May 15, at Wellington’s Nakba Day gathering, we joined Palestinians and many others in outrage and (in the words of another speaker) radical hope. These remarks will be Alternative Jewish Voices’ Nakba Day statement.
Thank you – shukran – for inviting me.
The protests in NZ are furthest from Palestine, so, from the ends of the earth we are with you, seeking your protection, your freedom and all of our futures – because I will only be free when we are all free and safe.
My name is Marilyn Garson, and I am a co-founder of Alternative Jewish Voices. I’m here with my co-founder Fred Albert. We are with friends and we bring messages of support from more Jewish friends up and down the Island. We are with you, in sadness and in solidarity. To each of the Palestinians here today, we wish safety and justice for your families.
Nakba Day and Sheikh Jarrah are both about family homes. A few generations ago, our antecedents, seeking shelter, took the homes of others. They drove Palestinians out their homes and built a militarized regime of occupation and apartheid. Until we resolve it on that level, the Nakba will continue to be an event in the present tense. Israeli settlers are still trying to force Palestinian families out of their homes in the West Bank, in Sheikh Jarrah. The settlers have ethnic laws and overwhelming force on their side, but their impunity has abruptly ended.
There is no way back to their status quo, because their status quo caused the absolute horror that we see unfolding.
Let me say that I dread violence, I dread anyone’s violence. But I do not equate the actions of the powerful and the powerless. I hate the weapons of war but I see the cause, the power disparities and the proportions of harm. The Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem tracks the casualties of this Israeli regime. Through the past 20 years, the casualties have been 88% Palestinian – and those have been grossly, disproportionately Gazan.
As a Jew, I do not know how it has felt to be Palestinian through those years. I do not narrate the experience of those years. I listen while you tell me what those years have meant.
But I do know how it feels to sit beneath the bombs in Gaza. I worked in Gaza through the last war. I sat beneath four years of bombs, and my body will remember them forever. The bombs that Israeli forces are dropping in Gaza are larger by an order of magnitude than the rockets. Nowhere on this earth are the power disparities greater than in the repeated bombardments of Gaza. They are not bombing Hamas, because Hamas is not a tidy, separate, non-civilian place. No, they are bombing Gaza. One of the most powerful militaries on earth is bombing in overwhelmingly civilian cities, where a million children are trapped behind a wall. Gazans are fighting to claim their most basic human rights, to walk free and drink clean water. When buildings are falling around them, when unvaccinated civilians flee from a vaccinated army, when we all know there is no safe place behind that wall – you tell me, who is the aggressor, and who is in need of self-defense?
I plead with our government to act. Jacinda Ardern, Nanaia Mahuta, where are you? Gaza is in great danger – we need you to stand up and help them. Occupied people are legally protected people and we need you to enforce the laws of protection.
To our fellow Jews we say, surely this is not the Israel you had in mind. So please join us. Standing here, together, you can see the future. This madness will end when we admit what we have done, when we listen, restore, return – then we can begin to transform this mess together. We who hold the power, we start by saying: “Our lives have equal value. Jewish supremacy is not our Judaism. I will not have it done in my name.”
Occupation is not our Judaism – not in my name. Apartheid is not our Judaism – not in my name. Bomb a million children behind blockade walls – never, never in my name. That is not our Judaism.
Our Judaism says: Tzedek, tzedek tirdof: justice, justice you shall pursue
We join you to do the work of seeking justice together.
B’Shalom – Ya’tik al afiyah – Nga mihi nui.
Alternative Jewish Voices of NZ
— We are grateful to everyone for their warm welcome, and to our friends at Wellington Palestine for their hard work
Image credits: Tommy-Morum Kelly