I want you to understand where we do agree. We both love the Jewish tradition and feel deeply pained by the loss of our family at the hands of hate. We both carry the trauma of the loss–albeit with very different degrees of immediacy–in our body and into everything we do. We are both invested in Judaism. Our heritage is a part of our daily lives and we would not be fulfilled otherwise.
You know I grew up living and breathing the Legacy of our family, both through you and our shared relatives, and through my father’s. The lack of safety, pain, loss, anger, horror, and betrayal lives on from generation to generation until it can be healed, and I know that because that has been my inheritance in addition to the incredible opportunity afforded me through the society I live in and the work of all my forebearers.
It is this history which compels me to pursue my work for justice. I was not here in 1940 and I had no opportunity to try to prevent any of the events which occurred or to save my family. But I am here today, and I can support efforts towards building a more peaceful world in which all are cherished now.
I hate that the trauma of survivors, the guilt of the countries that stood by, and the political-historical window after World War II ended up producing a nation unwilling to take responsibility for the suffering it has caused. Many Holocaust survivors have criticized the mass displacement, murder, plunder, and destruction of homes which took place in and around 1948 and continue to this day. That the structural violence of the Israeli state is unsustainable and actually puts Jews at risk is clear, but the justification of violence, the denial of history, and the conditionless support of the State of Israel of many Jews I still find incomprehensible.
I wish this were not the story. I wish that my people, so threatened, had chosen a different solution to the Jewish question, to use the language of the early Zionists. Reading through materials by bi-nationalists, socialists, and labor activists propels me to ponder what could have been different. What if Jewish Zionist immigrants and indigenous fought their shared enemy of colonialism and had established a society in which they could coexist? What if, from the very beginning of the Zionist project, before the Arabs were estranged by Jewish settler colonialism, the aim had been to build a peaceful homeland in which none would be discriminated against for their ethnicity, religion, or origin? Like a child, our tormented people express our fear by harming others, dreaming up an isolated Jewish majority state where we could finally be safe. But of course, we know from the inside that the Jewish community is not unitary and that we are not safe from each other, let alone anti-Semitism, without democratic governance, not only because of different values, readings of history, and politics, but because of the schisms between Orthodox and secular, Mizrachi and Ashkenazi, rich and poor, white and of color, and the list goes on.
Like all our world today, we are being called upon to ascend. To evolve past the attachment to “us” and “them” and to herald a new order beyond nationalism and separatism. While this vision may be a long way off, I pray that our people–if we can refer to our scattered group like that–will be a part of this reimagination. That our fists will loosen towards a reality in which all are free. This will not be easy, and I pray it won’t be bloody, but one way or another the status quo will not hold. Better that we participate in the transition and give it our resources, than continue to invest in an oppressive regime leading to horrific circumstances for millions of refugees.
May we be strong, strong, and strengthened–חזק חזק ונתחזק–towards a shared land built through acknowledgment, repentance, and justice.
All my love,