Palestinians and Jews look for solutions together

November 23, 2023

The Gaza Strip, center of the Israel-Hamas war. Photo: Prachatai, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

Detroit, Mich.—On Nov. 10 the National Lawyers’ Guild and Jewish Voice for Peace drew over 100 here to view the powerful award-winning documentary “Radiance of Resistance,” and hear remarks by Palestinian-American attorney Huwaida Arraf. “Radiance of Resistance” documents years of Palestinian resistance in the small village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank. Two young girls, nine-year-old Janna Ayyad and Ahed Tamimi, 12, had joined their families in filming the weekly “resistance marches” of the village. This film by Jesse Roberts and Jesse Locke is the result of editing English captions and graphics around the footage and mostly Arabic narration by the girls and their families.

Dr. Arraf described how the state of Israel supported the formation of Hamas in 1987 as a counterweight to the Palestine Liberation Organization, which the Palestinian people increasingly distrusted to stand up for their interests. In the West Bank in 2008, Dr. Arraf witnessed the “Marches of Resistance” as shown in the movie, honoring the 200 children killed and 20,000 maimed by the Israeli Defense Forces. “Israel has no right to ‘defend’ itself against a people they themselves occupy and colonize,” she said. “You can’t let the Hamas attack justify what the Israeli occupation has done.”


The U.S. has consistently protected Israel since 1948, leading a “failure of international order.”  As she works on international legal redress, Dr. Arraf asks: “Can the U.S. be found legally complicit, since, thanks to social media, everyone knows that Israel is committing genocide?”  She no longer believes that a two-state solution is possible.

Although the audience suggested texting “Ceasefire” to President Biden, contacting Congress, and reinvigorating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, this group did not discuss, let alone begin to work out, what they know: As long as Israel remains, not a “homeland” but a settler colonial state, a pillar of world state-capitalism, it will never allow Palestinians justice, dignity and freedom.

What kind of social revolution, what vision of society would bring lasting freedom and justice to Palestine and indeed to Israel? Many Jews fleeing Europe had looked to build a socialist, bi-national state, a safe homeland for all. The militant right-wing among them created an atrocity—the bombing of the King David Hotel—to stir up Jewish nationalism and the war (the Nakba) that forced 750,000 Palestinian Arabs off their land into refugee camps and divided the country.


The International Community Center in Dearborn, Mich., brought churches, Jewish Voice for Peace and FOSNA (Friends of Sabeel North America, an ecumenical liberation theology movement founded by Palestinian Christians) together for their Second Palestine-Israel Forum on Nov. 11.  The main speaker, Jonathan Kuttab, is an international human rights attorney, an activist for peace and co-founder of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, of Nonviolence International and Just Peace Advocates/Mouvement pour une Paix Juste (a Canadian based international law human rights organization) and author of Beyond the Two-State Solution and The Truth Shall Set You Free.

The program began with filmed interviews of Palestinian-Americans who recalled the 1948 Nakba, the war against Palestinians that established the state of Israel. Sadly, they could have been narrating video from Gaza 2023.

In this context Dr. Kuttab spoke on his own experiences and philosophical stance. “American Jews are very scared and very powerful, which challenges those of us working across religions and nationalities. Groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow provide the best answers to the charge that critics of Israel are anti-Semitic, because they arose within Jewish communities. (He prefers the words “anti-Jewish” since Palestinians, too, are Semitic people.) However, there is a newly accepted definition of anti-Semitism which focuses on anti-Israel, used by Columbia University to suspend campus organizations including Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine. The U.S. has protected Israel from following international law and has blocked Palestinians seeking redress.

“Never before has genocide been displayed in real time on the media. The U.S. is totally complicit. Furthermore, we witness those in power silencing the opposition.

“After World War II international law created the UN Security Council, which has failed to provide security worldwide, as stronger countries, like Russia taking Crimea, have consistently gotten away with it. But we still have principles, ideals, and acts of solidarity, like the BDS movement, testimony by the faith community, and a responsibility to witness.

“The law does give a right to resist, but armed resistance will not give either side their goals. I stand on pacifism and non-violence. Israel has 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, 1,300 of whom are in administrative detention: no charge and indefinite confinement.

“Violence comes from identity politics, like Zionism, and all of us are tempted, because hate breeds itself. It is much harder to truly listen and challenge toxic positions and ideologies that demonize the other side. Israel has consistently undermined efforts toward a two-state solution with settlements and the siege. But any solution without the Palestinians will not lead to a way out. The only way out is through justice.”

Another speaker at the forum, Dr. May Seikaly of Wayne State University, has been researching the social history of Palestine: “The people are the source.”  She has collected over 250 oral histories of Palestinians from the refugee camps in Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.  She donated this audio collection to Stanford University and it will soon be online.

The final speaker, Dr. Pratha Abasi, of Michigan State University, specializes in the mental health of children and stressed the importance of trauma-informed care.  “We love what we know; we know what we are taught…How do we as humans allow genocide? People are made into an ‘Other’; or, ‘they must have done something to deserve it.’ Also, there is a belief that crimes committed in the name of ‘Faith’ are OK.”

This small gathering of faith-based local leaders made no headlines. But in the context of brutal war and extreme hatreds, if a liberation theology movement can grow, it can contribute to a path towards a humane society.

—Susan Van Gelder

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