From Thought to Action

By Robin Levy

Everyone I know wants to be on the right side of justice—to face the realities of their time and, with a sharp eye, recognize that which you can and cannot let stand. The foundation of this, our very notion of justice, often lies in a sense of balancing scales, understanding how to ensure that rights are preserved even when they seemingly appear in opposition to one another. These abstract concepts can, at times, feel difficult to actualize into reality. How do we take our values and our intuition regarding the ways in which oppression is perpetuated around us, and begin to actually mend the fissures and tears breaking apart the very worlds in which we inhabit?

Whilst seeking out spaces and forms of activism in Jerusalem through which I could educate myself and engage with Israeli-Palestinian co-resistance to the ongoing military occupation of the territories (words that in and of themselves have been politicized beyond recognition), I have sought out a myriad of individuals and communities through which to attempt to understand how these experiences are lived and carried out.

Understanding alone, however, rarely feels like enough. Many Americans who grew up with one primary narrative regarding Israel end up feeling betrayed when we discover the complexities often hidden far beneath the surface of our Sunday-School-classes. Burgeoning anti-occupation groups relating diasporism to the disparity of rights in this place exist in a space in which a young social-justice-minded-Jew can feel comfortable exploring the depth and breadth of the history here via both Israeli and Palestinian cultures, communities and narratives, as well as the roots of Jewish non-violent social change.

All That’s Left taps into the umbrella idea of social change and movement—holding within its grasp a diverse array of individuals and networks that may not agree on every point, but fundamentally understand that the status quo of military occupation cannot stand. One’s motivation may stem from a sense of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle or a sense of preservation for the Israeli state, or some intersection of these and other rationales. The point ultimately is that our goals have to matter more than the specific reasonings. Still, how we act and the intention of said actions is constantly evolving, further reflecting the nature of the individuals who choose to be involved in more than just rhetoric.

The Center for Jewish Nonviolence (CJNV) is a budding organization that aims to carry through what often rests in thought into action. When we look at American support for Israel, the flow of resources, financial and otherwise, is overwhelming. American Jewry has, for many years, been taught and continues to hold onto a certain perspective on Israel—the Jewish homeland must be protected. Using this lens, many Americans have knowingly and unknowingly supported systems that perpetuate a disparity of rights and justice. Beyond the scales being imbalanced in this place, the Jewish American relationship to Israel is imbalanced when it comes to engagement with Palestinian voices and experience. CJNV bridges this gap—connecting interested individuals with grassroots non-violent resistance. Solidarity work requires using a framework of discourse and action that may be unfamiliar to your own perspective, but aligns when it comes to intention and values. Within the range of narratives present, CJNV works in solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli activists who are committed to non-violent resistance, as it is actualized in this particular context.

Similar to the direct action approach ATL has taken in the past, the CJNV plans to hold its third campaign of direct engagement “Occupation is Not Our Judaism” on July 10-20, 2016. By standing in solidarity with non-violent activists on the ground, the systemic violence of military occupation will be exposed. It is a tragic truth (that we should work to alter) that the media pays more attention when certain faces are the victims of violence—acknowledging this truth allows for strategic and targeted actions like the CJNV promotes. By pricking the otherwise cognitive dissonance present in peoples’ minds, there can be an activated shift of understanding—details and realities are revealed. This can lead to a flowering, a shift in consciousness that has incredible potential to mobilize the growing movement of Jews unwilling to accept the status quo, both regarding a rhetoric that perpetuates brokenness and the continuous lived injustices.

In my eyes, the intention of these actions promote strategizing tactics to balance the scales in ways we deem appropriate, as we remain open to learning and fostering deeper understanding of life in this place, sharpening our sight for that which benefits us in ways we cannot agree with or takes from others in ways we cannot witness and simply let go.

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