When I was contemplating launching a Los Angeles chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace last fall, I consulted with some very wise and knowledgable friends first. I went forward knowing that it would be not only difficult, but potentially frightening and perhaps even dangerous. I took into account that part of my job would be keeping all around me and all who choose to become active as safe as possible.
Wednesday morning I found a slightly crumpled piece of paper stuffed in a plant on my front porch. When I unfolded it I saw my photo under the words,”Wanted For Treason And Incitement Against Jews.” My first thought was, wow– that didn’t take long. Then my heart sank when I saw the names of children in my family.
I am happy to say that the detective at my local police department took the matter very seriously. I am also lucky to live in a neighborhood that the police patrol regularly and which has a great network of neighbors who all look out for each other.
I feel supported by my friends, family local activist community and by the wonderful staff and board of Jewish Voice for Peace. I feel safe. I am not afraid. But I do think this is a great reminder that we should ALL be aware, safe and steadfast in our commitment to equal safety and rights for all peoples.
While we don’t know who did it, and perhaps never will, we do know that they are cowards. And that we won’t back down.
When two members of Jewish Voice for Peace in Northern California were recently pepper-sprayed at a chapter meeting by a member of pro-settler group StandWithUs, they didn’t back down.(1) When the same JVP chapter along with Women in Black and Palestinian allies endured an hour of threats and hate speech at a silent vigil, they didn’t back down.(2) When the JVP staff repeatedly found “Viva [mass murderer] Baruch Goldstein” stickers outside of their offices, they didn’t back down.(3)
Instead, Jewish Voice for Peace is gathering as a national movement in Philadelphia to continue our growth across the nation. The kind of growth that led to a watershed profile in today’s New York Times. (4) We will do so in a changed world. This week, perhaps like you, I’ve been transfixed by images on the television of everyday people like you and me in the streets of Cairo, risking everything for democracy, for freedom, for human and civil rights, for a better life for themselves and their nation’s children.
The risks are always the same. Throughout history, every movement for freedom has faced backlash, threats, and violence. And throughout history, there have been people acting together who have faced their fear and decided the price of silence was too much to pay.
I know internationals, Israelis and most of all Palestinians who have lost an eye, a home, a child, a loved one. But, amazingly, they don’t hide. They speak out even louder. They are my heroes. And it is for them and because of them that I publicly redouble my commitment to being smart, strategic, brave and loud– most of all, loud. And to join with others so we can be even louder together.
Together, we are the majority of Jews, Americans, and citizens of the world who know that Israel’s violations of human rights must end. That Palestinians deserve the same rights that my Israeli family has– to have safe homes, to go to school, to go to work, to grow and be sustained by food from the earth. But as long as we let acts of cowardice like this WANTED poster keep us quiet and fearful, then the others’ voices will drown ours out.
That’s why I hope you’ll join me at the Jewish Voice for Peace National Member Meeting in Philadelphia March 11- 13. Let’s send a message to those who did this to me and so many others.
Let’s send a message to the people pushing occupation and injustice that threats and violence will only hasten their defeat, and that we are together and strong.
Jewish Voice for Peace-Los Angeles
1) “Right-wing Israel advocacy group member pepper-sprays Jewish Voice for Peace members.” Jewish Voice for Peace, November 15, 2010.
(2) “StandWithUS shouts Pigs for Palestine, threatens activists in San Francisco.“ Muzzlewatch, June 7, 2010.
(3) “Email details vandalism at JVP office.” Jewish Voice for Peace, August 16, 2010.
(4) “A Jewish group makes waves, locally and abroad.” New York Times, February 4, 2011.