This week, Ephs for Israel will celebrate Israeli Independence Day with a kosher barbeque on Paresky lawn. Israeli independence marks a legacy of Israeli military and colonial occupation of Palestine. As Jewish students at this college, we need to make clear that our relationship with Jewishness, our cultural heritage and religious and spiritual practices, are distinct from supporting the State of Israel. In fact, supporting the State of Israel as it continues to occupy Palestinian land is in direct opposition to our Jewish tradition and our sense of justice
In response to the barbecue, we will join other students who stand with Palestine and against the occupation in dropping a series of banners around Paresky. The banners say “Occupation Isn’t Kosher,” “End Israeli Apartheid” and “Solidarity With The Palestinian Prisoners’ Hunger Strike.” Additionally, students will pass out information sheets about the occupation and set up a table to engage the campus in conversations about justice in Palestine and counter the narratives put out by Ephs for Israel. Through this, we stand in solidarity with Palestinian liberation. We invite you to join us.
For decades, Israel has carried on a military occupation of the Palestinian territories and waged violence against Palestinian people. Over these years, persisting through various moments of “conflict,” “peace” and the drawing of borders, one of the world’s best funded militaries, Israel, has systematically displaced, occupied and seized land from Palestinian people. Palestinians have countered violence, land dispossession and exile with resistance. Such resistance continues to this day.
The barbecue hosted on our campus darkly echoes a barbecue thrown by Israeli hardliners outside of Israel’s Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank. On April 16, some 1000 Palestinian prisoners went on a hunger strike in protest of Israel’s military occupation and particularly the injustices waged against imprisoned Palestinian people. The barbecue held outside the prison on April 20th was meant to taunt these Palestinian prisoners, who are demanding that the Israeli government reinstate visitation rights, install phones in prisons, improve medical care and end solitary confinement. Palestinian hunger strikers are being harshly punished for peaceful protest. In addition, those who supported the hunger strikers by protesting the Israeli barbecue were met with tear gas, sound grenades and rubber bullets. Unsurprisingly, the Israeli government is refusing to negotiate with the Palestinian prisoners. Any form of criticism of the Israeli government is repressed.
The U.S. government has, of course, long been complicit in the violence and oppression carried out by the Israeli state, with decades of bipartisan support for the military aid to Israel. The close ties between AIPAC [The American Israel Public Affairs Committee] and the Trump administration further underscore the priorities of the American Jewish political establishment today. Though the Zionist Jewish political establishment claims to speak for all American Jews, we know this is not true. So today, we say again: not in our name.
By disrupting the barbeque, by writing this op-ed and by speaking out against the occupation of Palestine, we hope to destabilize the normalcy and legitimacy of supporting Israel. College and university campuses have recently been sites of repression of criticism of Israel. However, thousands are standing up for Palestinian justice and liberation. We refuse to let the Jewish establishment wage violence and occupation in our name. We resist the conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. We resist anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry. We resist a non-liberatory vision of Judaism, instead celebrating and living an expression of Jewishness that relentlessly pursues justice and demands an end to oppression. We want an end to the occupation. We want our communities to commit to resisting racism, to stand unwaveringly against persecution and to condemn land dispossession and state-sanctioned violence. Our actions at yesterday’s Israeli Independence Day barbecue celebrate our support of the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike and our solidarity with Palestinians fighting for liberation everywhere.