We write to respond to a new declaration of legal apartheid and to current actions of legalized state violence. As Jews in support of Palestinian self-determination, we respond to these events without surprise, but with indignation, and with renewed commitment to struggle in solidarity with Palestinian people. Last week, following President Donald Trump’s move to produce official U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Knesset passed legislation titled the “Nation-State Basic Law,” declaring, “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it.” To emphasize their desire for the maximum presence of Jews and the minimum presence of non-Jews throughout historic Palestine, the Israeli armed forces carried out one of their most extensive bombardments of the Gaza Strip in years, in what they called reaction to activity from the Palestinian resistance. Those two statements – one in law, and the other through force – affirm the power of the U.S.-Israeli partnership in colonization, and speak to Israel’s determination to continue its apartheid project, and to break the Palestinian relationship with the land.
The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network rejects the Israeli regime’s claim that Israel is our “homeland.” We repudiate any right to self-determination in historic Palestine, exclusive or otherwise. We oppose other planks of the law, especially that the regime has a role in preserving our cultural heritage. From the earliest Zionist thinkers, Arthur Ruppin to Thedor Herzl onwards, powerful Zionists have shown contempt for Jewish heritage and culture, including in Eastern Europe. They disliked and disregarded the world of the Jews of Africa and Asia, folding a subordinate status for Mizrahi Jews into the early colonizing project. From Zionist pre-state and state ideology’s hatred for the poverty and book-learning of the shtetl to the erasure and selective exploitation of the histories and cultures of the Jews of Africa and Asia to its glorification of war and strength, and racist dismissal of what the Zionists saw as Ashkenazi Jewish feminized “weakness,” the entire Israeli project has been based on rejecting our multiple pasts and cultural heritages. The only heritage they assert is the memory of the Nazi Holocaust of European Jews. And in using it as a weapon against the Palestinian struggle, they have cheapened that memory, not protected it.
The state of Israel has always been an apartheid state. Its founding was based on denying and destroying Palestinian collective life on the land, while encouraging Jewish immigration and participation in a settler-colony, itself based on a classed racial hierarchy among Jews. The new law, in Adalah’s words, is “primarily anti-Palestinian, since it seeks to entrench the immediate implications of the Nakba: the denial of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people in its homeland [and] the denial of the Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return.” In claiming the land of historic Palestine for Jews, whom Israel claims to unify and represent, it denies that land to Palestinians. This relationship rests on an apartheid system. Palestinians who resist and lay claim to their homeland are turned at best into second-class citizens. At worst, they are dispossessed, subject to violence and imprisonment, and become “terrorists” for claiming their right to have rights.
Turning Palestinians into “terrorists” happens no matter what they do or do not do. It is Palestinian existence and resistance which is criminalized and punished. From the early days of organized political resistance to colonization, to the appearance of the PLO, to the strikes and collective actions that characterized the first Intifada, to political work in the Palestinian exile communities, to the murder of nearly 150 Palestinians and the maiming of 5000 in the Great March of Return – a massive campaign of popular resistance – and now, the murder of several Hamas fighters and Palestinian civilians on Friday July 20, there is no resistance—cultural or political—that is acceptable to the state of Israel.
IJAN notes that the latest escalation from Israel occurred in response to the popular militia exercising their right to defend themselves from the occupier—a right protected in international law. What is misleadingly named “Jewish self-determination” in Palestine rests on a violent denial of history, the past and the present. So, both the international media and Israeli officials painted Friday’s massive late-night attacks as a “response” to the Hamas killing of an Israel soldier. But such an event is only a “response” if one accepts the Israeli regime frame, which is to forget not only the Nakba but also the ongoing occupation, land grabs, brutal military assaults and imposed humanitarian crisis of the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called the Israeli counter-insurgency operation “measured and responsible,” and stated that it was Hamas forcing Israel into a situation where it would have to carry out a “broad, painful military operation.” IJAN agrees: because Hamas and the Great March of Return, both parts of the Palestinian creative pushback to their oppression, are challenges to the current apartheid regime, Israel has no choice but to use massive colonial violence to defend the indefensible. There is no other way. The “self-determination” of Jewish Israeli settlers in Palestine is only made possible by a violent denial of the Palestinian right to land and life. It has ever been thus: there is no nonviolent route to colonization. Yesterday’s martyrs and last week’s apartheid law are further evidence of Israel’s determination to carry out its project. But they are also evidence of the ongoing Palestinian resistance to that project. In this moment, as ever, we honor the Palestinian resistance in its struggle for rights, for liberation, and for return. Jews are not one national group. We are part of the world. Rather than claiming our right to stolen Palestinian land, we join the world in empathy and support of the Palestinian people. We reject the language and practice of the Israeli state and affirm the self-determination of Palestinian people as they face this renewed challenge to their existence.