People often ask me why I am part of
a team to organize a U.S. Boat to Gaza that will be sailing this
month with the next International Flotilla to break the siege of
Gaza. They often make clear they are asking because I am an
American Jew, whose family survived the Holocaust with some
surviving family members ending up in Israel. And my only answer
is: How could I not?
My parents raised me with stories about what happened in Germany
and their family’s escape. I came to see that Israel represented
for them a safe haven should there be another attempt at
annihilating Jews. And yet, at the same time, they worried it was
not so safe a haven given the animosity and physical threats and
violence in the area.
But no one ever mentioned the displacement of 750,000 Arabs that
was the result of the creation of Israel. I vaguely knew there
were people living there, but I was never curious about who these
“others” were. All I took away from my family’s history and the
atrocities endured was that this should never happen again to
Growing up in the ‘60s, I became active in opposition to the war
in Vietnam, the anti-apartheid struggle and the women’s rights
movement and later became involved in opposing the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq. As a social worker, I was focused on social
justice issues but never questioned the relationship between the
U.S. and Israel and their policies regarding Palestinians.
Then came the war on Gaza and a real political awakening for me.
Operation Cast Lead and the Goldstone Report were the catalysts.
In November 2008, the ceasefire ended: Israeli soldiers broke it
in a cross-border raid killing six members of Hamas and, in
response, rockets were launched into Israel. Israel, fortified
with American weaponry, attacked the people of Gaza. Approximately
1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed compared to 13
Israelis. Gaza was pulverized. Judge Richard Goldstone and his
team did a thorough report of the causalities on both sides. There
was no doubt that the people of Gaza were disproportionally
Right after the invasion in Gaza I realized I could no longer
remain silent. I became one of the organizers of a group called
Jews Say No! in New York City. We wanted to speak out and to make
clear that the Israeli government did not speak in our name as
they claimed. I began reading about the occupation, settlements in
the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the building of the separation
wall, Jewish-only streets for Israeli settlers, special identity
papers for Palestinian citizens of Israel (one step away from
wearing a yellow star) and the other indignities endured by the
people of Palestine on a daily basis. And I saw the total
collusion by the U.S. government – its unconditional support no
matter what the Israeli government did, including giving them 30
billion dollars over a 10-year period for weaponry (F16s, Apache
helicopters, white phosphorous, Caterpillar bulldozers used to
destroy homes in Bedouin encampments) used ruthlessly against the
Palestinians. This was intolerable for me.
I understand the fears and frustrations of Israelis being fired
upon by rockets and the resultant deaths and injuries. But what
about the thousands of Palestinians being killed and whose homes,
schools, hospitals, farms, mills, factories and infrastructure are
being destroyed? What about a people living under a brutal
occupation who are being denied the right to live with dignity in
their own homeland?
The siege and blockade of Gaza continue. The Israeli government
controls the land, sea and air of this small area (25 miles long
and roughly six miles wide) where 1.6 million people live. There
has been no movement in recent years unless Israel allowed it.
(Egypt’s partial opening of the Rafah gate to human traffic,
though not to commerce, is a positive sign if it is allowed to
grow). Most people cannot travel in or out of Gaza because of
continuing restrictions, 61 percent of the population is food
insecure, the unemployment rate is around 45 percent, one of the
highest in the world, and exports remain banned with the exception
of limited items like strawberries and carnations for European
markets. Gaza is called an open-air prison even by England’s Prime
Minister, David Cameron.
Given all this, I can remain silent no longer. Every day
Palestinians are confronting the Israeli government at the wall,
at check points, at demolition sites. They risk their lives. Like
the Freedom Rides our boat is sailing to call attention to the
illegal occupation and siege of Gaza.
My humanity and my Jewishness – Jewish history – demand my being
part of an organizing effort to end the inhumane treatment of the
Palestinians. The U.S. Boat, called The Audacity of Hope, will
sail in late June to Gaza as part of the Freedom Flotilla 2-Stay
Human. We will be approximately 50 individuals from across the
U.S. committed to non-violence, human rights and freedom and
justice for the Palestinian people.
To date, tens of thousands of individuals and over 80
organizations have endorsed this U.S. campaign and each day more
sign on to travel with us in name. We travel in peace for justice,
and I am proud to be part of this international effort.
is a member of Jews Say No!, a psychotherapist from New York City,
co-author of three books and one of the organizers of the U.S.
Boat to Gaza. More information about the The Audacity of Hope is
available at www.ustogaza.org.