A Call to Awakening: An Open Letter to All Jews in All the Diasporas

(I write this in English, which can reach many even beyond the diasporas in the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia & South Africa, but wish I could also translate it into French, Russian, Spanish, German, Arabic, at least (perhaps someone else will?); I can & will later translate it into Hebrew, where it can be read by Jews who live in what seems to be the largest of the Jewish diasporas today – yes, still a diaspora, in a land they have colonized & taken from its original inhabitants, exiling the majority of them & brutally occupying &/or harshly restricting & repeatedly wreaking devastation on those who remain there.)

Jews, Jews, Jews, this is a call to all Jews, to every Jew,
be you a religious Jew or a secular Jew, a Jew who’s proud
to be a Jew, or a Jew who doesn’t give a shit that you’re a Jew
but still know you’re a Jew, either because your parents were Jews
or because others call you a Jew. & it’s a call to an awakening,
to a responsibility, to, above all, human & humane compassion

Jews, Jews, Jews,
we who complained how the world stood by silent
while the Nazis methodically and “legitimately”
assaulted, humiliated, violated, incarcerated, tortured,
bashed, booted, shot, gassed & exterminated
six million Jewish souls & stole or destroyed
who knows how many precious possessions & buildings
& art works & communities, crushing a thriving Jewish life
in almost all of eastern & central Europe

how can we stand silently by
while the country that dares to call itself
the national state of our people, that dares to call itself
by the name of the mythical father of our people
continues to oppress millions of Arab Palestinians
under a brutal occupation that can breed nothing
but violent resistance that this state then can respond to
by massive & devastating & practically genocidal assaults
like the latest campaign of carnage in Gaza,
which also earn billions of dollars
for armaments & other corporations
in that state & others?

how long can we continue to allow
the Jewish organizations in the countries we live in,
who claim to represent the Jews in our country,
to continue supporting whatever that state does?

I know it isn’t easy to awaken from the dream
most of us shared when out of the horrors of the Shoah
the State of Israel arose. I know how much strength
& pride & encouragement Jews in all the diasporas gained
from seeing a proud Jewish spirit arising in the aftermath
of that worst of the many holocausts our people have known.
I remember how gladly & generously diaspora communities
donated money & gave support to the Zionist endeavor.

I myself in my youth was drawn by the romantic dream
& made aliyah & joined a kibbutz & later lived in Tel Aviv
& married & raised a family there for several decades,
but I saw that this was a state in a state of war
in a conquered & occupied land, & I realized that this war
was not & is not my war, not a war I can support
with any conscience. I live again in Australia now,
the country I left in my youthful romanticism for that
false dream of a just earthly Zion, where we could be
as the anthem of hope falsely says, a free people
in our own land.

But a people cannot be free
if it robs others of freedom, and the land, the land,
whether bought at one time from absentee landowners
or conquered by force, is not & cannot be our own.
Not when so many of those who lived there before us
are barred from it. Not when the existence of the state
that calls itself Jewish depends on the continued
lack of freedom of almost six million Arab Palestinians
in the Occcupied Territories & Israel, & the continued
exclusion of almost another six million elsewhere,
more than four million of them in refugee camps
in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, & Saudi Arabia.

How much longer will we keep silent?
In the USA, “Open Hillel” has opened a way,
so have other Jewish organizations, in other diasporas too,
but ways must be found to reach Jews who are not yet aware,
or who have not thought enough about it to care,
or don’t realize that they should also beware,
because what that state is doing in the name of our people
will yet breed more hate for our people everywhere & anywhere
Though I need to say that our response needs to be motivated
not so much by such fear, as by reconnecting to values we as Jews
should hold dear, such as humane compassion
especially for persecuted peoples, for this is something we know,
if not in our personal histories, then without doubt in our genes.

I wish this call could be heard & read by as many Jews everywhere
as possible, but know no other way than to publish it here,
on my blogsite. I hope someone who reads it may want to share
it, I wish it could go viral, I wish Jews everywhere would make their
voices heard too, so that those living in that state & continuing their
occupation policies & practices may know they no longer
have the support of most of the Jews in the world

& then maybe they’ll start thinking about some practical way
to create either a viable state with equal rights for all Palestinians,
Arab or Jewish, with cultural autonomy for both, or two equally
viable states for both nations, the Arab Palestinian nation
& the Israeli-Jewish Palestinian nation, both of which have
developed cultures that are distinctly their own.

But what they do & decide is their problem. Ours is to tell them
we no longer support you in whatever you do that continues
the continuing injustice. If you move towards a just solution
we will support you. But you can’t take our support
for granted any more. & what we need to do is to
make them hear this. & to do that we need to awaken
from our long, far too long, silence.

