Dr. Alice Rothchild discusses ‘historical and ethical challenges in Israel and Palestine’ in Storrs
by Julia Berger, Middle East Crisis Committee
On July 30, about 35 people convened at the Storrs Meeting House to enjoy a Middle Eastern potluck and a talk by Dr. Alice Rothchild: “A Personal Journey: Facing Historical and Ethical Challenges in Israel/Palestine.”
Dr. Rothchild has practiced ob/gyn for almost 40 years and served as Assistant Professor of Obstretics and Gynecology at Harvard Medical School. She is a first-generation American who grew up in a middle-class Jewish family in the Boston area. She grew up with the narrative of Israel as a haven for Jewish “victims,” as a democratic state in the Middle East surrounded by hostile Arabs and Palestinians. Only when she was in college did a friend cast doubts on this view. Dr. Rothchild was inspired by this friend to do some serious research—on colonialism, imperialism, and U.S. and Israeli history—especially about the 1948 Palestinian “Nakba” in which many Palestinians were killed by Israelis and many more became dispossessed refugees.
Eventually Dr. Rothchild joined Physicians for Human Rights on a journey to Israel and Palestine to see for herself the conditions there and to work in clinics, especially in Palestine. Since then she has gone annually to travel around, to work in clinics, and to speak with Palestinians and Israelis about the deteriorating physical situation in Palestine (the Wall, the increased Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands, the checkpoints, the housing demolitions, etc.). She emphasized she is not criticizing Jews as Jews but rather the policies of the Israeli government.
When she has attempted to speak about her experiences here in the U.S., she has frequently been harassed or her talks have been cancelled. But she remains optimistic because more and more Americans and Israelis are finally speaking out against Israeli government policies.
Dr. Rothchild also pointed out the affinity between Black Lives Matter and the Palestinian situation. Both are met with increasingly militarized/weaponized responses. The final irony: many of the U.S.’s police departments are even trained in Israel or here by the IDF.
She was also troubled that none of the current presidential candidates, except Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, were even talking about Israel/Palestine.
Asked about BDS, she responded that the U.S. provides $3 billion a year to Israel—a population of 8.2 million—the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. The American taxpayer has some responsibility for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. Moreover the non-violent BDS is supported by the Palestinians and seems to be having an impact on the Israeli government.
Dr. Rothchild has directed a documentary film “Voices Across the Divide,” and has written several books and articles on her experiences.