Social Justice Includes Support for Israel
W.E.B. Du Bois once spoke of a “double-consciousness” felt by Black people in the United States.
Even when accepted by white society, he argued that Black Americans are constantly aware of how they are looked at by the white community at large; the plight of their communities; and the way that other marginalized groups are treated.
As an American Jew and the grandson of a Holocaust refugee, I am aware that Jewish people around the world experience a similar double consciousness to the one that Du Bois conveyed.
Historically, Jews have been persecuted and seen as second class citizens or non-citizens wherever they went. While it is a mistake to assume that all Jews or people of color share monolithic opinions, it is no mistake to assume that the historic mistreatment of both groups can form a foundation for solidarity as allies against systemic oppression.
Jews know what it is like to be on the bottom. Even when Jews can achieve some success, like in North America, Jewish people continue to reach out to help other disadvantaged groups, because they remain acutely aware of the struggles of these communities. The Jewish experience of living in the Diaspora is shared with other groups, such as people of color, refugees, and Palestinians.
Historically, the motivations that led to the Pan-African movement and Zionism are similar. These commonalities should lead to mutual understanding and support — which is why everyone must understand that when students at Northeastern University’s Hillel chapter refute inaccurate statements made about Israel by Angela Davis, it is not to drive a wedge between Jewish students and Black students. It is to counter harmful misinformation, and encourage productive dialogue on issues of social justice.
The State of Israel is home to people of every race, and it protects the sacred spaces of many faiths. The majority of Jews in Israel are not “white” — and millions of Arab people hold Israeli citizenship, with completely equal rights.
While many Jews, including myself and the majority of Israelis, may disagree with certain policies of the Netanyahu administration, we defend the existence of and need for the State of Israel, and look forward to the day when it can have peaceful relations with all its neighbors, including a future Palestinian state, as it already has with Egypt and Jordan.
The current state of conflict benefits no one. For Students for Justice in Palestine and Angela Davis to demonize Israel does not help Palestinians. What is needed is positive policies and actions that lead toward peace and prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians.
It is likely that, like Jews, many Palestinians experience the feeling of double-consciousness described by Du Bois. The solutions suggested by Du Bois include being treated with respect and opening the doors of opportunity. Instead of vilifying each other and Israel, student groups at Northeastern should put our efforts into supporting policies that increase mutual respect and opening doors of opportunity.
The filmmaker Lisa Gossels — who is also my cousin — made a movie called My So-Called Enemy, which details the lives of young women, both Israeli and Palestinian, who participated in the Building Bridges Program. The young women lived together and listened to each other. They learned to see the other side of the story, respected each other, and became friends. If we all listen and strive to understand the position of the “other,” it would do a world of good.
This is particularly relevant as tensions flare up yet again between the Israeli government and the Hamas-led regime in Gaza. While no side is completely innocent, I take issue with the propagandization of the events. Each of these events are complex, and it is important for us all to understand an issue’s nuances before reposting propaganda where we may not know who wrote it or why.
Hamas is a genocidal terrorist
As allies of peace, tolerance, and social justice, let’s use this unique situation to encourage a sustainable peace. Engaging with Israelis and Palestinians and increasing understanding is the only way forward — and it is inherent to social justice.
Matthew Blicher is a student at Northeastern University.