by Shelly Altman, Jewish Voice for Peace
Several members of the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) New Haven chapter were among the 600 attendees at the bi-annual JVP national membership meeting in Baltimore, March 13-15. The weekend was filled with inspiring keynotes, fact-filled breakout sessions, hands-on workshops and planning exercises, and a somber and moving Jewish memorial service for those who lost their lives during the brutal assault on Gaza by the state of Israel this past summer.
A significant focus of the event was the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS is a non-violent call by over 150 organizations in Palestinian civil society for three actions by Israel: ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. The call is conditional on these, and includes an end to BDS once they are implemented. BDS is not punitive but simply a means to achieve Freedom, Equality, and Justice for Palestinians long denied these fundamental human rights.
While the Israeli election occurred 2 days after the end of the JVP meeting, the racist rhetoric of Benjamin Netanyahu, his promise to maintain the occupation indefinitely, and the endorsement of his values by the Israeli electorate only serve to raise the importance of using BDS as a tool to achieve human rights for Palestinians. Find out more about the BDS movement at http://www.bdsmovement.net.
Rabbi Brant Rosen of JVP spoke from the heart: “I’d like to suggest that a deeper understanding of this value [love of the Jewish people] should not stop at love just for fellow Jews. After all, while the word Yisrael does refer to the Jewish people, it also literally means ‘one who wrestles with God.’ Seen thus, we might interpret it as love for all who struggle, to love all who fight as we have for freedom and justice and tolerance in the world, to stand in solidarity with those who struggle against tyranny, and are beaten, imprisoned, tortured or killed for doing so…these are the members of our tribe, perhaps our most sacred tribe.”
Angela Davis concluded her stirring plenary by remarking “We are compelled to speak back with the voices of our humble solidarity, and one of the most important of these voices is Jewish Voice for Peace. Carry on!”