspects, apartheid walls, military, everything, and get down to the reality which is that we can live pretty well in peace, we can live pretty well equally, and so why not do it?
We Want Long Lasting Peace
So in conclusion I would just like to say, let this third Intifada be not only an Intifada of Palestinian people, but let it be an Intifada of Palestinian people and Jewish people against the enemy of both which is the state of Israel. And let us all, no matter where we are in the world, get behind that Intifada, until the dying day of the Zionist regime of Israel. Let us fight for peace, let’s struggle for peace! I hope you’ll all join us in that struggle.
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