The current crisis of the Zionist State brought together a broad array of the Jewish Left in Chicago over the May 2-4th weekend. The current crisis for Jewish people irrespective of political origins have created a unity of purpose for Leftist activists to joint together in a new movement based in the various committees that have sprung up in every major city of North America since the September beginning of this second Intifada. Irrespective of their political orientation as either non- zionist, anti-zionist or left-zionist the 180 delegates came from 25 US states and 50 organizations in Israel, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Brazil, and Ramallah,
The initiative for this new movement arose from the last December 10th international day of protest organized over the InterNet by various discussion Lists that chose the United Nations International Human Rights Day (and Chanukah) to point out the human rights of the Palestinians. On that occasion there were seven vigils held at Israel Consulates. For the June 8th 2001 international vigil called by Bat Shalom and the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace there have been 144 announced sites for the protest of Not In Our Name. Initially it was Steven Feuerstein who picked the opportunity to put out a call for the gathering, on behalf of the local Chicago committee Not in My Name.
Some Jewish Unity For A Just Peace Gathering (Junity) delegates remembered the New Jewish Agenda formation which had brought together the left-Zionists in the now demoralized attempt to win support for the Israel Labour Party peace initiatives. As was often expressed in contrast, this new conception is one of peace together with justice, in deference to the existence of the Palestinian Nation and its struggle for liberation from Israel’s military occupation.
Jewish Unity for a Just Peace, whose documentation may be found at the web site www.junity.org had a great variety of resolutions proposed which may be found at the site together with founding documentation.
The Junity basis of unity was for an End to the Occupation and Jeff Halper coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions denounced the “Matrix of Control” that the State of Israel has established in the West Bank in the name of security. This “matrix” imposes an overall Israeli control by such means as a network of “bypass roads” connecting the various Zionist villages, surrounding and cutting off the various Palestinian towns and villages that have won some measure of self-determination. These imprisoned communities encompass 90% of the Palestinian population of the territories occupied in 1967. While this form of control removes the embarrassment of direct Israeli rule over 3 million stateless Palestinians (including Gaza), it has not satisfied the needs of the Palestinians who remain under military siege. As a result a second Intifada of protests erupted after September 28, 2000 with General Sharon’s intrusion into the Al- Aqsa mosque square of Jerusalem together with 1000 soldiers. An examination of the peace proposal from former Prime Minister General Barak reveals that, taking into consideration the various lands that have been annexed, the offer amounts to 67% of the occupied territories although it is announced and repeated by the media as 95%.
Rela Mazali, a colleague of Halper’s, offered some cause for hope in her presentation about the deep militarization of Israeli society. A founding member of the Israeli feminist organization New Profile and an organizer of various peace and resistance activities against the occupation, Mazali pointed out that 25 percent of 17-year-old Israelis are currently finding excuses not to enlist in the army, though the law requires that they do so, and a full third of those who do enlist find reasons for early discharge. While thousands have found Conscientious Objection to be a way out of the draft, 600 others who have refused military service, have found themselves in prison. Among the older generations, an astonishing 70 percent of reserve soldiers — essentially all Jewish Israeli men up to the age of 49 are required to report for military — are simply failing to show up when called for duty.
The Palestinian speaker Ali Abunimah pointed out during the allies dinner event that, “It is important for Palestinians to know that Israel does not as it purports to, speak for all Jews, and it is important for other Jews to know that they do not have to choose between succumbing to the appeal to tribalism trumpeted by mainstream organizations, which permits anything against ones enemies, or being cast out of the community and being labeled “self hating Jews” or sometimes worse. … It is important to recall what the Palestinian movement is about. It is a struggle for human and political rights, for the right of people not to be treated like human garbage because another set of human beings has decided that their claims, their history, and their ambitions are of more profound importance.”
Junity has evolved during and since the gathering to include the autonomous organization of workshops; Women’s Caucus, Direct Action civil disobedience, Lobbying Group, Jewish Delegations To Israel/Palestine, and the Canada Caucus. The activists in Canada at the gathering have founded an InterNet Listserv by which to maintain communication, coordination and lobbying efforts in continuous operation and may be reached for a free subscription at the Junity web-site – www.junity.org
In addition to the June 8th international action, two other actions have been adopted as the responsibility of this Jewish anti-war movement; for the September High Holy Days immediately preceding the anticipated Palestinian sponsored demonstrations for the first annual commemoration of this second Intifada, as well as the December 10th United Nations Day for International Human Rights, as was the case the previous year.
The rapid and spontaneous growth of this movement refutes the denigrations of the Jewish opposition oftentimes made by Zionist organization representatives. Susana Udler of Brazil, summed up the elation of the delegates saying, “A butterfly in one place of the world that flutters his wings, will cause in the other side of the world a typhoon to happen. I believe here in this conference we started to flutter our wings.”