Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Supporting Gaza from a Jewish Perspective

Below is a video blog I recorded about why I support the people of Gaza, from a perspective drawn directly from Jewish religion and history. The purpose of this video is to debunk claims that Jewish people who support Palestine are "self-hating Jews." The text of the video follows under the screen.

My name is Paula and I am with Independent Jewish Voices, on the national steering committee representing Alberta. Independent Jewish Voices is a national human rights organization whose mandate is to promote a just resolution to the dispute in Israel and Palestine through the application of international law and respect for the human rights of all parties.

IJV is made up of Jewish people (and non-Jewish supporters) from across the country. We come from different walks of life, levels of religious observance, professions, and ages, but the one thing we have in common is that we believe that the occupation of Palestine is wrong and must stop. Politically, we provide an alternative to organizations such as B'nai B'rith and the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee which claim to speak on behalf of all Canadian Jews. They don't.

I want to talk a little about my perspective as a Canadian Jew. What I really want to say that what is happening in Gaza is not in my name. I am a Jewish person who grew up in an observant household. As such, I am one who takes the concept of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) very seriously. I also, fortunately, have a tendency to like to question things, such as why a Jewish person – and our government - should have some kind of obligation to support Israel without question and why those Jewish people who speak out against the policies of the Israeli government are often branded as traitors and as self-hating Jews. The latter is utterly ridiculous because those of us who take a principled stand on the Middle East as Jews self-identify as such.

As a Jewish woman, I believe that my religion and history demands me to stand up for the rights of all. A friend of mine on Facebook recently posted a status update that really summarized the things that Jewish people learn through our education while growing up that support my position concerning the massacre in Gaza, so I am going to paraphrase that here.

From a religious perspective, when we look at the Jewish Scriptures, the story of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt teaches that a righteous person must seek to liberate people who are not free.

The story of Queen Esther teaches about fighting bigotry, oppression, and genocide.

The apocryphal story of Judah and the Maccabees teaches about the duty to resist an occupying power.

From our history, when we look at those who fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the Jewish Partisans, and the people who revolted in the Nazi concentration camps, it teaches about the need to honour people who are courageous enough to rise up against those who seek to destroy them, instead of just quietly awaiting their fate.

The actions of the righteous gentiles who saved countless Jewish lives during the Nazi Holocaust teach the necessity of opposing your own people when they are doing wicked things.

Finally, from the Talmud, the Oral Law of the Jewish people, we get the teaching from Hillel the Elder, who summarizes the commandments of the Torah, with one simple statement: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary.”

And that's exactly it: the Palestinians are the neighbours in question in this discussion. I find it hypocritical that I could move to Israel tomorrow and get citizenship automatically, when people who have lived there for generations are denied the most basic of human rights.

I am not anti-Israel, I am not anti-Semitic, and I am not pro-Hamas, but I support Palestinian human rights first and foremost as a human, as a person, but as a Jew I feel very much called to take this stand, for the reasons I have discussed. Thanks for watching, and Shalom!

1 comment:

Colleen Chapman said...

Well said. That is a description of what I think of Sacred Social Justice. If it isn't equal for all it isn't just. Thanks Paula/