Palestinians carrying a wounded man during a protest against Israel near Al Bureij Refugee Camp at the Gaza-Israel border, May 14, 2018 (Photo/JTA-Hassan Jedi-Anadolu Agency-Getty Images)
Palestinians carrying a wounded man during a protest against Israel near Al Bureij Refugee Camp at the Gaza-Israel border, May 14, 2018 (Photo/JTA-Hassan Jedi-Anadolu Agency-Getty Images)

Friends all over the pro/anti-Israel spectrum, we need to talk about May 14

First, to whom am I speaking? To my J Street colleagues, friends in JVP, acquaintances at StandWithUs, friends in AIPAC and to those who are not formally part of any one of these groups.

Second, with what do I speak? With my head and my heart.

To my J Street colleagues: As dysfunctional for Israeli-Palestinian peace as we may deem the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, we must continue to advocate in Congress to support legislation that will sustain the vision and possibility for a negotiated agreement for two states — that is, for an agreement that both Israelis and Palestinians deem just and viable.

To my friends at JVP: Indeed, the murder of Palestinians on the Gaza border is beyond egregious. The violent response of the IDF is dysfunctional for Israeli security and tragic for Palestinians, for those who have died, for their families and for the Palestinian nation as a whole, conflicted from within as it is.

To acquaintances in StandWithUs: I hope you can for a moment be open to the Palestinian experience of frustration, despair and anger as they have negligible access to the basic necessities for normal daily life, limited (or no) access to electricity, safe drinking water, sanitation, convenient travel to work and the outside world.

To my friends in AIPAC: Do you really believe the occupation and the blockade of Gaza are not significant obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian peace? Please know I realize the term “peace” is a relative term, and were there to be a negotiated agreement Israel would need to remain vigilant. But again, can you for a moment let yourselves imagine what it must be like for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza? Do you not have a sense that the continuing siege poses greater and greater threats to Israeli security?

COUNTERPOINT: Embassy move to Jerusalem rights a longstanding wrong

From the heart, as an American Jew, my sense of responsibility to and for Israel drives my sense of identity with Palestinian suffering. Right, I do not live on the border with Gaza, I do not live in Israel. At the same time, I realize many Israelis carry on their daily lives quite remotely from the experience of Palestinians, thus not aware of their suffering. I am also aware that many Israelis are economically insecure. The income inequality in Israel is the eighth highest of all the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. The isolation from regular interaction with Palestinians and the economic insecurity creates Israeli vulnerability to the Netanyahu government’s manipulation by fear of the “other.”

From the head, I do not see any positive outcome from the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem without a parallel move of a U.S. Embassy to East Jerusalem for the nascent Palestinian state. I don’t see how alienating Palestinians, the Arab states and most member-states of the U.N. redounds to the best interests of Israel as a democracy and thriving homeland for the Jewish people.

Fellow members of the Bay Area Jewish community, let us lead our fellow American Jews in taking a stand for a negotiated agreement that honors the dignity and right to a promising future for Israelis and Palestinians. Let us take a line from Women Wage Peace, mothers no longer willing to send their sons and daughters to battle, who proclaim that “Israel is worth living for.” Israel is worth investing in peace, Israel is worth supporting coexistence and peace-building with Palestinians, Israel is worth promoting the International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

How was May 14 different from all other days? It laid bare the stark choices we have as Jews to live in terms of our values and faith in the power of compassion, to “not do unto others as we would not have them do unto us.”

Molly Freeman
Molly Freeman

Molly Freeman is J Street San Francisco/Bay Area chapter co-chair and is on the J Street Women’s Leadership Forum steering committee.