written by Kefira Baron. Kefira is a St. Petersburg, Florida-based member of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, the organization of white people and other allies of African liberation working under the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party for reparations to Africans and oppressed peoples.
Today, April 3rd, 2015 is the first day of Passover. Growing up Jewish, I attended a Jewish day school and partook in many Passover seders. From seder in school, seder at synagogoue, or seder with my family, the Jewish tradition of celebrating Passover instilled in me a hatred of oppression that makes it impossible for me to be silent while the Jewish State of Israel commits atrocities against the Palestinian people in my name.
Passover pays tribute to the biblical story of Jewish people’s struggle for liberation from the Pharaoh’s rule in Egypt. Dipping the parsley in the salt water symbolizes the tears shed by the Jewish people. The essential theme of this holiday is fighting oppression. From the years of hearing the story of Passover, I came to understand my responsibility to take a stand against all forms of oppression. It is the many years of experiencing this tradition that contributed to my stance of solidarity with oppressed peoples.
However, this is all the more reason why I must raise the uncomfortable but unavoidable question: how can Jews continue to support Israel’s colonial and genocidal occupation of Palestine under the banner of a “Jewish state”?
Just last summer alone, over 2,200 Palestinians were massacred (mostly children and women) in the attack on Gaza, leaving thousands injured and imprisoned. Gaza, which has been deemed an open air prison, has little to no resources left and estimated time to re-build will take years. Recently reported by PressTV, the majority of Gaza faces “food insecurity”, meaning the people do not know where they will get their next meal – in other words, starvation.
While we gather for Passover dinner, the Palestinians starve.
All of Palestine is occupied by colonial Jewish settlers who identify with “the State of Israel,” which was formed as the Jewish State officially in 1948 through a horrible and violent process called the “Nakba,” which is the Arabic word for “catastrophe.”
In the years leading up to the establishment of the Jewish State in May of 1948, the Palestinians were forcibly pushed off their land, much like how the Europeans stole the land from the Indigenous peoples of North America.
Palestinians fled from the massacres carried out by the Irgun and the Stern Gang. In one notorious case, the Jews flooded the streets of a Palestinian village with oil and lit it on fire. As Palestinians came out of their homes they were sprayed with bullets from machine guns. This was just the beginning of the occupation, followed by decades of terror and violence that continues today.
This occupation is never mentioned at the seder table.
In fact, the majority of the Jewish community remains complicit in this ongoing oppression that takes place in the name of “the Jewish State.”
As a Jewish teenager, I joined a program called March of the Living, where myself and other young Jews toured the Nazi death camps in Auschwitz and Birkenau. This experience was designed to reinforce an allegiance to the state of Israel and to foment an association in the minds of Jews between Jewish oppression in Germany and the need for the Israeli state. Only years later did I begin to understand how absurd this is. How does the Jewish experience in Nazi Germany justify the theft of land and genocide against the Palestinians? The Palestinians had nothing to do with the Nazi oppression of the Jews.
When I went to Jerusalem as part of March of the Living program, I heard fellow Jewish Americans say “Oh, I feel so at home”, boasting they planned to move to Israel for college. How is it that my peers were able to calmly utter these aspirations to live in Israel while the indigenous people of this land, the Palestinians, have to fight to stay on their own land?
Conducting a whole dinner ritual based on the experience of oppression, claiming we have an interesting in ending all oppression, but continuing to perpetuate oppression by supporting the State of Israel – this is sheer hypocrisy.
If we are to have a meaningful Passover seder this year, standing in solidarity with the Palestinians in their struggle for liberation must be put at the center of the table.
We should be discussing the ongoing oppression of the African and Indigenous communities here in America. How can we talk about oppression in Egypt thousands of years ago, and turn a blind eye to the oppression of the black and Latino communities being murdered by police in ghettoes and the barrios?
Right now here in America every 26 hours a black person is gunned down by a cop or white vigilante; this is oppression and this is a genocide, carried out in our name and for our benefit. The world’s largest prison system is here in America.
It becomes a hollow and selfish ritual to recall the history of oppression experience by Jews while remaining complicit in the ongoing violence experience by Palestinian, Africans, and Indigenous people.
How can we end our Passover seder with the mantra of “Next year in Jerusalem”, when it is the Jewish people who have come to violent occupy the land of Palestine and oppress the Palestinian people.
Jewish people must take a stand of unconditional solidarity with the Palestinians to free their homeland!
As a Jewish person I call on all fellow Jews to join the Uhuru Solidarity Movement and take up the demand for reparations to Africans, Indigenous and Arab peoples and fight to build a movement of genuine solidarity with all oppressed peoples.