The Jewish Solidarity behind the Palestinian Resistance in the US

Jews For Peace USA

In one of the strangest contradictions, while the US’s support for Israel has always been unwavering, driven largely by many influential supporters of Israel, a section of the American Jewish population has been staunch in their support for the Palestinian cause.

While such ordinary citizens of Jewish heritage have rallied under groups like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), several other activists and academics have also been relentless in their support of the Palestinian struggle.

On the forefront are names like Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, both academics; Amy Goodman of the news outlet Democracy Now and Phillip Weiss of the website Mondoweiss; and Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party.

In addition, hundreds of other Jewish citizens, from every walk of life, as conscientious objectors to Israel’s policies in Palestine – both in Gaza and in the Occupied Territories – have continued to be a bulwark of support for the rights of Palestinians.

It is this constant backing of the cause in a myriad ways that has productively added to the Palestinian struggle in the US. These citizens utilize a variety of simple acts of protest, combined with means of highlighting the cause. By holding regular vigils and stand-outs at busy intersections in towns and cities, hosting Palestinian activists and speakers, supporting grassroots Palestinian causes in Palestine and pressuring local politicians on legislation contrary to Palestinian interests, such citizens amplify the voices in support of the Palestinian people.

In addition, a lot of Jewish religious leaders and officials – rabbis, cantors and student clergy – also take a stand in support of the Palestinian cause. Just as in Israel, groups with names like Rabbis for Peace or Rabbis for Palestine in the US routinely oppose Israel’s oppressive and expansionist policies.

The JVP, with its chapters in many cities, offers a wide opportunity for ordinary citizens of Jewish background, to participate in the cause of justice in Palestine.

In October 2023, members of the JVP took over the busy Grand Central subway station in New York City and shut it down for several hours.

Many members or affiliates of JVP in the ongoing campus protests sport banners and t-shirts which read, “Not in our name.”

In India, the role of the religious leaders is often as assenters and colluders of the majoritarian opinion. Several of the leaders made public statements in favor of the Ram Mandir establishment, parroting the well-worn narrative of historical justice being finally served and the fulfilment of the so-called 500-year demand of the Hindus for the temple.

Other than a few sects which have shown some progressive values, and have chosen to make their religious body more representative, most Hindu religious bodies remain stubbornly closed to any socially forward-thinking views. They do not champion for or raise their voice against injustices towards the minorities of this country. On the contrary they too have adopted the missionary zeal behind pushing for the sanctity and antiquity of sanatana dharma.

The ordinary people who, even if nominally, associate with Hinduism- either as practitioners or culturally – seem to be drinking the religio-nationalistic kool-aid for some time now. They are often complicit in the crimes committed against various marginalized groups by their silence – or, what is as bad, their silent approval.

India’s left-wing and other progressive forces, by assuming an attitude of studied distance and disdain, have let the entire issue of religious and cultural beliefs be hijacked by polarizing forces

Hence the whole discourse around secularism has become a sort of a joke, with the aggressive posturings of the right-wing forces claiming that India’s secularism is an ideal achievable only within the so-called permissive environment of Hinduism.

There exists almost no pan-Indian platform for ordinary Indians to gather around, away from mainstream, majoritarian narratives. Even at local levels, most progressive spaces for the nurturing, protection and empowerment of the rights of the marginalized are shrinking.

In the US context, the Palestinians themselves take the lead in most of the organizing and resistance related to justice in Palestine. But their Jewish allies, while standing behind them at a respectable distance, assure them that the Palestinian activists are not alone.

It is similar solidarity that has to be built and displayed on behalf of all marginalized groups in India too by those in the majority, but not yet surrendering to majoritarian attitudes.

Aviral Anand is a writer based in Delhi

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