by Ora Ruah Wise

I first saw the underbelly of Israel when I was 18-years-old.
Walking down a dusty path
between shacks fashioned out of corrugated metal
and government-issued shipping crates,
on a barren hill not 500 meters from Jerusalem’s largest dump
at a time when my glorified perception of Israel
did not include even the production of waste.
I realized that this was a reservation,
and my Bedouin friends, I came to understand, were living
the uprooted, down-trodden lives
of the Roma, the Lakota, the Aboriginees, the Mayans.

My parents never taught me to extend my concept of social justice
to include Palestinians.
my parents, my schools, my newspapers,
never encouraged me to hold Israel accountable for its
acts of aggression.

And now- I am angry.
I am angry because when I was younger,
a budding revolutionary searching for heroes,
I was presented with novels
of Zionist underground fighters
and Israeli secret service agents.

I have now found different stories-
The stories of those who have been virtually erased
from our collective memory
and no thanks to my parents or my Hebrew school teachers,
I claim them-
these members of my non-zionist past,
the underground fighters I wish to be aligned with.

I insist on recalling
the Jewish trade unionists of Eastern Europe
the Jewish anarchists in Russia
the Arab Jewish writers and thinkers of social change
the Jewish women fighting fascism in the forests
of France and Poland.

I insist on breaking these chains-
I insist on tearing down apartheid walls,
I insist on blowing up false dichotomies
Pitting jew against arab
I insist on honoring the Palestinians
whose olive trees embody the very history
of that land I feel this undeniable connection to.

And Yes-
I do feel connected to the hills of Jerusalem
the shores of the Mediterranean
the stone archways
the closeness of the desert
the clamor of the shuk
but I feel no need to own it.

In fact,
I feel the need to preserve it
and what I see
is Israeli attempts at being Western
destroying the aesthetics of cities,
I see by-pass roads and super-highways
tearing through precious small amounts of land,
I see the water line in the Sea of Galilee
sinking lower and lower,
I see the customs of Arab Jews and Palestinians suppressed
and redressed
for our pleasure.
And I ain’t saying that anyone else, anywhere else, is getting it any
better, but, please, stop idealizing our dear homeland.

You talk about self-hatred?
I’ll tell you about self-hatred-
I’ll tell you a story of Arab Jews coerced into dropping their native tongues
and changing their names
upon entry to this new country
claiming to embrace all of our brothers and sisters
and then exploited in the fields and settled in “border towns”
brown buffer zones for jews with white skin
not willing to face the danger of their own colonial process.

I’ll tell you a story of Israel’s best friends- the Christian Right.
Pouring money and power
into settling the holy land,
lobbying for Israel
so that ultimately, when Armageddon comes,
two thirds of Jews will die
and the other third convert.

Let me tell you a story of US funding illegal settlements on stolen land,
bulldozers crushing homes,
soldiers patrolling towns
imprisoning women and children in their rooms
men naked and blindfolded on the street
while students are shot in the head
and pregnant women are detained at checkpoints
and then US asking, “why can’t there be peace?”
and US mourning 29 dead at a seder in Natanya,
23 dead in Tel Aviv
every Palestinian killed before and after erased from memory
in fact, not even permitted into our newspapers

But this is not an argument for the preservation of the moral integrity
of the Jewish state by finally ending the occupation-

Israel was never any more moral or noble than any other
Nation-state or colonial project.

I am not committed to a Jewish state at all costs-
there, I said it.

I am committed to direct democracy-
people participating in the decisions that affect their lives.
I am committed to justice and peace and freedom.
I am committed to resisting all forms of oppression.
I am committed to reclaiming the diversity of my Jewish heritage
pre-narrowly prescribed Zionist identity
as I am committed to the preservation of Palestinian culture
and independence
(not to mention villages, homes, and schools).
and I don’t believe
that a state which grants rights based on religious or ethnic identity
lends itself to any of the above.

The daughter of a rabbi, Ora Wise was born in Jerusalem. In New York City she works with Jews Against the Occupation and plans to return to do work in Palestine in August 2003. She has been an organizer of the National Student Conferences in Solidarity with Palestine and was a co-founder of the Committee for Justice in Palestine while a student at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. She can be contacted at ruah at riseup.net.