I have again been diving into Allan Solomonow’s filing cabinets. Last week I opened a drawer that I hadn’t explored yet and found more amazing documents from efforts in the early1970s to bring Palestinian voices to American and American Jewish discussions about the Middle East. Lots of new material to reflect on and share, but first, I want to share something from a magazine in that drawer that I had seen before but not opened: the June 15, 1970 issue of WIN Magazine, published by the War Resisters League.
It has an image of two old men on the cover. Presumably one of them is Jewish and one isn’t, but they’re basically indistinguishable, and they both should have rights and their humanity respected one as the other. What caught my appreciative eye inside this time was an article by a woman named Sharon Rose entitled “Zionism in the Mid-East.” I was motivated to read it because the perenial conversation about Zionism within Jewish Voice for Peace is experiencing a resurgence. This happens periodically, usually when there is an influx of new folks who wonder why JVP has certain positions or doesn’t emphasize one issue over another in its work.
The article isn’t a long one, but it has some outstanding observations and analysis that are repeated today. So much wisdom has been expressed and ignored that it can create hopelessness or inspiration. Either it seems like we aren’t making any progress, or we can see that we’re not just starting out, and we have some experience to draw on as we move forward. I think it strengthens our work not to feel like we’re the first to see what troubles us or to articulate it. Otherwise, we operate from a false sense of being in uncharted territory. I hope that looking back can awaken something of a reaction in American Jews along the lines of, “We were told lies and were told to forgive racist policies we would critique here or if used against other peoples, but no more. We have to deal with this legacy now that we see what opportunities may have existed 40 or more years ago that were repudiated out of hand, denied and not given a chance to grow. We can’t get those years back, but we can now move forward without new and old fog obscuring our vision.” That is why I want to keep sharing the work of the beleaguered peacemakers of the 1970s.
Read Sharon Rose’s article and feel its relevance to today, including as regards race relations in the US ala Black Lives Matter. Here are just a couple brief points that I really liked:
‘I asked embarrassing questions: Why are all the dock
workers and other laborers dark skinned Moroccan Jews
and Arabs? Why are all the ditch diggers and workers on
the roads dark skinned Yeminite Jews and Arabs? \Vhy do
the “Socialist” Kibbutzim join in the exploitation of this
labor? Why do the Arab villages live under military rule?
Why are crucial civil rights denied Palestinian Arabs who
remained in Israel?”
‘A rich cultural heritage based on a prophetic religious
tradition has been largely forfeited to the Amerikan melting pot, to be replaced by an uneasy, guilt-ridden quasi-loyalty to a foreign state! It is a blind loyalty-one which forces Amerikan “Zionists” into the absurd positions of favoring disestablishmentarian religious liberty here, while defending the existence of a theocracy in the Middle East, of attesting to the survival of the Jewish people through two milenia of “dispersion” from their homeland, while denying the existence of a Palestinian people after their twenty-five years or less as refugees.
“The question is not whether the state of Israel has a right to exist. People have rights–states only responsibilities.
What do we do with lingering questions that sound like they were formulated today? How can we leverage the fact that these are not new ideas or questions?