In Sarura, occupation is not our Judaism

The most moral army in the world. A haven for the Jewish People.

That’s what I was taught in synagogue. And in Sunday school. And again in my Zionist youth movement. On my gap year on Kibbutz.

Last Saturday night, the IDF turned up at Sumud Freedom Camp in the South Hebron Hills, where an historic coalition of Palestinian, Israeli and Diaspora Jewish activists re-established the Palestinian village of Sarura.

130 Jewish activists were there as part of a delegation with the Centre for Jewish Non-Violence, who takes Diaspora Jews to the West Bank to undertake solidarity work with Palestinian communities.

The people of Sarura was displaced in 1997 due to settler violence.

‘Sumud’ is the Arabic word for ‘steadfastness.’

Our participation in this action was an act of solidarity with the coalition, to leverage the Jewish privilege we hold in Israel/Palestine to try and prevent further displacement and violence being targeted at the villagers who had returned to re-establish their land.

On Saturday night, the most moral army in the world stole our power generator and cut the canvas around our tent down.

They shoved and hit activists who sang ‘we will build this world with love.’

The most moral army in the world stopped to take selfies as they demolished our peaceful, non-violent camp, where only hours before one of the elders of the village, Fadel, blessed the coming together of Arabs and Jews on his land.

Sumud Freedom Camp Photo: Gili Getz
Sumud Freedom Camp Photo: Gili Getz

This is what the occupation looks like in 2017. It’s checkpoints, closed military zones, and teenagers with rifles. It is dehumanising, and it is violent.

But the experiences of aggression Jewish activists felt that night is just one example of the kinds of intimidation that Palestinian communities face on a daily basis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

I am certain that the only reason the situation did not escalate to arrest is that of the presence of Jewish bodies.

On Wednesday afternoon, in the haven of the Jewish people, a peaceful demonstration at Damascus Gate was ripped apart by Israeli Police.

Israeli and Diaspora Jews formed a blockade in the path of the March of the Flags for Jerusalem Day. In the haven for the Jewish people, the Muslim quarter in the old city is ‘sterilised’ .

Palestinian shopkeepers and residents are forced to leave the area, while thousands of ultra-nationalists march through the old city chantng ‘death to Arabs’ and ‘Mohammed is dead.’

Protestors were strangled and shoved; one person even had her arm broken by Israeli police.

What other conclusions can we draw from this experience other than this supposedly inalienable right to a Jewish haven is actually conditional?

Conditional to tacitly or explicitly supporting the occupation and the violence that accompanies it.

In the US, the rise of organisations like If Not Now show a chasm between tacit support for the Israeli government and Occupation among communal leadership and the attitudes of young people.

As the anniversary of the Six Day War approaches, the British Jewish community needs brave leadership.

From our youth movements to our synagogues, to our governing institutions, we need a willingness to declare that Occupation is not our Judaism and that our self-determination is not contingent on the continuous control and oppression of another people.

We must build a Jewish movement against the occupation that centres itself on values of shared humanity.

Through working with and being guided by our Palestinian partners on the ground, we are able to demonstrate solidarity and support in a way that shifts the norms of conversations around occupation in our communities and within this type of activism.

sumud 1
Building the tent at Sumud Freedom Camp. Photo: Gili Getz

Sumud Freedom Camp is still standing. There will be a continuous presence of International, Palestinian and Israeli activists at Sarura as the rebuild continues.

This morning, army and border police returned to the camp, but after once again tearing down tents, they left, with no arrests made. This is a victory for non-violent resistance.

In Sarura, we built a shared dignity between Palestinians and Jews who came together to stand in solidarity with those continuously disenfranchised by occupation

I participated in the Sarura action because I learnt my values and lessons of social justice from my Judaism and ending the occupation is a Jewish social justice issue.

Fifty years of occupation is fifty years too many. Ilana Sumka, Director of the Centre for Jewish Non-Violence often says that there is no ‘it’s complicated’ with Occupation: you’re either for it, or against it. Which side are you on?



About the Author
Emily is a Jewish anti-occupation activist living in the UK. She has written for the Independent, +972 Magazine and the Guardian.
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