by micah bazant
This speech was read on May 15th, 2002, in front of
the Four Seasons Hotel in SF, where Jews For a Free
Palestine organized a protest against the Jewish
Community Federation's fundraiser for Israel.
Meanwhile, thirteen Jewish activists snuck inside the
event, and were arrested after unfurling a banner and
chanting "Free Palestine!". (see photos at
Salaam Aleikum. Shalom Aleichem. Good afternoon. It is my honor to speak here this afternoon to commemorate Al Nakba, the Catastrophe, and to protest the Jewish Federation's support of the fascist policies of the U.S. and Israeli governments.
The Federation and other agencies of the Jewish establishment give tremendous lip-service to the concern of Jewish assimilation. But I charge the Federation with contributing to assimilation of the worst kind. They claim to value real Jewish traditions of social justice and tikkun olam, but in fact they have sold out and assimilated to U.S. values of capitalism, racism and imperialism. Their authority is held in place through money, PR and corrupt political manipulation, through donations to zionist lobbying groups like AIPAC. They do Not represent the countless Jewish people of color, Mizrahim, Sephardim, and working-class and radical Jews. They do not represent the majority of Jews, who want an immediate end to the illegal occupation of Palestine.
Zionist organizations like the Federation claim to have sole ownership of Jewish identity. If you refuse to assimilate, if you speak out against the lies of the U.S. and Israeli governments, they threaten to take away your Jewish identity card. Today I want to say clearly that we are just as Jewish as the people inside at the Federation banquet. It is our Jewish responsibility to fight fascism. It honors our Jewish ancestors to oppose torture, 'ethnic cleansing' and racism. It is a Jewish commandment to pursue tzedek, or justice. It is the fullest expression of my Jewish cultural and spiritual values to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
The mainstream media often portrays this conflict as a Jewish/Palestinian issue. And although some of us are here today to say 'No More Occupation' in our name as Jews, this is not solely a Jewish or Arab issue. This war and apartheid is also a product of Christian Europe's colonialism and U.S. imperialism. As Noam Chomsky has written:
It is highly misleading to use the phrase 'Israeli-Palestinian conflict'. It should be termed the U.S./Israeli/Palestinian conflict. For similar reasons, it is improper - particularly in the U.S. - to condemn 'Israeli atrocities', just as such a practice would have been improper in the case of Russian-backed crimes in Eastern Europe, U.S.-backed crimes in Central America, and innumerable other such examples.
While it has been easy and pointed for all sides to make comparisons to WW2 and the icons of 'universal evil', the Nazis, let us not forget that this is unfortunately one of many past and current holocausts, one of many Nakbas. When we hear about one of the deadliest weapons of the Occupation, the so-called "Apache" helicopters, let this hateful misnomer remind us of the struggles of people of color and indigenous folks living under Occupation in this country. Broad scope and complexity only strengthen our vision. Let us reaffirm that while any of us are oppressed, none of us are free.
Finally, I would like to take a moment to connect this struggle with Jewish art and spiritual traditions. In medieval Europe, the belly of the Anti-Semitic beast, a Jewish folktale developed about the Golem. The golem was a huge creature made of clay that could serve as a protector of the Jewish people. It was brought to life by kabbalistic magic using the alef-bet, by writing the Hebrew word emet, or truth, on its forehead. In 1921, the brilliant Yiddish playwright, H. Leivick wrote a visionary play called The Golem. His inspiration for the play was his experiential understanding of the connectedness of Jewish oppression with all oppressions.
In his play, a Golem is created to protect the Prague shtetl from a Passover pogrom. But the creature's violence cannot be contained; it begins to kill and destroy indiscriminately, it begins to attack Jews as well as gentiles. In the end, the Rabbi is forced to un-make the golem by erasing the letter alif from its forehead, thereby changing the word emet, or truth, to met, death.
Today we are faced with another crisis of violence. But for the first time, it is a government acting in the name of Jews that controls the weapons and policies of destructions. The current Israeli government is founded on a monstrosity, on death, on Al Nakba, on catastrophe. Today we must also un-make the golem of U.S./Israeli militarism, imperialism, apartheid, genocide.
In both Arabic and Hebrew, and in Jewish and Muslim traditions, the alif is an incredibly powerful letter. In both Sufi and Jewish traditions there is a story of a fool, who outdoes all the scholars and clerics, by writing the simple letter alif over and over and over on a wall for years, until one day the letter burst into flame and the wall was transformed into a gateway tio the divine. Each of our actions, protests, speeches, letters and teach-ins is a repetition of this alif. We are speaking truth to power. We are transforming met to emet, death to truth and justice.
Shukran. A Sheynem Dank. Thankyou.
This speech was read at the rally organized by
Students for Justice on April 9th, 2002, the
anniversary of Deir Yassin (a massacre of over 250
Palestinians in 1948), and Yom HaShoah, the Jewish
Holocuast Remembrance Day. Over 1000 people rallied
and 79 people were arrested to demand that the
University divest from Israel.
Shalom aleichem. Salaam aleikum. Good afternoon. My name is Micah Bazant and I am honored to be able to speak here today to commemorate both the 1948 Deir Yassin massacre and Yom HaShoah, Nazi Holocaust Remembrance Day. These two things are not conflicting; in fact I cannot think of a better way to honor my Jewish ancestors and tradition than to speak out for Palestinian liberation.
