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People carry signs reading "Jews Against Apartheid" during the Los Angeles Nakba 73: Resistance Until Liberation rally.

People carry signs reading "Jews Against Apartheid" during the Los Angeles Nakba 73: Resistance Until Liberation rally and protest outside the Consulate of Israel on May 15, 2021. (Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Jewish Defenders of Palestinian Rights Say 'Together We Can Stop Machinery of Division and Fear'

"The work of dismantling all oppression is OUR collective work. We will not be pitted against each other."

Julia Conley

More than 300 Jewish rights activists, writers, educators, and other leaders on Wednesday published an open letter unequivocally rejecting claims that recent antisemitic attacks in New York, Los Angeles, and other cities are connected to the movement for Palestinian freedom. 

The signatories, including healthcare advocate Ady Barkan, author Judith Butler, and activist Phyllis Bennis, emphasized that "safety comes through solidarity," declaring, "We won't be distracted. We won't be divided."

"The work of dismantling all oppression is OUR collective work. We will not be pitted against each other," the letter reads.

The letter was published on Medium less than two weeks after a ceasefire halted an 11-day assault by the Israel Defense Forces on Gaza.

Some Palestinian rights advocates in recent weeks have acknowledged a groundswell in support for the victims of Israel's decades-long apartheid and lomgstanding violence against Palestinian people, which most recently killed at least 243 Palestinians including 66 children.

Support for Palestinians and criticism of Israel's government, the leaders wrote, must not be conflated with "fringe antisemitic events" which have long been "swiftly and roundly condemned by movement leadership."

The letter comes days after four House Democrats—Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Kathy Manning of North Carolina, and Dean Phillips of Minnesota—sent a letter to President Joe Biden conflating violence against Jewish Americans with statements by progressives lawmakers including Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), a Palestinian-American, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) labeling Israel as an "apartheid state."

Efforts to connect attacks on Jewish people and places of worship to the movement for Palestinian rights represent a "thinly veiled attempt to delegitimize Palestinian leadership and distract from Palestinians experiencing state violence by Israel," the Jewish leaders said. "We will continue speaking out against the violence in Israel-Palestine."

 

"We support our Palestinian siblings' right to describe their lived experiences without being accused of antisemitism," the signatories wrote. "Even if their terms make us uncomfortable or we disagree with their analysis, we refuse to be more outraged by the words Palestinians use than the actual violence they endure. Similarly, we refuse to allow progressive leaders of color who speak out in support of Palestinian rights to be smeared for their principled stand."

"Together we can stop the machinery of division and fear used to keep us isolated and vulnerable," they added. "We won't be distracted from our fight for freedom and safety for all people."

A number of the leaders who signed the letter spoke out about the statement on social media.

"Palestinians are still facing evictions, blockade, and state repression," said Evan Weber, co-founder of Sunrise Movement. "Let's not be divided or distracted."


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