We, I, you, every Jew everywhere, be you a religious Jew
or a secular Jew, a Jew who’s proud to be a Jew,
or a Jew who doesn’t give a shit that you’re a Jew
but still know you’re a Jew, either because your parents were Jews
or because others call you a Jew. This is a call to an awakening,
to a responsibility, to, above all, human & humane compassion.

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7 thoughts on “A Call to Awakening: An Open Letter to All Jews in All the Diasporas

  1. Dear Richard, you know that I am in full agreement with everything you have so passionately and expressively requested of us Jews. I will of course share it as broadly as I can via Facebook contacts, email etc. You are certainly not alone, there are so many in the diaspora who align with your sentiments. Keep up the good work.

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  2. Dear Richard, Martin sent this on to me. I hope you don’t mind. I know from my own experience and recall very well from our talk after I came back from Israel, how difficult this is. thank you. John Myers

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  3. “but I saw that this was a state in a state of war
    in a conquered & occupied land, & I realized that this war
    was not & is not my war, not a war I can support
    with any conscience. I live again in Australia now,”

    So your problem is with “stolen land” from indigenous peoples yet you live in Australia while you yourself are not an aboriginal and despite the fact that upwards of 80% of Australia’s indigenous population was reduced either through violence, disease or other forms of oppression, and you write to Jews in the diaspora — mainly the US & Canada — who also happen to live on stolen soil.

    Perhaps, if you really had the courage of your convictions, you’d call out to your fellow Aussies – and English Speaking Jews — to deport themselves to Europe and pay reparations to the natives. Why not begin by deporting yourself and paying reparations? And perhaps you’d like to suggest the Jews of Iraq and Syrian origin to “return” to their homelands, where, I am sure they will be welcomed with open arms, as opposed to the sword, which has been the fate of the Christians, Yazidis, Assyrians and Kurds.

    “practically genocidal assaults”

    The Palestinian population – in Palestine – has experienced exponential population growth. Gaza’s population especially is on course to double. Palestinians – in Palestine – also enjoy a life expectancy above the world average. Do you realize that words have meaning and that in a genocide, the victim population’s numbers ought to go down instead of up? Rising population and rising life expectancy — even matching parts of Western Europe — is not indicative of genocide, but the opposite.

    “& then maybe they’ll start thinking about some practical way
    to create either a viable state with equal rights for all Palestinians,
    Arab or Jewish, with cultural autonomy for both, or two equally
    viable states for both nations, the Arab Palestinian nation
    & the Israeli-Jewish Palestinian nation, both of which have
    developed cultures that are distinctly their own.

    But what they do & decide is their problem. Ours is to tell them
    we no longer support you in whatever you do that continues
    the continuing injustice. If you move towards a just solution
    we will support you. But you can’t take our support
    for granted any more.”

    I agree with you! And surely, Israel should not take diaspora Jewish support for granted when the likes of Netanyahu and Bennett deepen the occupation, expand the settlements and take Israel further down the road of an ethnocracy that is entirely opposite the values of most Jews. But may I suggest one way to start having this conversation is by not engaging in hyperbole (e.g. “Israel is committing genocide!”) or hypocrisy (“Israel is stolen land — but all the “Arab” countries that only exist because of force of arms, or, more recently, Turkey and the Anglosphere and Latin America — all of which are stolen lands conquered from indigenous peoples who were not merely made refugees but exterminated — all those countries get to continue to exist hunky dory)

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    • Benjamin, you’re right about many things. Almost everyone everywhere lives on land that was “stolen” from earlier inhabitants at one stage or another. The difference between Israel in Palestine (& China in Tibet, as another example) & countries like Australia, the US, Canada, etc., is that at present the dominant colonizer population does not keep the indigenous population under a brutal & discriminatory occupation, or prevent millions of exiles from returning to their or their parents’ or grandparents’ homes if they wish to, or build walls separating local communities. Not that there isn’t discrimination; here in Australia there is still much to be done to give “a fair go” to what remains of the Aboriginal peoples, but these things will not be resolved by all the “whites” now leaving Australia. & of course it would make no sense for Jews from Syria or Iraq to go back there. As for “practical genocide”: it depends on your definition. If you take it as wiping out an entire nation, then you’re right. But if so, then the Holocaust wasn’t genocide either.

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  4. As a Palestinian in Diaspora, I commend you on your courage, not just for writing this, but wrestling with your own sense of self. As Palestinians, we also have much work to do.

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