I have set up a separate web site where you can read about my position and get in touch:
October 25, 2000
AP picked up my presence and sign at an evening (10/24/2000) protest:
AP caption: Steven Feuerstein stands with members of the Chicago Palestinian community protesting the speaking engagement of Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2000, at the 13th Annual Dinner of the Chicago Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. (AP Photo/Stephen J. Carrera)
It was an interesting evening, as I recount below:
I had a busy day today. I was invited to speak at a rally at the
University of Illinois Chicago campus (near downtown) protesting
Israeli attacks on Palestinians [meanwhile, more Palestinians
die. Here is an excerpt from a report by Suzanne Goldenberg
published in the London Guardian: Malake Kafishe was seven months'
pregnant and happily looking forward to the birth of her second
child. Then, last Thursday night, as on so many nights in Hebron's
old city lanes - among the fiercest battle grounds in the West Bank
- she heard gunfire. She froze. There was shooting, and then I heard
the helicopter gunships coming in and my heart just stopped.' She
began to bleed and ran for the stairs, stumbling over the last few
rungs and collapsing in a heap on the doorstep. Her family rang for
an ambulance. Because of the shooting and a curfew imposed on 40,000
Palestinians in Hebron's old city, it took an hour to arrive. Two
soldiers insisted on examining Ms Kafishe. There were four more
checkpoints before the ambulance arrived at Alia hospital. At each
roadblock, soldiers swung open the vehicle doors and peered at the
ashen-faced woman inside. By the time she reached the hospital, a
journey that normally takes five minutes, one and a half hours had
elapsed. The baby was dead. The doctor told me If you had got here
20 minutes earlier you could have saved the baby',' she says.]
So I spent the morning writing my speech, which seemed a little
weird. I so like to be spontaneous! I will send out the speech under
separate cover (FT13), but the best-received part of it went like
October 24, 2000
I have just returned from a rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I gave the following speech (afterwards, I was interviewed by the Chicago Sun Times and a Metro News Reporter; I was also braced by a member of the Jewish Defense League who wanted to know how to get in touch with me. I BET he does!):
Why I Am Here Today
is the first time that I am speaking out publicly against Israeli
policy. I was born and raised an American Jew, which means I was
raised to reflexively and uncritically support Israel. I became
disillusioned years ago, but limited my criticisms to within family
circles – which just got family circles mad, really mad, at me.
I feel compelled to take a public stance and call on Israel to stop
killing and brutalizing Palestinians! And I believe very strongly
that we, the American Jewish community, must take the lead in
calling on Israel to change its policies, to stop the occupation of
Palestinian lands, to seek a lasting and just peace in its own
have I come to this point in my life? Because I am Jewish. Because
Jews are taught: THOU SHALT NOT KILL. The Torah does not say: Thou
shalt not kill only Jewish people. The Torah does not say: Thou
shalt not kill only those who agrees with Jewish people. And the
Torah DEFINITELY does not say: Thou shalt not kill anyone but
Palestinians. The Torah, the guiding light of the Jewish people,
THOU SHALT NOT KILL
Jews are very big on this rule: you can break other sacred laws,
such as those honoring the Shabat, the Sabbath, if breaking that law
will help save a life. And yet, after thirty years of the Israeli
occupation of Palestinian lands, after thirty years of the Israeli
domination over the Palestinian people, we have come to this:
soldiers and Israeli settlers who are able to rationalize without
any noticeable effort, without any noticeable remorse, the
persistent shooting and killing of Palestinian children, the
destruction of Palestinian homes, and the continual, growing
occupation and dissection of Palestinian lands.
Israeli government that, after years of "negotiations"
with the Palestinian Authority, is ready and able to imprison an
entire people in their small, isolated towns – whenever the
Israeli government feels it is justified.
the Israeli government explicitly justifies its actions as necessary
to save the Israeli state, to save worldwide Judaism. Well, I am
hear today to make sure that Israel and other American Jews and
other Americans know that this American Jew will not accept the
killing of Palestinians IN MY NAME, ON MY BEHALF. Israel must
stop killing Palestinians. Israel must seek a real peace and to do
that it must take real, concrete steps to demonstrate its commitment
am not an expert on the Middle East. I am an expert on the Oracle
PL/SQL computer language. I cannot "hold my own" in an
extended and complex policy discussion on the Oslo accords nor on
the final status of Jerusalem. I am really only good at telling you
about the best way to write a bunch of code.
do not believe, however, that it is necessary to be a policy expert
on the Middle East in order to recognize that Israel is visiting a
grave injustice on the Palestinian people. One clear, physical
expression of that injustice are the settlements that Israel has
built throughout Palestinian territory. These settlements are
obviously designed to maximize Israeli control over Palestinians
even as they are supposedly granting them their autonomy. These
settlements are provocative and as long as they exist, there will
never be peace between Palestinians and Israeli Jews.
I call on Israel to unilaterally announce the stoppage of any new
settlements and to immediately begin dismantling the existing
settlements. I believe that if Israel takes this one step,
Palestinians will recognize the real possibility of justice, stop
the al-Aksa intifada, and work with Israel for a lasting peace.
with the seemingly unanimous support of American Jews, is now able
to rationalize ignoring one of its most sacred beliefs - THOU SHALT
NOT KILL. The clear and most awful result is death and destruction
for Palestinians, but there is another victim of this degenerate
killing of the Jewish spirit of justice and love of life.
survival of the Jewish people, of Judaism, it seems to me, is very
much dependent on the way that Israel responds to the current crisis
and whether it can admit its mistakes, whether it can make a real
gesture towards peace with Palestinians.
Israel will not change its policies unless and until the United
States changes its policies, and applies real pressure to the
Israeli government. That is the reality. Our government sends over
$3B of our tax dollars every year to Israel, much of that for
military aid. Israel cannot, in the current state of affairs,
survive without us. Our government can insist on substantial changes
in Israeli policy. But it will not do so unless American Jews speak
out, and call for that change.
that is why I call on the many other American Jews who feel like I
do to take a public stand and criticize brutal Israeli policies.
Yes, it is hard for American Jews to criticize Israel. When we do,
we are intimidated and harassed by our very own community. But it is
even harder – for me at least – to tolerate the killing and
torture and destruction that is being done in my name.
believe, in conclusion, that the more I (and others) speak out, the
more other American Jews will feel they can speak out.
We can then create a "safe place" in the public eye
for Jewish criticism of Israel, which will allow a real debate to
occur in this country, and hopefully a real change in our policy
towards Israel and Palestinians.
© 2000 Steven Feuerstein. All rights reserved.