Neutrality: Not An Option | October 29, 2023 Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake
The American Indian is the only indigenous people within the confines of American sovereignty. The merciless and ruthless attack on the ground of community in the life of the American Indian is completely amoral: To uproot him from territory that gave him rare sense of belonging, in which he could actualize his potential within a frame of reference that was totally confirming, and at the same time to keep him in full or relative view of his devastated and desecrated extension of self that the land signified is a unique form of torture, a long, slow , anguished dying. The original insider is forced to become an outsider in his own territory. There are some things in life that are worse than death –surely this must be judged as such. ...
The Search for Common Ground, Howard Thurman
Surely, Dr. Thurman’s searing words could be applied to Palestine and Palestinians living there. For seventy-five years Palestinians have been forced, and often with unrestrained ruthlessness and horrific violence to deal with being uprooted from the land which gave them meaning, where they could actualize their potential. What happens to the children who must become adults while being children? What about their potential? In what ways can it be actualized? Every day under the control of the occupying nation, how can they aspire to a tomorrow of justice and compassion? Yet, they must! How can they hold in their human consciousness the idea of a culture of peace? Yet they must! How can they nurture in their souls the idea of freedom? Yet, they must!
I recall that many years ago the “Blue Angels?” were flying in San Francisco coming close to businesses and people. I could barely stand the noise and ensuing fright. Then I thought about Palestinian children who were enduring this on a regular basis. There is no way that the raids by Israeli planes and missiles were not traumatizing.
Dr. Thurman says, “the contradictions of life are neither final nor ultimate.” How difficult it must be to accept such a statement after 75 years of nonviolent struggle met with broken knees, demolished houses, and murders?
There has been huge outcry condemning Russian intrusion of Ukrainian territory but silence on that of Israel on Palestinian soil. Forgive me, not silence! For the US Government, you and I through our taxes, annually pledge our undying support for the massacres to the tune of $4 billion annually with more, much more on the way.
I would say that I weep over the devastation. But the devastation has gone on for so long. So exceedingly long.
What does it take for us as a sovereign nation to lament the deaths of those struck by the Hamas attack and chain our support for vengeance against innocent civilians. We also must understand that when a people has been oppressed for generations, some in that community will say: “ By any means necessary.”
Listen to Rabbi Danny Ruttenberg.
Rabbi Danny Ruttenberg - Life Is a Sacred Text October 9, 2023 Brooklyn, NY
When Malcolm X famously said that the assassination of JFK was "merely a case of the chickens coming home to roost", there was tension amongst his people, there was fear of backlash, there were of course ideological differences. He was not threatening but just illuminating the hard fact of settler colonial violence: it destroys lives, traumatizes and warps people, breeds never-ending violence...and it will always, ultimately, despite the occupiers/oppressors' greatest efforts (which are well funded and heavily armed), end up hurting them in some way. When I did some very surface level research into this phrase, I found that Robert Southey wrote, “Curses are like young chickens, they always come home to roost” (The Curse of Kehama). Israel's decades-long brutal occupation of Palestine is truly a curse. I am saying this as a Jew, born in Jerusalem, deeply rooted in Jewish tradition and community all of my life. I position myself in sharing this not because non-Jews don’t have a stake in this struggle or a right to voice their opposition to Israeli apartheid, but to share my proximity, my responsibility, and my deep personal entanglement in this traumatic legacy. Israelis are mostly used to the violence taking place next door and not in their neighborhoods, not in their homes. When they serve in the army (as almost all do), they are used to being the ones taking the hostages, shooting or arresting youth or elders. Now the curse is spreading, no longer contained by barbed wire and surveillance apparatuses and tanks. Gaza is literally right next to these Israeli cities and towns – Gazans have been imprisoned and bombarded for years right next door. Just a few more miles away, Israeli fundamentalist settlers have been escalating violence against Palestinians in the West Bank for years. These settlers burn hundreds of years old olive trees, take over people's homes, the list is long and horrific. The soldiers and settlers committing these heinous acts are people's brothers, sisters, co-workers...No Israelis can claim they didn't know or understand what has been happening in Gaza or the West Bank. Neither can we here in the U.S. for that matter. We are all implicated. It is a society of people who have all served in the army and many of whom are in the reserves, except for a woefully small movement of Israeli refusers (who are ridiculed and often temporarily