Last Updated June 2021
“This is not the usual situation,” Haaretz journalist Noa Landau told thousands of people on a call about the crisis in Israel and Palestine recently. “This is different.”
A coalition of Jewish and Palestinian communities sponsored that call to explain plainly and passionately what’s happening now to Palestinian and Israeli people, what the Trump administration’s policies changed on the ground.
“What’s happening now is injustice… And here’s where I have hope: Israelis and Palestinians standing together in Sheikh Jarrah defending Sheikh Jarrah people.”
—Huda Abu Arqoub, Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP)
This call was sponsored by Progressive Israel Network (PIN), the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP), the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ), New York Jewish Agenda (NYJA), National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.
What’s happening in Jerusalem?
There’s so much misinformation in the media, and conditions on the ground change daily. So it’s good to be able to turn to trustworthy leaders and organizations who have always focused on human rights and justice for all, and who aren’t backing away from that call now.
We’re learning from:
“Christian Zionism’s support for the nation-state of Israel is rooted in relatively modern evangelical readings of Scripture that see Israel’s “rebirth” in 1948 as fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy, signaling the ticking of God’s clock ever closer toward the end of the world.
While some Christian Zionists reject [an] end times prophecy, nearly all embrace God’s covenants with Abraham — and through him the Jewish people — as eternal. In this reading, the Jews are God’s chosen people and the land of Israel is theirs and only theirs. End of story.
From Sir Mark Sykes and Lord Arthur Balfour — the British diplomats who helped sow the seeds of Israel a century ago — to former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Christian Zionists have played a major role in the current conflict. Christian Zionists send hundreds of millions of dollars each year to Israel, including to fund its illegal settlements. They’ve forged strong bonds with Israeli and American politicians.”
“The events unfolding at Sheikh Jarrah were the context of the escalation of violence between Palestinians and Israeli forces at Al Aqsa Mosque and elsewhere in the territories.
“Palestinian residents of the neighborhood have been protesting for weeks to prevent the eviction of Palestinian families sought by Israeli settlers. The protests underscore that the expulsions in Sheikh Jarrah are part of the broader expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland — a process that started during the establishment of Israel in 1948 and turned about 750,000 Palestinians into refugees.
“The protests at Al Aqsa against denying us access to our holy sites are related to the same oppressive process of disenfranchisement and occupation.”
More from Rula Salameh
WATCH: Rula co-produced the documentary, Sheikh Jarrah, My Neighbourhood (Peabody Award, 2012). Auburn’s Presidential Global Forum participants stayed in this neighborhood the last time they visited the region.
“Before we get to the precipitating events (and there are many), the real background is the occupation that has lasted more than half a century, and that violates the human rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza every single day. Like everyone else in the world, they have the right to citizenship in a country, to self-determination, to freedom of movement, and to safety and security. If you want this for Jews, you have to support the same for Palestinians (and the reverse is true as well)….
“Just as criticism of US government policies that violate human rights (and organizing/advocacy to change such policies) ultimately strengthens—not weakens—the US, criticism of occupation and other Israeli policy is an investment in creating a better future, not a threat to the state.
“All of us who care about the future of Israel and Palestine, and of Israelis (Jewish, Palestinian & other) and Palestinians should be putting our money, advocacy energy, and organizing power into working to end occupation, investing in organizations both here and there that are doing so, and supporting the extraordinary activists on the ground who are devoting their lives to this work.”
“In anguish, we pray and call for immediate de-escalation and cessation of violence before more blood spills.
“But let’s be clear: our most fervent prayers are not enough. We must address the root causes of this conflict, decrying extremism, hatred and dehumanization wherever it appears. We must urge Israel to end the unjust and un-Jewish policies that have brought 54 years of degradation, humiliation and hardship to millions of Palestinians and which threaten the democratic fiber of Israel itself. As American Jews, we must demand that our community stop funding, platforming and mainstreaming Jewish extremist groups, like the ones working to expel Palestinians from East Jerusalem today. And we must continue to amplify the voices of the many Israelis and Palestinians who are working together toward a just and shared future, in which every person is able to live in dignity and without fear.”
“Israel’s leading human rights organization, B’Tselem, and Human Rights Watch both issued reports this year describing Israeli rule from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea as apartheid, echoing what many Palestinians have said for years. It is unavoidably clear that the values of tikkun olam are not being upheld in Israel.
“Palestinians living under Israeli rule have a right to justice, and the integrity of Jews who work to uphold tikkun olam depends upon the consistent application of those values – especially when it comes to applying them to the actions of our own people.”
“Personally, I’m wary of the term apartheid because there are significant differences from ancien régime South Africa. But putting aside nomenclature, there is no doubt that the ongoing Israeli misrule of Palestinians is both unjust and creates a tinderbox.
“It’s also true that Hamas not only attacks Israeli civilians but also oppresses its own people. But as American taxpayers, we don’t have much influence over Hamas, while we do have influence over Israel and we provide several billion dollars a year in military assistance to a rich country and thus subsidize bombings of Palestinians.
“Is that really a better use of our taxes than, say, paying for Covid-19 vaccinations abroad or national pre-K at home? Shouldn’t our vast sums of aid to Israel be conditioned on reducing conflict rather than aggravating it, on building conditions for peace rather than creating obstacles to it?”
Actions for the United States government to do now on behalf of just leadership.
Our friends and partners have highlighted simple, meaningful actions for all of us to demand of United States Congressional leaders, representatives, and senators right now:
1. Appoint an ambassador to Israel and a Consul General to Palestine now.
These key federal employees on the ground are formally empowered to engage local leaders on behalf of this country and are accountable to the US people through our government.
2. Affirm historic norms changed only under the Trump administration:
Re-establish Jordanian custodianship of the holy sites in Jerusalem, and acknowledge the Al-Aqsa mosque is a sacred site that has long been open to all respectful people. No holy site should be invaded or attacked.
3. Stop the use of US resources for violence against civilians at home or abroad.
What you can do: share your story, questions, resources, now.
Now is the time for each of us to have the uncomfortable conversations about Israel and Palestine that we might not want to have.
Many members of Auburn’s community have personal stories of being on the ground in the region, please share them now.
Do you have any questions, stories, or resources for meeting this urgent moment?
Follow more voices like those linked above and the Progressive Israel Network (PIN), the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP), the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ), New York Jewish Agenda (NYJA), National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, and the Telos Group.
A prayer for all of us
Tamara Cohen closed last week’s call on the Israeli and Palestinian crisis with this excerpt from her prayer for peace:
“Dear God, help us look,
look closer so that we may see
our children in their children,
their children in our own.
Help us look so that we may see You –
in the bleary eyes of each orphan, each grieving childless mother,
each masked and camouflaged fighter for his people’s dignity.
Dear God, Divine Exiled and Crying One,
Loosen our claim to our own uniqueness.
Soften this hold on our exclusive right – to pain, to compassion, to justice.
May your children, all of us unique and in Your image,
come to know the quiet truths of shared pain,
In Sh’Allah. Ken yehi Ratzon.
May it be Your will.
And may it be ours.”
—R. Tamara Cohen, via Ritualwell