Our voices are rising

Yesterday ABC Radio National featured the following program:

As reconstruction efforts begin in Gaza, we hear from six concerned Jews who are openly critical of Israel and its policies in the region. Their views are controversial, ranging from disquiet over perceived injustices perpetrated in their name, to forthright criticisms of Zionism itself.

A number of Australian Jews were included, such as Independent Australian Jewish Voices activists Sara Dowse and Peter Slezak.

Dowse: The Palestinians are not my enemies, and they never have been. My blinkers, if you like, were like a lot of other Jewish people’s blinkers, I just didn’t see them. We were so involved in our own terrible history, that we didn’t see them.

Slezak: We’ve all been brought up with terrible lies and myths about the whole history of Israel, and increasingly they’re becoming exposed for what they are, and I’m finding with a lot of Jewish people, coming to face that is very difficult. One of the problems they express is that they don’t know how to reconcile being a Jew, and a loyal Jew, so to speak, or a loyal supporter of Israel, with the criticism that they now feel they must make. That’s the awkwardness. And there is a model for that, there are lots of Jews around the world now have come out – admirable people of all walks of life – who are able to show that it’s possible to be Jewish and even committed to Israel, and yet be critical.

Within Israel itself there’s an enormous amount. Of course the Diaspora Jews don’t see that. You only have to read the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, to see how it’s possible to be a patriotic, loyal, Israeli Jew and be severely critical of everything that’s gone on, but that model hasn’t been available to most Jews in the Diaspora who are kept in that cocoon of official spokesman who support whatever the Israeli government does, and make you think that’s the form of loyalty. So this is the association that they have to learn to make, if they want to identify as Jews and yet still somehow find out their mode for criticism.

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