- Between NYC and Haifa:On Being Jewish, Feminist and Peace Activist
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Bridges is a "Jewish feminist journal." I have a problem with this Jewish thing.
Because in Israel being Jewish is being part of the majority and belonging to something that is today smacking of racism. For example the recent call by Orthodox Rabbis (who are State-salaried) not to rent apartments to Arabs in Zafed and the letter of the Rabbis' wives calling on young Jewish women not to associate with Arabs lest they will fall in love and get married to them. There is a new initiative now calling on restaurant owners to state publicly there are no Arab employees on the premises. Not to mention State laws forbidding the sale of land to Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, not allowing Arabs to join community settlements or build their homes there, and endless other racist laws and customs.
Your feelings about being Jewish reflect being in the dominant Jewish group in Israel, but in the U.S. being Jewish is being [End Page 170] part of a minority in a Christian-dominated society.
It is important for us to observe and respect this difference. For me it is very important when I am acting as part of the peace and feminist community to be able to work together with Palestinians who are either Moslems or Christians.
Or atheists like you.
This is exactly what we share together, being atheists or as we say in Hebrew, secular. Maybe this is the difference between the original purpose of Zionism in Palestine and being a Zionist in the U.S. How do you create a secular Jewish state? Can Judaism become a culture only? The original purpose of socialist Zionism was to create a place where Jewish people could be secular. But it failed miserably. Religious Zionists did not want to let this newly created entity—Israel—to become secular. Religion has become institutionalized. It is part of State Law. Many women suffer as a result since we are obliged to obey religious laws ruling over family matters.
The contradiction for many Jews in the U.S. is that they definitely do not want to live in a Christian theocracy—they want to live in a secular America, but they insist that Israel must be a Jewish State—a theocracy.
I often think about this double standard and also about this colonial way of thinking. What is good for a Jewish person in the U.S. should be good for anyone everywhere, no? To live your good life in the U.S. and at the same time want to have your "country house" ready and waiting for you... while the reality here—in this country house—is that people are uprooted from the only abode they have and have nowhere to live. Is this Jewish justice or moral?
I want to go back to the place where you don't want to call yourself Jewish. For me it is similar to white people not wanting to call ourselves white. White anti-racists came to realize, and be told by people of color, that we must not deny being white because we have—whether we want them or not—all the privileges of being white. Naming ourselves as white is not embracing an identity but recognizing the facts of the structure of racism, as we take responsibility for changing it. (Of course the difference is that U.S. whites have never been oppressed as white people.) I have been working for peace between Palestine and Israel as a Jewish woman since 1982 and it is very important to me personally to be doing this as a Jew. And it is also important for others because they see that there are Jews who are not supporting Israeli policies. It takes away from AIPAC and other Establishment types who pretend to speak in the name of all Jews. It is also important for non-Jews because it gives them permission to criticize Israel without being accused of anti...