Boston Activist on Gaza protests
AND THIS SPECIAL PAGE FROM DENNS:
My Israel/Palestine Focus
I began this blog after deciding to visit Israel and the West Bank in 2004, more than 30 years after my previous visit. The blog offers a chronological account of trips to the region in 2004, 2006, and 2008 as well as informal observations and analysis, mostly but not entirely about Israel and Palestine. I’ve also written longer academic essays, personal essays, and opinion columns about my efforts to make sense of the conflict and about Israeli and Palestinian society. Most of these pieces are available on my website, along with many of my photos.
Things seemed simpler when I became active in the Zionist youth organization Young Judaea in 1960s Brooklyn. I’ve written only a little about that period of my life, during which I absorbed a form of Zionism that highlighted humanistic, socialist, and utopian political thought along with a strong secular Jewish identity. I had some reservations about Israel’s departures from the philosophy I was soaking up, reservations that escalated after the Occupation began following the 1967 Six Day War (which took place while I was in Israel during a post-high school study year). Still, I moved to Israel in 1972 with a group of Young Judaea graduates who planned to start a new kibbutz — a group I co-founded. For a variety of political and personal reasons, the group soon splintered, and I returned to the US in early 1973. (Some of those who remained created Kibbutz Ketura.)
I knew then that my embrace of Zionism had been a mistake, that Israel’s reality could never match my idealized dreams and that Zionism’s victimization of Palestinians had been inevitable. However, I was not yet prepared to follow the logic of that realization. I wrote about some of this a few years ago, after my 2004 visit. Since then, I’ve been back twice, including a six-week Fulbright Senior Specialist placement in 2006 that enabled me to teach a seminar at Israel’s Ben Gurion University on Psychology, Law, and Justice, one of my academic specializations. I also worked with researchers at Birzeit University’s Law and Society unit. During my most recent visit, toward the end of 2008, I presented a paper at a conference in Ramallah on Siege and Mental Health, organized by the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. My paper suggested how a perspective from within critical psychology – my other main academic specialization – might help make sense of the conflict’s complexities.
In addition to my academic activities, in 2004 I spent about 10 days with a delegation from Faculty for Israeli Palestinian Peace. In 2006, I spent a week with a Health and Human Rights Delegation from Jewish Voice for Peace (now sponsored by American Jews for A Just Peace). During both visits I spent time with relatives and old friends, some of them Americans who have lived in Israel since moving there three or four decades ago (and most of them now troubled with what Israel has become), and also with new academic and political contacts. In 2008, I spent three weeks in Ramallah, on the West Bank, in addition to briefer time in Israel.
You’ll also see in my essays the impact of anarchist political philosophy, which has helped me understand the destructive nature of national flags, boundaries, and identities. The Israeli group Anarchists Against the Wall impresses me very much.
I speak Hebrew well enough to get around and have decent conversations. I read Arabic script when it’s clear, but can’t yet say much.
I hope someday to write more about this circle of my life and explore what relevance it might have for others, especially other American Jews uncomfortable with mainstream assumptions about Israel. Moving from a narrow concern with what’s best for the Jews (assuming we know what that is) to a broader concern with what justice requires is often a difficult step. It was for me.