Claremont JVP responds to Walker Wall Mural
Guest Post by Claremont Jewish Voice for Peace responding to Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance and Hillel statement on SJP mural:
December 12, 2016–We, Claremont Jewish Voice for Peace, fully support and stand behind Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine and the powerful mural they painted on Walker Wall in honor of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
As Jewish students on these campuses that support Palestinian liberation, we also want to address the statement made by the Claremont Colleges Hillel Student Board and the Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance in response to the mural. We want to make clear that Hillel and CPIA create an untrue representation of Jewish students on campus and cannot speak for all Jews, nor can they claim that the mural targeted Jews. We denounce the conflation of Zionism with Judaism, and believe that, as members of the Jewish community on these campuses, it is our responsibility to address some of the claims made in their statement, and clear some misconceptions.
First of all, advocacy for Palestinian liberation does not call for the expulsion of Jews from Israel (nor for the expulsion of Palestinians holding Israeli citizenship) but rather for the addressing of historical and current grievances, including the right of return of Palestinian refugees. Further, we believe that Israel itself cannot be considered a democratic state when rights, such as access to housing, education, and representation, are granted to Jewish Israelis and denied to non-Jewish Israeli citizens.
Second, the image of Palestine overlaid with the Palestinian flag in the center of the mural does not “misrepresent the geopolitical climate in the Middle East,” but provides a history of the region that has been erased and misrepresented for years to the global, and specifically American, public. The image asserts the dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that marked the violent history of the founding of Israel, which Palestinians call the Nakba. In the face of the erasure of this history, bringing historical Palestine to the forefront is an act of resistance.
Third, the image does not work to “[dismiss] the possibility of peace and coexistence” but rather to advance the possibility of justice. It acknowledges that calls for coexistence, like the one made by Hillel and CPIA, only benefit those who stand to gain from the current reality – overlooking the difference in the lived experiences of Palestinians and Israelis, and completely ignoring Israel’s responsibility in historical and ongoing displacement.
Further, CPIA’s mural in response to SJP’s highlights how this vision of ‘peace and coexistence’ is designed under the terms of the occupier, and is hardly just. It means Palestinians get only a fraction of their historic homeland. Not only is this vision of ‘peace’ unfair, but in the face of continued Israeli settlement-building, it’s impossible. Only policies like full democracy and the right of return for refugees can build a just, shared future for all peoples in Israel/Palestine. [Note- Claremont JVP was not involved in altering the CPIA mural, though we certainly support that message.]
Fourth, we condemn the framing of Palestinian resistance as inherently violent, when there is a long tradition of nonviolent Palestinian resistance, and a complete failure to acknowledge the violence inherent in military rule over a civilian population, inherent in a siege and bi-annual bombing of Gaza, inherent in the expulsion of Palestinian families from their home, inherent in the racist legal and political Israeli system. All human life is valuable – we grieve for all innocent lives lost. But when you do not show outrage for the loss of thousands of Palestinian lives as a matter of routine, and only condemn violence against Israelis, you are, in fact, anti-justice.
Fifth, the mural does not target Jews. In fact, the mural is not even ABOUT Jews. It is about Palestinian liberation. If anything, the mural goes against Zionism, which is not synonymous with Judaism or Jewish people.
Last, we believe that to call this an anti-semitic act is, frankly, deeply insulting to a very real and long history of Jewish persecution, and to the Jewish principle of Tikkun Olam. Anti-Semitism is real. But criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitism – it is a political critique protected under students’ First Amendment rights, and it is our responsibility as Jewish students.
Anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism. We vowed to never forget the atrocities committed against us and others. Resisting injustice is the most potent form of staying true to this promise. If we use our history of persecution to justify injustice we in turn perpetuate – we have learned nothing.
This is a conversation we need to be having within our Jewish communities. We must not let our history and legacy be twisted into a violent protection of human rights violations. Let us examine ourselves, our truth, and our love for all the people in this world, and recommit ourselves to justice. When one of the world’s most egregious and long-standing injustices is being carried in the name of the Jewish people, we must be brave enough to say that Israel does not represent our Judaism.
We need to build Jewish communities that reflect our values of justice for all. If Jewish students who are reading this agree, be sure to check out Claremont JVP next semester.
In solidarity and with love,