By Kayla Starr
My dear friend, Rae Abileah, was beaten and hospitalized for interrupting Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress Monday, May 23. She stood up and called out “It’s the occupation of Palestine that is indefensible” (not the ’67 borders, as the Israeli prime minister claims). The right wing American Jews in the gallery near her beat her mercilessly, while Netanyahu at the podium praised our freedom to speak out here in this democracy! Rae was hospitalized to assess and treat her neck and shoulder injuries.
Never have I felt so frightened as I do when encountering the angry, violent rhetoric and behaviors Jewish Zionist zealots regularly use against non-violent protesters in the U.S. I have seen them use the Israeli flag poles to strike non-violent old ladies, knock cell phones out of hands, push and batter protesters. Are these my people?
I became active in supporting the rights of the Palestinians after the siege of Gaza, two and half years ago. I have attended rallies, marches, and teach-ins. The Jewish right wingers who show up at these events scare me more than anyone I have encountered over many decades of activism. I have marched to protest the wars, for human rights and health care, against nuclear power and weapons, for climate justice and various other progressive causes for the last 30-some years.
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I grew up as a Jewish child in Los Angeles, believing that it was good that the Jews finally have a homeland where they won’t be mistreated and that they were able to return to land that belonged to them in biblical times. I had no idea that millions of people, Muslims and Christians, already lived there when the U.N gave the land to become the State of Israel.
Since the Israeli all-out military attack on Gaza that killed over 1400 civilians, I’ve been learning more about what really happened when the Jews took over the land they now call Israel: the 600,000+ Palestinians who were driven from their ancestral lands in 1947-48, the massacres and looting by right wing Jewish militias of whole Palestinian villages. These are documented historical records attested to by Jewish/Israeli historians and scholars.
And, when I visited Israel 2 years ago, I saw first hand how the Palestinians are treated by the Israeli government; the 20-foot concrete walls separating them from their farm lands, the stolen water sources, the check points, the crowded impoverished refugee camps, the demolished homes, the private Israeli roads connecting the “settlements” built in occupied territories, etc.
I met with many Palestinians, some of whom had recently watched their homes built legally on land that belonged to their families for generations, destroyed by bulldozers, some who protest the Wall separating them from their farm lands, getting attacked regularly by the the IDF, some whose family members were imprisoned without trial. I did not speak to any Palestinians who wanted to “push the Jews into the sea”.
Everyone just wanted to live in peace on their own lands, to be able to work to support their families, to be able to educate their children.
I came to understand that, out of desperation, some radical Palestinians throw rocks, launch rudimentary missiles and a few, in desperation, even blew themselves up, killing innocent Israelis, in retaliation against the crimes of stealing their lands, livelihoods, killing and imprisoning their family members, and economically repressing their people. Over all these years, there have been a handful of Jewish citizens killed and many thousands of Palestinians killed, imprisoned and displaced by the Israel. The death rate is about 100 Palestinians to one Israeli.
Israelis are frightened that they are subject to attack, but refuse to recognize that they started it, that they are the bullies here, that the Palestinians have as much right to defend themselves as do the Israelis.
It is a real shame that the money our leaders get from AIPAC, the American Jewish right wing lobby pressuring Congress, continues to subvert our own democratic principles, and is a key factor in continuing the injustice and violence in the Middle East.
I am deeply grateful for the thousands of Jewish people around the world, including in Israel, who are praying and working tirelessly for peace and justice. I know there are many who are facing the wrath of Jewish right wingers, risking themselves, as Rae did, organizing freedom flotillas to Gaza, joining Palestinian activists on weekly protests of the wall where they are tear-gassed and shot at regularly. There are thousands marching, writing, signing petitions, many who are lobbying our Congress to reduce military aid to Israel, and organizing and supporting the international boycott/sanctions/divestment campaign. Despite the shameful behaviors of the violent Jewish Zionists, I continue to hope to see justice prevail in my lifetime.