Saturday 1437 - 12th January 2013
I was thinking a lot today about a meeting I was at on Thursday night; a Cambridge Amnesty International meeting. I have written about Amnesty International before, at the beginning of Dec 2012 ,that post was titled Still Shining a Light in the Darkness and you can read it here
After the general business part of the meeting a young woman spoke; her name was Naomi Sklar and she is one of the 1705 signatories (as at Jan 2013) of Jews For Justice for Palestinians (JFJFP). She very kindly gave me access to her notes as I was too engrossed in what she had to say to take many of my own.
I learnt much, in the 40 mins or so that she spoke, about the emotional nature of the attachment that Jewish people have to Israel and I will write about that a little later.
This post is intended as a contribution to the hope for a just peace and reconciliation between the Peoples of Israel and Palestine and the title is from something Naomi said. I am not writing it as an expert, as I am most definitely not one, I am writing it as a human being who wants to see peace and justice in every part of the world. I am also writing it as someone who lived for 25 years, from 1980-2005 , in the Republic of Ireland very close to the border with Northern Ireland and had experience of the division of land as I worked in the North for many years and experienced the daily passing through Army Checkpoints. As I was British with a very obvious English accent this was generally not a problem for me but I still felt the fear on the occasions I was pulled over to have my car searched. I knew many people with obvious Catholic names who were given a hard time by the soldiers; with car and body searches and sometimes abuse.
To go back to Naomi, she talked from a very personal perspective not only as someone who is Jewish but also someone who spent a few weeks volunteering in Palestine so got a taste of it first hand . However she was at the meeting primarily as one of the signatories of the organisation so I want to quote a little from their website as I certainly hadn’t heard about them before and maybe you haven’t either. Here’s what they believe –
- ” Peace in the Middle East will only come about with mutual recognition and respect and must be seen as just by both sides.
- Peace requires the end of illegal occupation and settlement.
- Violence against civilians is unacceptable.
- Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza are breeding hatred and resentment.
- It is crucial that Jews speak out for Palestinians’ human rights.
- The humanitarian values of Judaism have been corrupted by the Israeli state’s human-rights abuses.
- A lasting peace must be seen as just by both sides.
- Britain, the EU, the USA, Russia and the UN must be persuaded to implement UN resolutions on Palestine. “
So who are they ?
” Jews for Justice for Palestinians is a network of Jews who are British or live in Britain, practising and secular, Zionist and not. We oppose Israeli policies that undermine the livelihoods, human, civil and political rights of the Palestinian people.
We support the right of Israelis to live in freedom and security within Israel’s 1967 borders.
As well as organising to ensure that Jewish opinions critical of Israeli policy are heard in Britain, we extend support to Palestinians trapped in the spiral of violence and repression. We believe that such actions are important in countering antisemitism and the claim that opposition to Israel’s destructive policies is itself antisemitic. “
You can read much more about them and the support they give to other activist groups, as well as links with other organisations, here
Naomi obviously spoke a great deal about how the organisation works but you can read about it from following the 2 links I’ve given you which I hope you will because it’s very important work. However I want to go back to what I alluded to earlier and that’s Naomi’s personal story and the emotional nature of her Jewishness.
Naomi talked about the complicated nature of being Jewish.About feeling, as a Jew , a sense of being implicated in Israel’s human right’s abuses in Palestine even though she is British and has never lived there.
Her experience was of growing up “with a personal sense of threat, learning about the Holocaust of course and believing that people still want to kill you, to push you into the sea” which could possibly be a common experience for Jews around the world .
Naomi went on to say “Many Jews do wear blinkers to the state of life for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, the privations, restrictions, indignities and injustices that occur on a daily basis. I did it myself. I in fact helped set up my school’s Amnesty group but would avoid anything to do with Israel, including detentions without fair trial, detentions of children, house demolitions and so forth.”
She spoke of how Israel has been set up as a place of refuge for all Jews and how it actually thrives on the fear that has carried on down the generations with Jews still feeling they might need to escape to somewhere ( hardly surprising considering their history of persecution.) Naomi said it would be very easy indeed for her to move to Israel, have an Israeli passport and there would even be big financial incentives for her to do so. ” Every year at Passover and Yom Kippur, everyone says, ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ “
When Naomi spent a few weeks as a Volunteer in Palestine she was horrified at the way the Palestinians were treated by the Israelis, like having “Gas the Arabs” daubed on the walls of homes by the Jewish Defence League and said she felt
“Outraged for the Palestinians, but also a real sense of being uncomfortable in my own skin, being Jewish. One wrong cannot ease another, but I found I really needed to go back and empathize again with the Jews fleeing to Israel in the late 19th Century, early 20th Century and of course, after WWII. It could not enable me to excuse the hatred, fanaticism or simple financial self-interest of settlers, but it gave me the peace to re-engage with Israel.”
I find it tragic that those who have suffered such persecution through the ages can now be so oppressive to others - maybe a case of the bullied becoming the bully?
Naomi spoke movingly too about the Refuseniks in Israel
“A central focus for JFJFP is supporting the Refuseniks, young Israelis who refuse to go into the army, and instead face military jail.Their courage is exemplary and I really would urge you to go and listen to one speak – they often do tours of Britain. It is hard for us to appreciate what a huge decision it is. When I went to Palestine, several family friends and cousins were outraged at my ‘consorting with terrorists’ and have not spoken to us since”
It is not easy when you take a stand against something that many of your friends and family believe in and I salute Naomi’s integrity
I wanted to write this piece because Naomi’s speech ( and there was much more than I have been able to include) highlighted the emotional legacy of Jewishness that many throughout the world must feel as they struggle to come to terms with Israeli human rights abuses, their ignoring of International Law whilst balancing this against a very real need for Jews to feel secure in the world.
We can all make judgements from the safety of our sofa’s but few of us really understand the emotional nature of the issues and I hope this post has, through Naomi, given you a little more insight into that.
During the early part of her speech Naomi quoted Lilla Watson, an Aboriginal Activist, and I will finish with her words because I do believe that my own liberation is bound up with that of all other human beings –
“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time; but if you are here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together”
Thanks again for your help Naomi and if you feel I need to make a correction please let me know The photograph of Naomi and of the writing on the gate are Naomi’s own.
Saturday Girl signing off now. Have a happy and peaceful week.
You can find my photography blog Photomania here and I hope you’ll pop over and take a look if you haven’t already