Passover and Jewish Solidarity with Palestinians
On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, as Palestinians in Gaza continue to protest for their rights for over six weeks in mass demonstrations, and as the U.S. is opening its embassy in Jerusalem, JVP shares a collection of opinion pieces and commentaries by its members and leaders. This post is by JVP Rabbinical Council member Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
“We know all of your holy days, said Amro from Gaza, “because that’s when Israel closes the border crossings.” The loss of their freedom inch by inch, house by house and loved one by loved one is the bitter herb Israelis force down the throats of Palestinians every day, not just on Passover. Yet, indigenous Palestinians actively defy Israel’s every attempt to silence their voices, steal their land and erase their memories from the face of the earth. This is what it means for Palestinians to be sumud, (steadfast in Arabic) in the face of Israeli oppression. The Palestinian dream of returning home will not be quenched, no matter how hard Israeli society tries to do so. In light of Palestinian steadfastness and sacrifice for freedom, the time for active Jewish solidarity with Palestinians is now.
Over 30,00 Palestinians held a nonviolent March of Return on Land Day which, this year, coincided with Passover, the Jewish holy day in honor of Jewish liberation. The advent of Passover did not prevent Israelis from actively shooting civilians, killing 18 and wounding at least 1,700 unarmed demonstrators. The March of Return, a nonviolent event, created another moral crisis for Israel by highlighting the brutality of Israel’s permanent siege – which denies health care, shelter, fuel, food, freedom of movement, water, building materials and even children’s shoes to barefoot children. Israel’s siege of Gaza is a crime against humanity. If it doesn’t feel that way, something is severely wrong with our moral compass.
Over the past seventy years, Israel has developed a financially successful brand of high-tech militarism and population control, forcing Palestinians out of their homes and ghettoizing them into smaller and smaller spaces. While Israel markets military systems and population control to a large number of global buyers, Jewish society either tolerates or actively cooperates with Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, because it has accepted the dehumanizing view of Palestinians as an existential threat. Is this not the very narrative of oppression we seek to overcome during Passover?
I believe the key Jewish value of Passover, “do not oppress others because we were enslaved,” obligates us to see the full humanity of Palestinians and acknowledge the Israeli system of oppression wielded against them. If you share this belief, then it is time to become accountable and begin a process of active engagement in non-violent non-cooperation with the Israeli Occupation. To behave otherwise marks one as a passive bystander, a role which Jewish history rightly condemns.
There are multiple ways to be involved in active non-violent resistance, but there are three fundamental principles which must guide the actions of the privileged, (in this case, Jewish people), in relationship to Palestinians: centering leadership from impacted communities; taking an intersectional approach to activism; and, finally, practicing non-violent direct action as a humanizing process from beginning to end. If you are Jewish, now is the time to decide what you can do in solidarity with Palestinians. It is time to liberate ourselves from fear by actively engaging in non-cooperation with Israeli militarism and occupation. Active resistance to fear, militarism and systems of harm is the only Jewish path to liberation. Take the first step. The unknown wilderness is the very place one finds out what is truly holy.
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb is on the rabbinic council of Jewish Voice for Peace and recently led, The Sumud Winter Tour sponsored by Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian organization committed to active nonviolence in Israel’s occupied territories. She is a Freeman Fellow of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and author and illustrator of A World Without Borders Passover Haggadah.