[This evening (Friday 14 May) I was invited to speak at a solidarity rally for Palestine organised by Lancaster Friends of Palestine in the North West of England. Around 250 gathered to hear inspiring speeches from Muslim and Palestinian students at the university and their allies. Thank you to Haddi Malik, Fabiha Askari, Yasmin El Haroun and Julie Hearn for their powerful testimonies.
Below is the short speech I gave.
‘A Jew in solidarity with Palestine’
I stand with you tonight as a Jewish student at Lancaster University who is in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
I stand here tonight because what’s happening to the Palestinian people is a crime.
And I stand here tonight to honour the resistance, courage and steadfastness of the Palestinian people.
Despite what you may think, I am not a lone Jewish voice.
There are a great many other Jews around the world who’ve been on the streets this week calling for justice for Palestine, justice for Palestinians. We’ve been calling for fairness, equality and common decency in the Holy Land. We’ve been calling for the end to structural and institutional discrimination across all parts of Israel/Palestine. In other words, an end to apartheid.
That does not mean that we are the wrong kind of Jews, or that we are self-hating Jews, or that we don’t care about Jewish safety, whether in Israel or across the Jewish diaspora.
But it does mean that we have a different understanding of what it should mean to be Jewish in the 21st century.
An understanding that goes beyond borders and narrow nationalism; an understanding built on an ethical tradition that runs through the Torah, through Hebrew scripture, through the Talmud, through rabbinic teaching and is hardwired into secular Jewish thought as well.
It’s an understanding built on the urgent need for solidarity with those who are downtrodden and in despair, a solidarity that was formed in the furnace of our own suffering.
Israel calls itself the Jewish State and its leaders claim to speak on behalf of all Jews around the world.
But I stand with you tonight because I need to tell you something very important:
Judaism is not settler colonialism.
Judaism is not ethnic cleaning.
Judaism is not occupation.
Judaism is not apartheid.
Judaism is not Zionism.
And I must add, Palestinian solidarity is not antisemitism.
Israel does not speak in my name or act in my interests; because if Judaism means anything, it means working to repair a fractured world and build a just society.
That will not happen until the land, which three faiths call holy, is a place in which all are equal, not only in the eyes of God but in the eyes of Israeli lawmakers, the Israeli police, and the Israeli army. And in the eyes of the international community too.
If I am to condemn the Israeli attacks on residential areas of Gaza, I must also condemn the indiscriminate rockets that comes from Hamas. The Israelis and Hamas are both committing war crimes. I mourn for the innocent Jewish lives lost this week as well as the Palestinian lives.
But that does not imply a moral equivalence. This is not a war. This is not a dispute between equals. There is no ‘balance’ needed in how we talk about this.
Only one side has dispossessed the other.
Only one side is occupying.
Only one side is denying the other basic rights.
‘Balance’ is not missing from this moment we are witnessing, but the truth is.
I stand here tonight to call for a global campaign of boycott, divestment and international sanctions in the name of human rights and international law and common decency towards the Palestinian people.
If you believe in human rights, equality and democracy, then there is nothing to fear from BDS.
Unfortunately, here in the UK, Boris Johnson’s government this week announced its plans to crack down on BDS, just at the very moment when we need it most. We will have to fight hard to stop that legislation.
So I speak to you tonight with a profound belief in and concern for my Jewish ethical inheritance.
And as I stand with you in this place and at this moment of Palestinian solidarity, I hold within me the pain of Jewish suffering which compels me to speak out for Gaza, for the Palestinians of East Jerusalem, for the Palestinians in Israel, for the Palestinians in the the West Bank, and for the millions of Palestinians still in exile from their land.
I stand here tonight to make the call for:
Equal Rights for all who call the Holy Land Home!