Like other people here today, most of my extended family was murdered in the Shoah. My father was born in 1942 in Warsaw, Poland. He grew up in hiding all over Europe, narrowly escaping death countless times. As his child, I know how greatly that experience shaped my father and our family, how the trauma of war doesn't end immediately, but ripples out through the generations and takes a long long time to heal. I know that the destruction and killing taking place now in Palestine will effect generations to come, and that is why we must end this illegal occupation as soon as possible.
As Jews we prize remembrance. We still mourn events hundreds and thousands of years past: we tell the story of slavery in Egypt, the destruction of the Temple, the expulsion from Spain. One of the gifts Judaism gives me is a sense of the incredible span of time and ancestral memory. And in accordance with this wide perspective, I know that the crimes the Israeli government is committing today are tearing the course of history.
For speaking out as I am today, I have been called a 'traitor' and a 'self-hating Jew'. I want to say this loudly and definitively: Anti-zionism is not anti-Semitism. Anti-zionism is not anti-Semitism. It is not anti-Jewish to protest killing, to denounce torture, to fight racism and genocide. In fact, standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people is the fullest expression of my Jewish cultural and spiritual values.
I love Judaism and the Jewish people. I consider it an inexpressible gift that a small segment of my family was able to survive the Shoah so that I might exist. And part of honoring this gift is honoring the Jewish commandment 'Tzedek tzedek tirdoff', 'Justice justice you shall pursue'. The Jewish people will never have peace until we pursue justice for the Palestinian people.
Right-wing mainstream Judaism is using all of its money, resources, manipulation and fear-tactics to convince the world that in order to be Jewish we must not question the policies of the State of Israel. But for every lie told by Zionist propaganda there is a cost to the Jewish people:
(Note: These points are taken from A Palestinian Liberation Haggadah written by MC Ettinger and Micah Bazant for Pesach 2002)
--Censorship and distortion of Jewish voices against the Occupation. Dissenters are branded as self-hating Jews or not real Jews.
--Erasing histories: the white supremacy perpetuated by Zionism has erased the reality that Jews are a multi-racial people. Over half Israeli citizens are Mizrahim: Jews of Arab, Asian and North African descent, forced to leave their ancient homelands. Zionism has erased the histories of Mizrahi Jews. It has created the myth that Jews and Arabs are totally separate, "intrinsically opposed" people.
--Radical and revolutionary Jewish cultures of resistance have been suppressed
Anti-Zionist Jewish dissent has always existed and I am proud to be part of this Jewish tradition. I urge all Jews to add your voices to the hundreds of thousands of us all over our diaspora – in Israel, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, France, Washington D.C., New York and the Bay Area - who are running newspaper ads, speaking to their communities and marching in the streets to protest the illegal occupation of Palestine. I am proud to work in solidarity with Adam Shapiro, a nice Jewish boy from NY who has worked to bring Jewish and Palestinian teenagers together, and is now acting as an international observer in Palestine. Because of his work for peace, he and his family are now receiving death threats from the so-called Jewish Defense League. I am proud to speak in solidarity with Neta Golan, a Jewish Israeli peace activist who has been chaining herself to olive trees for years, and is now acting as a human shield in Arafat’s compound. To paraphrase Neta Golan: “This is not a war between Jews and Palestinians. This is a war between Occupied and Occupier.”
It is with hope for healing, and in memory of all our ancestors who have been killed in holocausts, that I would like to recite the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead. May we all live to see a time when there is truly “Never Again” a genocide for any people.
If you are in mourning, please feel free to say aloud the names of anyone you are grieving for, and to join me in reciting the Kaddish.
Yitgadal v'yitkadash sh'may raba, b'alma div'ra hirutay, v’yamlikh malkhutay b'khayaykhon uv'yomaykhon uv'khayey d'khol bayt ha’olam ba’agala uvizman kariv, v'imru amen.
Y'hay sh'may raba m'varakh l'olam ul'almay almaya.
Yitbarakh v'yishtabakh v'yitpa’ar v'yitromam v'yitnasey v'yit’hadar v'yitaleh v'yit’halal sh'may d'kudsha, b'rikh hu, layla min kol birkhata v'shirata tush’b'khata v'nekhemata da’amiran b'alma, v’imru amen.
Y'hay sh'lama raba min sh'maya, v'hayim aleynu v'al kol ha’olam, v’imru amen.
Oseh shalom bim-romav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleynu v'al kol ha’olam, v'imru amen.
(One possible translation [no translation was read] :
May the Universe be exalted and sanctified, throughout the world, which has been created by the will of Hashem. May peace be established in your lifetime and in your days, and in all of our lifetimes, swiftly and in the near future; Amen.
May Hashem be blessed forever and ever.
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, honored, elevated and lauded be the Source of All Life, Blessed is the Universe – above and beyond any blessings and songs, praises and consolations which are uttered in the world; Amen. May there be abundant peace from Hashem, and life upon us all; Amen.
May the One who makes peace in the high holy places, bring peace upon us, and upon all the universe; Amen.)