JFREJ, Israel, and Palestine

Israel and Palestine have been a subject of debate within JFREJ for over thirty years. We’ve periodically revisited our approach, and there have been moments when we’ve engaged more and moments when we’ve engaged less. At this moment in history, given conditions on the ground and given the ways in which our allies are approaching Palestine, we believe it is time for another community-wide discussion. Over the summer of 2021, we began surveying our membership on the subject in order to open up space for this discussion. After collecting responses, we hired an expert to begin analyzing the data. In 2022, we’ll use the results to shape a process of learning and discussion with our allies and our full membership all about Israel, Palestine, and Jewish Left organizing in the diaspora. Stay tuned via our website for updates! If you have any questions or suggestions for our approach, you can email rachel@jfrej.org.

The last time we wrestled with Israel and Palestine as a full membership was in 2015. In 2015, our membership reaffirmed that JFREJ organizes locally while orienting internationally. We are part of a broader global movement that calls this orientation grassroots internationalism — an orientation that requires mutual solidarity, forged over time between frontline communities around the world who are suffering from the impacts of oppressive global systems. On this issue, that means we support local efforts led by our partners for Palestinian rights and freedom, and against Israeli apartheid, occupation, displacement, annexation, aggression, and ongoing assaults on Palestinians.

Israel and Palestine can play a role in local politics, and we are especially called to respond to instances when they have an unjust impact here in our own city: our representatives from the City Council to Congress often accept free or heavily subsidized trips to Israel that promote a one-sided and often militarist perspective; our theaters and art galleries cancel presentations by Palestinian artists when they are pressured by the right-wing pro-Israel lobby and activists aligned with it; our mayors make appearances at AIPAC conferences and recite their talking points. These are local matters and JFREJ recognizes — and acts on — them as such.

We are connected to what happens in Israel and Palestine. We are connected as a Jewish organization, and an organization in the United States. At JFREJ we focus our efforts on pursuing racial and economic justice locally — and we know that the U.S. government provides more than $3 billion in annual aid to the State of Israel. We are connected as a community with members who have lived there, loved there, put down roots there, protested there, and have friends and family there. We know that these memories and connections carry love, grief, and sometimes rage. What do these connections mean and require of us as a local Jewish organization with an internationalist orientation and commitment? That’s the question we are currently asking all 6,000 JFREJ members, whose opinions and feelings on Israel and Palestine — and how JFREJ engages on the subject — we are currently in the process of surveying.

We hope this information-gathering process will help us identify areas of alignment and dissension, what positions and relationships our members already hold, and get a sense of what folks want to learn more about. We will use the results to create our 2022 plan of learning and discussion for our membership. Stay tuned.