I don’t really know how to start this love letter. I love you? (Because I do.) But you know this already. I know you’ve told me countless times that there are never too many “I love you”s to share. …That’s a hopeful thought; I believe that. But what about the way I say it? The following letter is exploding with I love yous, but they may look a little different. Instead of “I love you”, it may be words like “collective liberation” or “reclamation”. Will you watch out for them? (I love you.)
As you may know, I am writing this to you to connect over our difference…so that we can cultivate our relationship to greater depth and do the important work of healing. And as you may also know, connecting across moving difference is critical to the pursuit of Justice. Let us then together toast: L’chaim! Here’s to Justice with a capital “J”. Ttzedek tzedek tirdof.
I want to begin with a point of connection: both of our Jewish identities are deeply predicated upon the politics of Israel. Ever since I can remember, you have cried, laughed, and found groundedness in your Zionist Jewish identity. I can connect to the fact that you believe in something so profoundly and deeply it inspires in you tears at the thought of it. I think tears of such inspiration can be beautiful. But no matter how beautiful tears can be they can also distort visibility.
I want you to see, so desperately I do, why I am an Anti-Zionist. I want you to see that it’s possible for you to have strong memories of your past in Israel and a connection to the meaning of those memories, and still be able to recognize the Occupation for what it is: cultural/economic imperialism, genocide and settler colonialism. I wish you could see that the ways in which Settler Colonialism in Palestine functions to sustain capitalist white supremacy transnationally; the U.S. included. How the occupation is brutal. How it’s warfare. And I don’t have to live in Gaza to see that.
Can you not see the politics of your love affair? Can you not see the ways in which the rhetoric of your life and love of Israel are exploited for the benefit of the few you have so much disdain and sadness for? The “power money hungry 1%ers” as you call them? It is wrong for your Judaism to be exploited in such a way. For our Jewishness to reify the Colonial project. Our cultures, ze/her/histories, ancestors, memories, rituals, God/s, spirituality, tears, joy, pain, music, trauma, resiliency, food, clothes, prayers, song, languages, names, traditions should not be stolen from us to further the oppression of others. So “it” can be handed back to you in a static and empty plastic shell. Plastic does not capture who you are. It does not capture where we came from.
That’s what advanced capitalism (also known as Neoliberalism) does—the same capitalism whose leaden stature lies upon the enslavement of black bodies, perpetual militarization against the “Oriental Other”, and a Settler Colonialism that steals land, culture, resources and lives from indigenous folx. By opening your palm and taking that plastic “Judaism” with a “capital” J, you are accepting a resting place of complicity on that brutally heavy weight of a system collapsing. That weight, also known as white supremacy, kills and exploits not just black bodies. Not just Arab bodies. Not just indigenous bodies. It exploits every single one of us. Each in different ways.
But I am hopeful that certain things can escape this hegemony. Memory, for instance. The memory of who each of us is, and the recognition and honoring of our differences. I want you to see the power of reclamation through remembrance. And with it, the struggle to take back your Jewishness from the clapping “steam hammers” as Walter Benjamin put it of teleology’s oppressive power. The work of our liberation as Ashkenazi Jews in the U.S. is deeply predicated upon this struggle to remember. Just as it is predicated upon struggles of others; thus, we must draw those connections between Palestine, the Prison Industrial Complex and police brutality, privatization and class warfare, brutality against Trans women of color and queer justice, the list goes on and on and on…and the reclamation of a Jewishness of beautiful difference.
We must remember that Zionism emerged from a particular historical moment. One in which “The Jewish Question” was ubiquitous in the construction of the Western “nation state”. Zionism emerged as a reactionary movement to prove the possibility for Jewish assimilation. And even when Jews proved their assimilability, the “Final Solution” was still tried. We must remember that selling who we are will not exempt us from oppression, just as we learned 80 something years ago.
I want you to understand that to me, being an anti-Zionist Jew in this moment, in this place, at this time means choosing to see the realities of our collective situation. It means doing my fucking darndest to fight racism in the most local of sites in my body and mind as well as to educate myself on the transnational and transtemporal sites of the neo/colonial project. It means waking up each day and committing myself to the work of unlearning. Decolonizing my mind from the unconscious belief that the only lives that mattter are white heterosexual middle and upper class cismen. To be an anti-Zionist is to be an intersectional feminist. It means reading social texts, identities, trauma, memory, and systems through linkages, as if viewing social, geographic, and temporal landscapes as we would a constellation. In doing so, it ideally honors moving privileges and disprivileges, identities, and difference; avoiding the use of “the master’s tools [to]…dismantle the master’s house” as Audre Lorde says. Being an anti-Zionist Jew means knowing that my liberation is inherently intertwined in everyone else’s. And that work begins with healing my relationship with you. I love you.