imprisoned). The awful curse of Israel's brutal occupation has spilled over into their own homes and lives right now in ways they somehow believed couldn't happen. Israelis know the torture, imprisonment, home demolitions, assassinations, air strikes, harassment, and beatings that they and their fellow soldiers, government officials, and settlers are guilty of. They have justified it all and continue to do so using a self-righteous, delusional, and racist logic. But tragically this just means they will continue to try to destroy Palestinian society while destroying their own humanity. And all of us American Jews who blindly defend Israel's military occupation, oppressive apartheid system, destruction of land, and unbelievable violence, are destroying our souls and our culture. Israelis and Jews should be enraged that the Israeli government is currently not investing resources in supporting Israelis searching for loved ones or those whose loved ones are hostages. There seems to be no substantial governmental initiative to take care of these people. Instead, all of the resources and attention are being poured into a massive attack on all of Gaza. Israel's government is not caring for its citizens, it is dedicating itself instead to obliterating Gazans. We who believe in freedom have to spend so much energy trying to convince people that the Palestinian struggle is just and normal and human. Right now we can feel that all of our work is undermined and the safety of our movements threatened by the egregious violence of Hamas during this attack. It is maddening that any other Palestinian resistance never makes the news. It is tragic that Israelis had to die awful deaths for many people to feel the pain and concern many of us have carried for years. And we understand the historical context. We understand why fighters would break through a wall imprisoning them for years. We understand how dire things are in Gaza, how desperate people are for food and medicine and electricity, let alone freedom and autonomy. We understand how trauma works and how cycles of abuse and violence work. We are sick of the double standard here in the U.S., not just amongst Jews – supporting the resistance to occupation in the context of Ukraine and Russia while supporting the occupiers and criminalizing the resistance in the case of Palestine and Israel. It is because we understand all of this that we can support ALL indigenous people, all occupied people, from Gaza to Kashmir to Ukraine, in resisting occupation without celebrating or romanticizing or ignoring some of the horrific forms of fighting back that occur in these untenable situations. Our support for Palestinian's right to resist occupation is not conditional. It is not theoretical. We are not fair-weather allies and comrades. It is deeply troubling when Hamas acts in ways out of accordance with our values. It is always this way with anti-colonial liberation struggles – those of us with intersectional anti-oppression politics are not all of the people urgently fighting against the occupiers. We are working to dismantle Israeli apartheid and stop U.S. funding of Israel's enormous military precisely because we know it is breeding polarization and violence, it is dehumanizing everyone. We find ourselves grieving all the loss of life now as we have always, during every round of war on Gaza over the past many years, and we are enraged because it could have all been prevented. By Israel. By the U.S. By US. Ending all forms of military and economic and political support for Israel's cursed occupation and racist state. Focusing on getting resources to support self-determination, safety, and dignity for Palestinians. We can and must focus on our own resistance. What are we doing to stop Israel's genocidal attacks on Gaza? What are we doing to get the hateful violent settlers out of the West Bank? What are we doing to finally end U.S. military, financial, and diplomatic support for Israel? Until we do this, Israel will continue to act with impunity. And there will be no peace. For anyone.
I was personally moved, and my perspective confirmed when Archbishop Desmond Tutu supported the freedom of Palestinians. He recognized similarities with the conditions of apartheid in South Africa and labeled Israel as an Apartheid state. He was familiar with the forced removals, the demolition of houses with which Palestinians were residing, the humiliations of checkpoints, the confiscation of land for Jewish settlements, the confining of Palestinians to small territories. Memories of the Bantustans black homelands landed in his memory. He understood the pain of disinherited people who had no say in governance and what affected their lives. Remember Tutu possessed a Nobel Peace Prize.
And then there was former President Jimmy Carter who published a bestselling book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. This was in 2006 and seventeen years later conditions worsened. Both Tutu and Carter were vilified and called Antisemites.
I am aware that next week we celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day. I wonder what St. Francis would say. Perhaps, All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle. Tutu would follow up saying that is the meaning of hope, being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness. And I think he would add a quote from Blaise Pascal:
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.