When Jewish organizations attempt to silence discourse on the occupation everyone loses, including Palestinians, Israelis and communities around the world.
All That’s Left, an activist collective of which I am a member, recently hosted a number of international “parlor days” to promote thoughtful conversations about the importance of ending the occupation.
The events took place in several cities including Toronto, New York, Boston, Jerusalem, Chicago, Melbourne and the Bay Area. Participants watched Israeli films such as The Law in These Parts and Just Vision’s Budrus These are films that explore the history, current situation and potential future impacts of the occupation.
Although some of these events were scheduled to be hosted at Moishe House locations, they had to be moved when Moishe House unexpectedly withdrew.
All That’s Left, which for the most part organizes events, actions and learning spaces in Israel, came together around the core principle that we are unequivocally committed to ending the occupation and focused on building the Diaspora angle of resistance. Beyond that, each of us speaks for her/himself as an individual and holds their own opinions on everything from Zionism to the best way to end the occupation. As such, I speak for myself here.
The Moishe House organization supports intentional living spaces to enable young Jews to cultivate community and engage in Jewish programming. The community spaces are designed to be “pluralistic” environments and members are encouraged to mount dynamic, challenging and engaging events that “create vibrant home-based Jewish communities for themselves and their peers”.
After connecting with members of Moishe Houses in a few American cities All That’s Left members publicized the events that were expressly aimed at “building the Diasporic angle of resistance to the Occupation” through dialogue and conversation. A few days later word came down from the Moishe House CEO that the events were not to be held at Moishe House locations.
The CEO seemed apologetic that the events simply could not happen in those spaces. The stated reason: Apparently some funders feared that an event raising alternatives to Israeli government policy might be considered an “anti-Israel” and holding such an event in a Moishe House might be too much to bear.
I have known some Moishe House participants for many years and it is an organization with a remarkably important mission. Moishe House has thus far changed many lives, as well as the community at large, for the better.
The larger and more far reaching issue for Moishe House funders, who were brave enough to support Moishe House in the first place, is that they may consider it appropriate to limit serious conversations about important issues in spaces that are intended to “facilitate a wide range of experiences”. It is unfortunate that this resulted in censoring and silencing dialogue by the young adults living in those spaces.
Perhaps more importantly, why would anyone think that these events and discussions were anti-Israel? Who defined critical examination of the occupation and its corrosive impacts on Israelis, as well as Palestinians, as anti-Israel?
In fact, the opposite is true and stifling conversation is short sighted and harmful to the Jewish community, Moishe House and all. It is important to discuss this “situation” – which leaves Palestinians in occupied territories under Israeli martial law people without legal, civil and in many cases human rights that we all value.
Israel is, perhaps, the biggest project that the Jewish people are engaged in and has seen many successes. The occupation is its biggest failing. It mocks Jewish values, human dignity and the very core of the Zionist idea: that all peoples have the right to self-determination.
Any analysis that matters states clearly that that the continuation of the occupation puts Israel at moral and physical risk. The occupation is a violation that a “pluralistic” Jewish organization like Moishe House, should at minimum engage with and think about, but actually should oppose outright.
No, parlor meetings that engage in conversation from the starting point that the occupation is wrong are not anti-Israel. They ought to be commonplace in our community; in the Jewish community, the Zionist community and the human community.
I find it regrettable (to say the least) that the fear of some led to the censorship of educational dialogue that could have happened in the potentially wonderful spaces that Moishe House is building for young Jews to build.
In the end, the events happened thanks to the commitment of organizers and hosts around the world. In the end, Israel will only suffer if the organized Jewish world continues to confuse being anti-occupation with being anti-Israel.
It is important to remember that not talking about the occupation is in no way a choice to remain "apolitical". Not talking about the occupation is most definitely a political choice: It's a choice to support the political status quo.
Still, the confusion and fear felt by some about the occupation has led more of us to begin talking about what it means to be against the occupation and it has opened up conversations beyond the parlor meetings in homes, schools, cafes and Moishe Houses around the world.