My 6-year-old son, who is in love with his Hebrew teacher at his Jewish day school, asked me this weekend who invented Hebrew.
Telling him the story of how Hebrew was painstakingly revived in the Holy Land brought tears to my eyes.
I’ll send him to school dressed in blue and white for Yom Hatzma’ut, but the truth I don’t know how to tell him yet is that his dad thinks Israel is slipping through our fingers because of the moral travesty of the occupation, and that many American Jewish institutions are complicit in this tragedy.
This is why, as a supporter of the two-state solution, I’m proud to call myself a member of the emerging anti-occupation Jewish movement IfNotNow.
In a flurry of op-eds in Jewish publications, many Liberal Zionist leaders have taken issue with the fact that IfNotNow has focused on ending American Jewish support for the occupation, without specifically advocating for the two-state solution. They say — if you don’t support a two-state solution explicitly, we won’t take you seriously.
But demanding allegiance to the two-state solution and then investing American Jewish resources in undermining the possibility of two-states is like saying you’re committed to losing a few pounds and eating three candy bars. And, unfortunately, that’s exactly what much of the American Jewish establishment is doing.
AIPAC says it supports the two-state solution, but lobbies against Palestinian statehood. Bibi Netanyahu says he supports a two-state solution, but continuously advocates settlement expansion. Money from American Jewish communal institutions and funders still flows to projects in the settlements. One Haaretz investigation found $220 million of funding from American tax-deductible 501c3 organizations, much of it raised from American Jews and some passed through Jewish Federations, was sent to settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank between 2009 – 2013.
Moral and political support for the occupation is perhaps even more important. Attacks and de-legitimization of Jewish anti-occupation activists continue. Trump speaks at AIPAC, and thousands give him standing ovations. Jewish communal leadership have worked for years to make it near political suicide to endorse the humanity of Palestinian people in political elections (thankfully, that is shifting).
If American Jewish organizations do actually want a two-state solution, they would do better to invest their time and resources in ending the occupation instead of attacking young American Jewish activists fed up with the status quo.
I would much prefer to take my children to an Israel that woke up to the moral scourge of the occupation, found a way to preserve its Jewish character, and settled permanent borders on the ‘67 line with a shared Jerusalem.
My deepest allegiance isn’t to a theoretical political solution, but to values, rooted in Jewish experience and history: justice, equality, self-determination, security, the value of human life, and the flourishing of Israeli and Palestinian societies. Any peace that makes these values manifest, for both Israelis and Palestinians, is worth considering.
Today’s most urgent task is to make the status quo of the occupation of the West Bank politically impossible to maintain. The deplorable lack of security for Israelis and Palestinians can’t be a reason marshaled to defend the status quo; rather, it should deepen our resolve to end the occupation.
This is the common ground that IfNotNow is gathering upon. I’m convinced that this political moment calls for forging new alliances to end American Jewish support for the occupation.
As Jewish anti-occupation activist Michael Sfard has said, the occupation will end. The question remains to what degree the American Jewish community and its leadership will be a part of the solution. IfNotNow is fighting for a future where our community leads the way.
What if Jewish leaders looked first at the ways in which our communal institutions are complicit in the moral and economic maintenance of the Occupation entering its 50th year – and worked to change that? With the serious partnership of American Jewish institutions, perhaps a two state solution wouldn’t feel so far off.
By re-rooting ourselves in the vision and values that make Jewish wisdom a gift to the world, we just might find the creativity and moral imagination necessary to envision a path out of the fear that locks us down.