Opinion |

Fifty Reasons I'm Going to the Pro-peace, Anti-occupation Rally on Saturday Night

I'd much rather that the mass demonstration in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square were being held some other night than Saturday. But I'm going. I have my reasons.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

I need to be with my people right now.

I don't feel so good. I'd much rather that the mass rally for two states and against 50 years of occupation were being held some other night than Saturday. But I'm going. I have my reasons:

1. Because, as Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi wrote this week, "We are in a hole. Should we find a way out or keep on digging?"

2. Because of my children. And theirs.

3. Because something is happening here. And you don't know what it is. Do you, Mr. Netanyahu?

4. Because both here and abroad, Jews and Muslims and Christians are meeting together, demonstrating together, working together for peace, tolerance and mutual understanding.

5. Because some of the people putting on the Saturday night rally, among them Peace Now and the New Israel Fund, are routinely harassed, interrogated, slandered, and yet continue to go about doing their work, trying to heal a severely wounded Israel.

6. Because others who are helping putting it on, among them Labor and Meretz, need a kick in the butt.

7. Because the unrepresentative sample of Palestinians I have come to know want to see two states here, side by side, one Israeli and one Palestinian.

8. Because these Palestinians don't want this in order to see Palestine become a base from which to annihilate Jews. They want this because they want a state of their own, a homeland, a cultural fountain with which to build an authentically secure and recognized Palestinian future for themselves and their descendants.

9. Because occupation breeds collective punishment, which cripples lives, ends childhoods, builds rage, cancels futures.

10. Because the Arab 40 percent of Jerusalem is disenfranchised. And because, as President Rivlin said Wednesday, in a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, "We cannot sing songs of praise for a Reunited Jerusalem when East Jerusalem, in which 40 percent of the city's residents live, is the poorest urban area in Israel."

Israeli Jewish nationalists celebrating Jerusalem Day meet Palestinian protesters outside the Old City's Damascus GateCredit: Olivier Fitoussi

11. Because centrist Israelis are finally daring to say out loud that Jerusalem should be divided.

12. Because the occupation is now spreading into Israel faster than it's expanding in the West Bank.

13. Because the occupation is killing a country I love.

14. Because the mortal enemy of occupation is hope.

15. Yigal Amir.

16. Because radical fundamentalists – Jews and Muslims alike – are on vigilant guard for any threat of peace.

17. Because on our side their minority vetoes and their rampages run our government and ruin our lives, and their edicts deny free worship to non-Orthodox Jews, to non-male Jews, and to Muslims according to rules which change by the day.

18. Betzalel Smotrich.

19. Lehava.

Members of far right organization Lehava protesting the wedding of a Jewish-born woman and a Muslim man in Rishon Letzion, IsraelCredit: Ofer Vaknin

20. Im Tirtzu.

21. La Familia.

22. Steve Bannon.

23. Because the Palestinians ARE a people.

24. Because courageous, patriotic, idealistic Israelis active in the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Breaking the Silence, B'Tselem, Peace Now, Combatants for Peace, the Bereaved Parents Circle and, yes, Haaretz, face daily threats, abuse and the designation "boged" – traitor.

25. Because the government wants to downgrade Arabic from its current status as an official language in Israel because it wants to curry favor among voters who want to see a posture of overt nastiness toward Arab citizens.

26. Because if bereaved parents of fallen soldiers dare to suggest that the government could do more to prevent wars, they face verbal and physical abuse from Kahanists and even Likud legislators.

27. David Bitan and Miki Zohar.

28. Because next week marks another anniversary: 21 years since Benjamin Netanyahu was first elected. Years in which he, like no other, cemented the occupation in place. And cemented all of our feet into it.

29. Because both Israeli and Palestinian people are beginning to explore new ways in which Israel and Palestine can share the land, among them the Two States, One Homeland movement.

30. Because young Jews in movements like IfNotNow, J Street U, All That's Left, the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, Free Jerusalem and others are changing the conversation in America and here as well.

31. Because members of groups like Women Wage Peace are declaring in their thousands that the governments needs to be engaged in actively pursuing peace negotiations.

32. Because non-violent protest by Palestinians is growing and taking on creative new forms that are being actively supported by Israelis and Diaspora Jews and internationals in places like Susya and Sarura.

And because as a matter of course, the Netanyahu government relates to non-violent protest by ordering it crushed using intentionally disproportionate, often violent, means.

33. Because right-wing American Jews and born-again Zionist American evangelists and even American Jews born again as Zionist evangelists keep telling me what Palestinians really want. As if they know. And they explain that we can't ever make peace with them, because all that any of the Palestinians want is to exterminate all of us and take over all of our country. And because the arrogance and the self-righteousness and the threshold of pain rhetoric and the happy-as-a-clam blindness of all of it makes me sick.

34. Sheldon Adelson.

35. Ayelet Shaked, Yariv Levin and Ze'ev Elkin.

36. Because of the lies the right holds self-evident. Because polls show that a majority of Israelis favors two states.

37. Because terrorism deserves to lose.

38. Because all human beings deserve human rights.

39. Because freedom is not just for the favored.

40. Because there is something in our blood which knows what it means to be stateless, a refugee, denied rights on the grounds of religion or ethnicity.

41. Because the more people in the square Saturday night, the more Israelis will feel empowered to raise their voice.

42. Because leftists in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are standing up to the 50 year foul tide and saying Enough. No More. They're standing in the path of the obnoxious, supremacist Jerusalem Day Flag march. They're joining efforts to build protest camps. They are gumming up the works of occupation. They are stopping the runaway train.

43. Because the Israel Prize went to an occupation profiteer.

44. Because of the damage done by condescending, bigoted leftists like Yair Garbuz.

45. Because of Betzalel Smotrich's new peace plan – West Bank Palestinians can choose expulsion, subjugation or death.

46. Because Jerusalem wasn't "liberated" in 1967. Nor was it "unified." Nor is it now.

47. Because of Benjamin Netanyahu, for saying that we will forever live by the sword.

48. Because of Benjamin Netanyahu, for failing to do everything he could to prevent a terrible war.

49. Because of Benjamin Netanyahu, for setting preconditions in order to foil negotiations with the Palestinians. And for inciting hatred against Palestinian citizens of Israel by alluding to a "state within a state" of disloyal Arab citizens following a Tel Aviv terror attack a year ago. And for throwing an election by taking to social media to warn of hordes of Arabs swarming to the polls.

50. Because I need to be with my people Saturday night. In the place where my prime minister was shot in the back, gunned down for daring to seek an end to the occupation and a just peace between Israel and Palestine.

I need to be with people, Jews, Muslims, Christians, non-aligned, otherwise faithful who, despite everything, see each other for the humanity they radiate and not just the tribe.

Because the direction of our lives can change.

Because 50 years of the direction we've come to know – of crushing, camouflaged, ignored, cosmeticized, walled-off, festering, swiftly metastasizing, clerically-encouraged, democracy-dissolving, Israel-annihilating, Judaism-ruining occupation – need not be 50 years plus one.

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