Sunday, August 19, 2012

An Independent Jewish Voice

On Friday, August 17, I took part in a rally at the Alberta Legislature to support the people of Palestine. The date of August 17 was significant as it was Al-Quds Day, the final day of the month of Ramadan observed by Muslims. Rallies were held throughout the world.

I was asked to speak as a representative of Independent Jewish Voices. The organizers wanted someone who was Jewish to speak on the subject of Zionism and Judaism not being the same thing. The Edmonton Coalition of War and Racism was also contacted for speakers, and since I am also part of that organization, I was the natural choice.

Admittedly, I was quite nervous. Although I have written a couple of songs about this topic, I have never given a speech on it before and I had no idea how well I would be received. Thanks to some sage advice from both IJV and friends at ECAWAR, I was able to succinctly summarize my stance and discuss what IJV is all about. Afterwards, numerous people came up to me and said they appreciated my words and presence.

Here is my speech, and below it a video of my giving it at the event. Here is a playlist of most of the speeches from the rally, and photos from the event are here.


I am with IJV as well as ECAWAR. I’m an example of someone who grew up seeing the Middle East in a certain way, and then reexamining it and realizing that there is another side that includes many contradictions and inconsistencies out of line with the idealized representation of the supposed land of milk and honey. Here is an example: I was born and raised in Canada, and have never been to the Middle East. Yet because I am Jewish, if I ever moved to Israel I would get automatic citizenship, just because I happen to be Jewish. However, there are people who have lived there all their lives, for generations even, who don’t even have basic human rights. That, to me, just doesn’t make sense.

However, I also soon learned that challenging the status quo is often suppressed and marginalized by organizations that consider themselves the Jewish establishment and claim to speak for the entire Jewish community, including on a national level.

Independent Jewish Voices offers another perspective. Independent Jewish Voices consists of Canadian Jews who share a strong commitment to social justice and universal human rights. Although we come from diverse backgrounds, occupations, and affiliations, we all believe that the broad spectrum of opinion among the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by institutions that claim to represent Jewish communities as a whole. We further believe that individuals and groups should feel free to express their views on any issue of public concern without incurring accusations of disloyalty.

We have therefore resolved to promote the expression of alternative Jewish voices, particularly in respect to the grave situation in the Middle East, which threatens the future of Palestinians and Israelis as well as the stability of the whole region. We hereby reclaim the tradition of Jewish support for universal freedoms, human rights, and social justice. The lessons we have learned from our own history compel us to speak out.

Independent Jewish Voices is also the first national Jewish organization in the world which formally adopted BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) in 2009. We exist to stand in solidarity with Palestinian rights which have been systematically violated by Israel and by Zionist forces since before the founding of Israel. Zionism does not equal Judaism (and vice versa), and historically Zionism was opposed by almost all organized branches of Judaism. And, in fact, there are some very strong Jewish voices today from within Israel who have remained fierce critics of Israeli colonial settlement policy in the Occupied Territories for many years.

True Judaism represents diversity of opinion, intelligence of thought, and a commitment towards values that include social justice. There is a principle in Judaism called Tikkun Olam, which means “healing the world” or “repairing the world.” As a Jewish woman, I would be a hypocrite if my effort at Tikkun Olam did not extend to the Palestinian people, and as part of this, speaking out about the contradictions and inconsistencies in what is supposedly our promised land. Thank you.

No comments: