Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Ariela Rosenzweig's Support for the Palestinian Cause

19 Brown students on a hunger strike for Palestine (Forward)
I have been wondering how young Jewish students that seem quite normal could possibly join the anti Israel protests or support the BDS movement. My assumption (which for the most part I believe is correct) is these are Jews that had little Jewish education if at all, And that they and have been whipped into a frenzy over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza ever since the war with Hamas began over 100 days ago. 

These young Jews do not seem radical. Nor are they necessarily anti-religious. Just Jews that care about the welfare of people they believe are being oppressed by powerful occupying forces. 

I found what I believe is at least a partial answer to that in the Forward’s Deputy Opinion Editor, Nora Berman’s interview of one such Jewish student, Ariela Rosenzweig. She and 18 of her fellow Brown University students have begun a hunger strike - the purpose of which is to get Brown to divest from Israel. Rosenzweig describes her background this way: 

I grew up in Brookline, a suburb of Boston. And I grew up in a very traditional, establishment, Zionist American Jewish family. I went to Jewish day school. My parents are big supporters of AIPAC. 

Berman also interviewed fellow protester, Nour Abaherah – who describes her background as follows:

I’m Palestinian. My grandparents are Nakba (tragedy of Holocaust proportion) survivors and my parents were born in Palestine but grew up in Jordan, where they had me. I grew up and was raised in Johnston, Rhode Island. I don’t remember ever not advocating, or talking about, or just bringing awareness to Palestine and what’s happening there.  

It is not surprising that a child of Palestinians who see Israel’s 1948 war for independence as a tragedy also sees Israel’s war against Hamas the same way. For Abaherah, Palestinians in Gaza are suffering the same ‘Nakba’ their parents and grandparents suffered back then. People that are raised on Jew hatred cannot be blamed for how they feel about what the Jews are doing now. 

That they are blind to what precipitated this war is a question they can’t or won’t answer. But the fact that they see us as their version of ‘Amalek’ helps to explain that ‘blindness’. As it should help to explain why Israel needs to continue battle that enemy until it end them. And  along with them their existential threat. 

But how can a Jew that was raised in a Zionist home, attended a Jewish day school, and whose parents supported AIPAC support people that want to see a country of 7 million Jews end?

Rosenzweig answers that question herself: 

And at a certain point, in my youth, I discovered that there’s more to the story. I started reading about the Palestinian experience and got involved with Jewish solidarity organizing for Palestine when I was 16, with IfNotNow and also with JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace). I’ve been pretty consistently involved ever since. I have been a member of the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at Brown for a few years… 

I spoke earlier today at a rally about my family history, and the experience of my grandparents fleeing Poland during the Holocaust to Mandatory Palestine, and being among the first citizens of the State of Israel. It’s something I’m pretty ashamed of. I don’t think that the cycle of violence that was perpetrated against my family had to be repeated.

I have no clue what kind of Jewish Day school she attended. But my guess is that it was not Orthodox. If it was, then she has really fallen off the reservation. Any Orthodox Jewish day school worthy of that description, would never allow their students to see Israel as a pariah state having no redeeming value. And thus worthy of the destruction that a worldwide implementation of BDS would bring.

Apparently her exposure to material about the ‘Palestinian experience’ was presented from the Palestinian perspective only. A perspective whose authors have likely been weaned on books like Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ and ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’. 

Yes, Rosenzweig is right. There is ‘more to the story’. There are some very unflattering things Israel was accused of during its war for independence. The veracity of which is uncertain. But even if true, there is more to the State of Israel than what happened back then. Palestinians that live there now (called Arab Israelis) are not in any way oppressed. The exact opposite is true. They are flourishing precisely because of Israel. Not in spite of it. The mere fact that every Arab Israeli has their own elected representatives in government gives lie to the accusation of Apartheid that usually accompanies demands for BDS.   

And then there is the little matter of October 7. As a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, her lack of even mentioning that as part of the problem or a word about the Jews being held hostage by Hamas with the support of Palestinians - makes me suspect that she too is being willfully blind to any narrative that contradicts the Palestinians narrative. Which she was indoctrinated to believe. With her ‘research’ and subsequent involvement with Palestinians like Nour Abaherah, it’s no small wonder that she is tone deaf to the reality of who is really responsible Palestinian suffering in Gaza: Hamas and the very same Palestinians that are now suffering. Who - as noted - enthusiastically supported October 7.

Rosenzweig may very well be sincere in seeking ‘Justice for Palestine’. That is not her sin. Her ‘sin’ is in what she has been led to believe justice looks like. It is neither BDS nor demanding a (one sided) cease fire in Gaza. 

It is tragic that the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors whose concern for human suffering is based (at least in part) on what they went through - can  be so terribly misguided  by the half truths and lies. To the point of seeing the conflict only through their eyes.