I took a look at the email (see below). It was from a long time friend, Gene Bruskin. His statement, along with a commentary by Eric Mann, really struck me. They are speaking up in favor of justice for the Palestinians. But they are doing something else as well. They are speaking against the sort of cone of silence that is being imposed on any criticisms of Israel and Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. Increasingly, as anti-Palestinian elements become more unhinged by the growth of support for the Palestinian cause, those of us who criticize Israeli policies are being demonized. We are being told, in effect, that we cannot speak any sort of criticism of Israel that Zionist censors do not approve. We are being told that to raise any questions regarding the colonial character of Israel or its atrocious actions towards the Palestinians, is somehow anti-Semitic.
And while so many people are silent the Israeli government proceeds to steal more Palestinian land.
Bruskin and Mann, along with a growing number of progressive Jews have spoken out and i applaud them doing so.
Speaking out must not be restricted to progressive Jews. I want to see more African Americans speaking out. We have a long and proud history of expressing our support for the Palestinians, but in the recent past, in part through the work of anti-Palestinian elements, many African Americans have somehow become convinced that to speak out against Israeli policy is anti-Semitic and un-Christian. Instead what must be understood is that to fail to speak out in favor of justice for the Palestinians is to actually be complicit in the systematic violation of the human rights of an entire people.
There will be no peace in the Middle East until there is justice for the Palestinians and a legitimate and sincere peace between the Israeli government and the Palestinian people as a whole. To believe anything else is to engage in magical thinking.
Again, my thanks to Bruskin and Mann.
Reflections of another Self Respecting Jew
By Gene Bruskin
Let me start by saying “thank you” Eric Mann for this ground breaking article in Counterpunch.
As a working class Jew from South Philadelphia, I have been outraged for years that the Israeli government dared to speak and act so brutally in my name. So much of what is in my bones as a lifetime social activist, radical, movement builder, anti-racist and internationalist is, for me, connected to my Jewishness. My grandparents in the Pale in Russia fled after their parents were thrown down a well by the Cossacks. My wife’s family suffered severely in the Holocaust. Even with my highly secular Jewish upbringing, I learned deep pride in being part of a legacy of people who fought repeatedly against oppression and often stood with those who were oppressed.
My father was a young communist activist in Philadelphia the 30s, as were other members of my family. When my parents moved us out of the city, my father refused to promise neighbors not to sell to Blacks. When I brought home one of the few Black students from college for Thanksgiving dinner to my lily white neighborhood, just as “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was becoming a hit movie, my parents were warm hosts. The message was always clear—our fates are intrinsically linked to the oppressed and racism is a bad thing.
As I entered the movements of the 60s and 70s I found Jews everywhere. When I studied the history of left and labor movements in the US, and elsewhere, going back to the 19th century, I found Jews playing key roles. I have nourished and cherished that as an essential part of who I am.
Twice in the late 80s and early 90s I visited the West Bank and Gaza and also met with progressive Israelis. But when I came home I encountered fierce opposition the Jewish community and the labor movement as I tried to talk about what I had seen and learned.
There is no doubt that anti-Semitism is alive and well in the world, and the left often makes the mistake of ignoring that fact and even sometimes making the same mistake of the Israeli government by acting as if Israel speaks for all Jews. The left must at all times vehemently oppose anti-Semitism, which has always been a tool of racists and linked to other forms of racism and oppression. We have seen this with the Klan and others in the US, and with fascist and now anti-immigrant movements in Europe and other countries.
But, in my view, it is the policies of the Israeli government that currently provide the greatest excuse for anti-Semitism in the world, by acting in the role of the oppressor against Palestinians while aligning with the most reactionary global policies of the US. Israeli attacks on and occupation of Palestine are bad for all Jews everywhere, including in Israel. There will never be peace in Israel/Palestine without justice for Palestinians and justice is now nowhere to be seen. And these policies align Israel with reactionary forces all over the world. One recent glaring example was the fact that Israeli security forces provided training for St Louis County and city police, prior to the Ferguson attacks.
It is a great irony that the Palestinians have now become the “Jews” of the Middle East, ostracized, terrorized, denied safety, land, dignity and liberty. Unfortunately, much of the Arab world has abandoned them as well
Any self-respecting Jew, any Jew who values the history of our forefathers and mothers, who wants to truly honor those many Jews who have been slaughtered and discriminated against for centuries, cannot let this most valuable legacy be stolen by the right wing thugs and politicians that constitute such a powerful part of the current Israeli government. For Netanyahu and others before him, the holocaust and other forms of anti-Jewish oppression of the past have simply been an opportunist vehicle to stir fear and paralysis among Israelis and Jews internationally to create support for Israel’s brutal violence against the Palestinians. Nothing dishonors our ancestors more.
I am ashamed, outraged, enraged and constantly disappointed by the conduct of Israel and tmost of the organized Jewish community While the outspoken mainstream Jewish organizations in the US does not speak for most Jews, they are organized and aggressive while we unaffiliated Jews are often disorganized and passive. Fortunately, organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace have stepped up recently with growing Jewish support, particularly from younger Jews.
While resisting all forms of anti-Semitism, Jews who are self-respecting need to take leadership in the defense of Palestinians, in unity with people of color in this country and progressives around the world. In this way we defend all that we value about our Jewishness.
Below is a link to the Eric Mann article in Counterpunch