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True Colors

 

“True Colors” Artist unknown, pictured by Hope Hamerslough  


This image depicts two women wearing headscarves from Jewish and Palestinian culture. Both women are shielding their eyes, a gesture that emphasizes sorrow, pain, or perhaps a refusal to look or acknowledge something. Below them is a single child, not extremely visible, and a representation of the families created and the lost by both women through the years of occupation. Underneath you can see newspaper clippings of news reports throughout the years. Created in 2014.  

 

A call to action for Jewish students:  

My family sits around the kitchen table while we eat and talk, with the TV turned to the news, its volume set low, felt like a subtle score for our conversation. I can recall the snacks on the table, the feeling of hunger after just picking my grandfather and grandmother up from the airport an hour away, my brother disassociating up in his room playing video games. When I turn my attention from the TV to the conversation at hand, I don't know how to approach, and yet still my mother cues me in. “Hope doesn't agree with you.” To me it felt more like a call out, so I knew I had to use my words carefully for them to resonate, to have any impact at all, other than complete disregard. “I just think that there is a lot of suffering, and too many people dying for the “taking back of our land” to be justified” I said. It was the wrong thing to say, it was too much for them, and I could feel them shying away, so I tried again. “I’m a humanitarian, I’m anti-war, I just don’t want innocent people, innocent Palestinians to die.” The response I got was bone chilling, a terrifying realization of humanity or lack of it. “People die in war.” My grandfather said. Like it was inevitable... but it didn't feel inevitable, his statement made it feel necessary. Like I had to understand and swallow the fact that death is a necessary part of life, or rather that death of Palestine and all its people is a necessary to restore peace and safety for Israel. I didn't want to swallow that, so I choked instead, and saw the truth, that any act of violence for the hope of peace can be justified.  


In sharing my story, I do not intend to erase Palestinian suffering, nor do I intend to attack my fellow American Jewish community which I was born and raised in. My only intention is to be one Jewish voice in a sea of millions who attempt at breaking the silence of blind complacency to the state of Israel.  


I am afraid to do this, to speak, and I know many in the Jewish community are afraid too. I am afraid that my unwillingness to grapple with the suffering of Palestine is putting me in a position where my family will no longer love me, where my Jewish friends and community will turn their backs on me, demonize me and call me a “self-hating Jew”. I’m afraid that my family will continue to entwine my critique of Israel with antisemitic values, and say that because I am anti-Zionist I do not support and love my Jewish community. But they are wrong, it is because I love my community that I must break my silence.  


And yet, I am still more afraid than ever, for the Palestinians who have lived their entire lives without a glimpse of freedom. So, I beg you to not let fear continue to hold its dominion over you like it has of me. Don't let fear be used as a controlling power over your voice. My previous silence was not born out of “self-hate,” nor was it born out of submission, but I think it was born out of self- numbing shame. Shame for not saying something sooner, for not speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the Jewish and Palestinian voices that wail for an end to occupation. My paralyzing shame came with seeing the truth of Israel's apartheid regime and not speaking for a call to action.  


So, I ask you the same thing I did that day with my grandfather...how many more Palestinian people, children, mothers, brothers, sisters, teachers, friends must die for the sole purpose of “taking back” our land?  


For me, I know now that I have no other obligation to my Jewish community than to break this silence, and in doing so I invite my Jewish community to feel, to recognize that pain has no boundaries, no borders. To decode the colonized mind and know that it consists of more than just saying “liberation for all.” We must face the deaths of all Palestinians and see the ways in which our silence has proved blindly complacent. We must look at the polarizing forces that move our minds to support imperialist regimes.  


My call to action begins with the self. Are you going to sit by and allow people to die on both sides because you cannot see past these institutions which veil oppression and subjugation with “right” and “retaliation"? Ask yourselves if you are resistant to seeing the truth because you truly feel unsafe or if you are not breaking the silence because you are afraid of feeling uncomfortable?  


I challenge you to find time to question yourselves, to be uncomfortable in your own minds. For me it was not an easy task, so if there is one thing to take away from this, besides an awareness and acknowledgment of the state of Israel's occupation of Palestinian land, is that you have some semblance of support in the other Jewish voices who feel alienated from their community for not being able to disregard Palestinian suffering so easily. I want you to know that our moral and urgent responsibility to support freedom for all people, everywhere, does not erase your Jewish identity.  

 

Here are just a few resources to investigate in the D.C. area if you are looking for gatherings, events, or community to share and support you:  


Jewish Voice for Peace DC-  


Resources/ Community-  

Beyt Tikkun Synagogue Calendar events and solidarity statement with Palestine. 

 The New Synagogue Project Website- calendar events, programs, information  

J-Caring Community Support Line with JSSA and The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. 


Readings-  

Final issue of Tikkun Social justice magazine Tikkun Magazine “A Jewish and Interfaith Prophetic Voice to Heal and Transform the World”. 

AU Eagle Newpaper article on student reprimand for support of Palestine.  

The Nation Magazine article sharing news and information about Jewish voices calling for a ceasefire.  

Poem "Enemy Of The Sun"- Samih Al-Qasim from Indy Liberation Center  

 

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