Monday, August 18, 2014

The Jewish Voice of Peace

In the midst of all the reports on the recent events in Gaza, there is much anger from a majority of the world directed against Israel for its actions. As it tends to happen, often, there is a misconception that allows the perception that all Jewish people stand behind Israel and support its actions. The two are definitely different - and tolerance is not lacking merely because of one's religious affiliation. The Jewish Voice of Peace is an organisation that campaigns for peace between Israel and Palestine, and work hard to attain social justice, equality and human rights for all the people in both nations. Claire Sternberg, an Administrative Assistant at the Jewish Voice of Peace, shared a bit about the organisation and the work they do.

1. Can you tell us a bit about the Jewish Voice of Peace?
At Jewish Voice for Peace we believe that in order to achieve lasting peace and justice for everyone in Palestine and Israel, the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip must end. The current siege on the people of Gaza, as well as previous conflicts, are best understood as part of a long-standing military occupation that restricts the basic human rights of Palestinians on a daily basis. Members of JVP, many of whom are active in over 35 local chapters in the United States, represent many diverse viewpoints around this issue, but share the common goal for self-determination for the people of Israel and Palestine.

2. A lot of people tend to misconstrue Jews and perceive them as being predisposed towards being anti-Arab or anti-Palestinian. Could you help break this stereotype by sharing your thoughts?
Jews and the State of Israel are very closely linked in the minds of many people. There is a misconception that all Jewish people stand behind Israel, and support the racism and violence that underpin the occupation and treatment of the Palestinian population by the Israeli government. As long as Israel continues to enforce policies of segregation that will inevitably lead to resistance, the world will continue to see what appears to be two groups of people that hate each other. At Jewish Voice for Peace, we are deeply committed to justice and equality for everyone, and this attitude extends far beyond our group within the Jewish community, even though we don’t get this impression in mainstream media.

3. As an organisation for peace, what do you see as the future for Israel and Palestine? What do both nations need in order to come to a place of peace?
If you ask different members of JVP what they would like to ultimately see in the future for Palestine and Israel, you may find different answers. We believe that the future must ultimately be determined by the people of Palestine and Israel. This explains why we don’t advocate for a one or two-state solution. We instead focus on working to establish a U.S. foreign policy that supports peace, democracy, and human rights for both Palestinians and Israelis. Right now, as evidenced by the massive amount of deaths in Gaza during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, power is deeply imbalanced. In order for a resolution, the needs of both sides must be acknowledged and responded to, and given equal priority.

4. There is a lot of international attention on Israel and its current offensive against Gaza. People blame the Hamas, and some others blame Israel for creating the Hamas. Why is the blame game still on? What do you see is missing in the peace process?
Looking at the current conflict without seeing it within the context of a long-standing military occupation is to miss a major piece of the puzzle. People in Gaza are blockaded into one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Many do not have clean water, medical care, or access to employment. Israel controls all of the imports into Gaza, as well as the borders. People are unable to travel, to visit their families, or attend colleges outside of the Gaza Strip. All of these occur aside from the current offensive. Hamas, whether or not you agree with their policies, did not create the occupation, and did not kill close to 2,000 Palestinians in the current attack. Personally, I feel that people like to focus on Hamas so that they can avoid confronting Israel’s role in creating the situation as it is now. As I said in the previous question, I feel that what is missing from the Peace Process is equality.

5. We notice that you are talking about a movement called Shminitsim. Could you tell us more about it?
Shminitsim are Israeli youth that refuse to serve in the military after high school because they disagree with the occupation and Israel’s policies toward Palestinians. Young Israelis that refuse to serve face repeated jail sentences for each refusal. You can learn more about them here.

6. How, in your opinion, can the world go beyond the "shares" and "comments" online, into helping ease Israel and Palestine into a state of peace?
Every action, even “liking” or "re-tweeting" article or a page so that more people will see it, is valuable. From there, some people move to writing letters to newspapers and representatives, expressing their support for policies that advance justice and human rights. Some people take active roles in local organizing groups and facilitate events, protests, and petition signature gathering. Other folks choose to support organizations that are doing this work with financial contributions. All of these are very valuable. The first step I would suggest for anyone looking to make a difference is to learn more about Palestine and Israel: irrespective of whether this means reading books and articles, or going to hear speakers that have experienced the occupation in person. It can also be as simple as watching short videos like this one. Seek out the narratives that are missing from mainstream coverage. Once you learn more, it is very likely you will find your way to taking action.
Find the Jewish Voice of Peace online: