Violence in the Mideast will not end without justice
A Palestinian girl cries during the funeral of Amir Ganan, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike on the buildings in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. | Hatem Ali/AP

Dear Haverim,

It is difficult to do justice to the depth of the pain and grief that has been experienced in Palestine–Israel over the past several days. The details emanating from news outlets and social media have been increasingly unbearable; so many of us are feeling layers upon layers of intense emotion, in often confusing and contradictory ways. For Jews who stand in solidarity with Palestinians, I know these confusing contradictions are particularly keen.

Having said this, I believe we must allow ourselves to be able to grieve for Jews as well as Palestinians without shame. I realize, of course, that this is painfully difficult to do, particularly in a deeply polarized moment such as this. My friend Sahar Vardi, a longtime activist and organizer in the Palestinian solidarity movement in Israel described this challenge very powerfully in a Facebook post today:

It’s double pain, double heartbreak, care, love. It is to hold onto everyone’s humanity. And it’s hard. It’s so hard to have humanity here. It’s exhausting, and it feels like, time after time, the world is just asking you to let go. It’s so much easier to “choose a side” and stick to it, and at least reduce the amount of pain you hold. To at least feel part of a group and less alone in all this.

Having said this, however, I think it is just as critical to insist on the underlying context of this most recent violence. There is also no shame in pointing out how and why things have come to this. Yes, there are those who angrily criticize contextualizing as unseemly at times such as these. They tell us this is a time for mourning, not political analysis. On the contrary – I believe contextualizing these tragic events is absolutely essential if we are to have any hope beyond the grief.

As the recent Jewish Voice for Peace statement so aptly put it, “The root of violence is oppression.” Unless we have the wherewithal to say this out loud, this latest tragedy will be precisely that: just the latest tragedy in a litany of grief that has gone on for far too long.

To be sure, this latest violence did not occur in a vacuum. It is but the latest manifestation of an injustice that Israel has been perpetrating against the Palestinian people for decades. Even amidst the terrible grief, with this horrid violence still ongoing – and very likely to escalate to even more unbearable proportions – we must shine an unflinching light on the true roots of this violence – and on the vision of a future based on justice and equality for all who live in the land.

Tzedek Chicago is in the midst of organizing a space for our members to gather, as Jewish anti-Zionists, to hold the complexities of this moment together as a community – and we will be in touch with you with details soon. In the meantime, I know you join me in sending out prayers for a truly just peace – and a commitment to do what we must to make it so.

In Friendship and Shalom,
Rabbi Brant Rosen

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Rabbi Brant Rosen
Rabbi Brant Rosen

Brant Rosen is the rabbi of Tzedek Chicago, a Jewish congregation based on core values of justice, equity, and solidarity, and the Midwest Regional Director for the American Friends Service Committee.