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Notes from the Unrepenitentiary

In the last months of 1996, the court system in Israel legalized torture. Preventing "terrorist attacks" makes it necessary, the courts ruled, to use physical torture to extract information from Arab "suspects."

Fifty years ago the nazis used similar rationales to justify the dehumanization of Jews and other "threats" to the Aryan state. From the founding of the state of Israel on invaded Palestinian land in 1948 to the present, it's been clear that the Zionist solution to anti-Semitism is about as moral as the nazi "solution to the Jewish problem." Settler colonialism can never provide a defense against oppression, just as genocide in any of its forms can never be anything but a coffin nail in the life of the human race.

Yet waves of silence followed the Israeli court decision on torture, just as they have every new outrage of the Netanyahu regime. The Palestinian liberation struggle, having been weakened by the dismantling process barely disguised as the "Peace Accords," cannot mobilize large numbers of international supporters. In the midst of daily continuing aggression against the Palestinians (bulldozers further invade Palestinian land to spread new Jewish settlements; Israeli soldiers and civilians alike have carte blanche to shoot or beat Palestinians), I find the silence and inaction of my fellow Jews on the left in this country to be particularly shocking and disheartening. In the 60's, we and thousands of others protested and fought against the U.S. government's genocidal war against Viet Nam under banners proclaiming "no more genocide in my name." We should raise the same slogan in loud protest against the Israeli state now. Until leftist Jews create an anti-zionist presence, zionism and the Jewish faith will continue to be confused with one another.

The Jewish tradition in which I was raised was one that saw the human condition as indivisible. Passover was a celebration not only of the liberation of the Jews from bondage in the Pharaoh's Egypt, but also of the struggle of Black people in the U.S. for civil and human rights, and for the liberation of all oppressed peoples. we aren't free until no one remains in chains, I was taught. Unfortunately, national and class privilege (since the majority of U.S. Jews are European, or, in the racial obsession of this society, white) have corrupted that fundamental tenet of Jewish tradition here. The result is that anti-Zionist, anti-racist Jews are a small minority among U.S. Jews. Not so different from the proportion of anti-racist whites to the overall white population in the U.S.

No matter what the U.S. and Israel have been able to convince the U.N. to say, Zionism is still racism: state-sanctified oppression of Arabs by Israelis. It is not unlike the settling and colonization of South Africa by the Boers - a state based on apartheid, ultimately condemned by the world community and overthrown by the African majority in favor of a democratic South Africa. Like the U.S. legal system's death penalty, legalized torture in Israel needs to be condemned as the violation of international and moral law that it is.

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