Judaism and Zionism are not synonymous

Many of us have grown up being taught that supporting Israel is a core part of our identity as Jews. But what happens when unspeakable horror is part of the equation?

Jewish Voice for Peace's Vermont/New Hampshire chapter submitted this piece. Those signing this contribution: Robin Morgan, Ali Jacobs, Matt Dricker, Naomi Ullian, Leo Moskowitz, Rebecca Speisman, Abby Mnookin, Ruth Shafer, Alex Fischer, Jane Katz Field, John Field, and Maya Shulman-Ment.

BRATTLEBORO-As Jews who have a deep belief in justice and safety for all people, we are opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Like many of the Jewish people protesting the Israeli siege on Gaza, both here in Brattleboro and in protests on college campuses and around the world, we do not want occupation and genocide in our name.

Israel is currently waging a violent military offensive on Rafah, an Israeli-designated "safe zone" in Gaza, where they have forced millions of people to relocate.

Families starve while food aid rots on the other side of the border. Millions are forced into a zone smaller than the town of Brattleboro. Israel drops 2,000-pound bombs on refugee camps.

The impact is unspeakable horror. Dozens of families burnt to ashes. Fathers cradling babies decapitated by explosions.

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We know that some of the slogans that are associated with Palestinian resistance can feel triggering to some Jewish people who have had the privilege of being shielded from other opinions. But how can we debate about semantics when this much harm is occurring? How can we prioritize fear of a phrase or words over a real and urgent massacre?

Many of us have grown up being taught that supporting Israel is a core part of our identity as Jews. But Judaism and Zionism are not synonymous. Zionism is a political ideology. Opposing Zionism does not mean hating Jews.

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As soon as the concept of Zionism was developed in the 1890s, Jewish anti-Zionist movements emerged. They used the Yiddish word do'ikayt, "here-ness," to describe the concept of Jewish people creating safety in the diaspora by standing in solidarity with other marginalized people wherever we live, and fighting together for our collective liberation.

The conflation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism is a tactic to silence criticism of Israel. This muddies the conversation about actual antisemitic harm and hate speech, making it harder to track actual threats or harassment of Jews by diluting them with instances of people expressing dissenting political views.

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We assert that core Jewish values are in direct opposition with the occupation of Palestine:

Pikuach nefesh - the sanctity of human life. In the Torah it is said that "if you end a life it is as if you have ended the world." There is no way that we can honor this value by supporting the murder of more than 35,000 innocent Palestinians.

Tikkun olam - the Jewish commitment to repairing the world, in particular to healing rifts between human beings. This value means we must be committed to a peace process that honors the humanity of Palestinians and Israelis.

Tzedakah - the moral obligation to bring about justice through sharing what we have with others, whether that be land, material gifts, money, or acts of service. How can we value tzedakah while forcing people off their land and restricting food and medicine to them?

Hachnasat orchim - kindness and generosity to a neighbor. Focusing on the value of sharing space and welcoming all with friendship can help us imagine a future where Palestinians and Israelis live in harmony together.

We choose to fight to stop the horrors of genocide from happening again to anyone, and that is why we will continue to organize, march, and take action as Jews in support of Palestinian liberation.

This Voices Viewpoint was submitted to The Commons.

This piece, published in print in the Voices section or as a column in the news sections, represents the opinion of the writer. In the newspaper and on this website, we strive to ensure that opinions are based on fair expression of established fact. In the spirit of transparency and accountability, The Commons is reviewing and developing more precise policies about editing of opinions and our role and our responsibility and standards in fact-checking our own work and the contributions to the newspaper. In the meantime, we heartily encourage civil and productive responses at [email protected].

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