Not In My Name
What We Do
We believe that the Israeli Government must change its policies towards Palestinians in order for there to be a just and lasting peace for all both Palestinians and Israelis. Both societies are being destroyed by the Occupation and by the resulting inter-communal hatred. In addition, we think that in providing Israel with about $3 billion in annual military aid, the U.S. government is playing a disastrous role. Therefore, while we try to have an impact on the American Jewish community, we also see ourselves as part of the effort to build a movement that is large enough to affect U.S. policy. As Jews, as Americans, and as moral human beings, we feel the need to speak out and take action.
Therefore, we organize protests and demonstrations, we hold vigils and religious ceremonies, we write letters to the media, we contact our elected representatives to express our concerns, we create opportunities for dialogue between Jews and Palestinians by attending teach-ins, we support activities planned by other groups, and we host educational forums and study groups.
American Jews have a long history of speaking out and protesting against Israeli policies. For example, in 1948, 28 prominent Jews—including Albert Einstein, Sidney Hook, and Hannah Arendt—publicly condemned Menachem Begin as a fascist, saying that his Freedom Party (formed from the Irgun and a precursor to the Likud Party) had “preached an admixture of ultra-nationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority.” (The New York Times; December 4, 2020).
Sadly, today such dissent is often silenced and discouraged, as was demonstrated by the ADL spying campaign conducted against dozens of groups in the Bay Area. In fact, NIMN has been the target of several smear campaigns emanating from some Jewish organizations.
Furthermore, non-Jews who speak out for justice are quickly condemned as anti-Semitic. Of course there are some anti-Semites who criticize Israel, and NIMN has been in the forefront of confronting and challenging them. But one our tasks is to speak out as Jews, thereby creating a political space for others to express their concerns and criticisms of Israeli policies.
Not In My Name was not formed to supplant any other organization. Indeed, some of our most active members also belong to other Jewish groups, including Tikkun, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, and A Jewish Voice for Peace. Some members are active in their synagogues, churches, and mosques. It is our hope that NIMN can become a vehicle through which Jews and our supporters can act in an increasingly coordinated and effective manner to bring about change. Whenever possible, we try to coordinate our activities with other peace and justice groups.
Above all, we want to be effective. Here are some of the organizing principles are our foundation:
Take Visible Action
Because so few Jews are willing to take a public stand, the leaders of the mainstream Jewish community are able to suggest that there is unanimous and uncritical support for the Israeli government. Of course, we recognize that we currently represent a minority view. But we actively challenge the mantra repeated by many Jewish organizations, such as the Jewish Federation, the Anti Defamation League, that Israeli policies represent all Jews and that criticisms of these policies constitute an attack on world Jewry.
We understand how crucial it is for us to take a public, visible stand of dissent. Only by doing so can we break the illusion of Jewish unanimity, provoke a productive discussion within the Jewish community, encourage more Jews to speak their consciences, and create a space that allows non-Jews to speak out without fear of automatically being labeled anti-Semitic.
Visible action comes in many forms. Examples include writing a letter to the editor, questioning a rabbi's position on Israel, organizing a program at your synagogue featuring a Palestinian speaker and alternative Jewish voices. Or it could be simply standing with others in a public vigil, or joining an organized demonstration. Visible action will mean different things to different people in different situations. But it all involves some level of risk-taking and exposing yourself to criticism, sometimes from family and friends.
In Israel, risks are taken by courageous Jews and Palestinians in organizations such as Gush Shalom, Yesh Gvul, Ta’ayush, Bat Shalom, Women in Black, and so on. Palestinians in the Occupied Territories take great risks every day for justice and human rights. By comparison, our work here entails minor risk; the potential for adverse consequences are far less severe.
Yet, of course, we still we feel hesitation and fear, and taking visible action is not always easy. One of our members displayed a sign in his window that read "Israel Please Stop Killing Palestinians" only to later discover that the ADL's literature had claimed this to be an act of "anti-Semitic harassment.” Only after repeated challenges did the ADL finally withdraw the charge.
We must overcome fear and let friends, family and politicians know how we feel. As we do this, others will join us, our voices will grow stronger, and we will have an impact on U.S. and Israeli policies.
Push for open debate within the Jewish community
We believe that the quality and quantity of debate within the Jewish community (and the American public at large) needs to improve. There is very little real and open discussion among Jews when the subject has anything to do with Israel, its actions, its policies, and its future. There is also a paucity of balanced information about what is really going on in Israel and Palestine. This situation is especially ironic because within Israel the newspapers, television, and radio express a wider range of viewpoints and information than is available here.
Within Israel, people from a broad spectrum of political parties and beliefs engage in critical discussions about peace, security, and the future of their society. Indeed, because so many of us are concerned about the very same things, we are jealous of this vibrant debate! In the last twenty years, much new information has come to light from Israeli, Palestinian, and Jewish scholars about the founding of the state, the creation of the Palestinian refugees, and the treatment of Palestinians within the Occupied Territories. None of this should be deemed untouchable.
It's not just a matter of being able to say what you want or having what you write be printed. The suppression of honest, open discussions has very real and destructive consequences. As long as the mainstream Jewish organizations prevent such debate, U.S. and Israeli policies will continue to destroy both Palestinian and Israeli societies.
Because so many claim that Israel’s policies are aimed at protecting all Jews, we have an obligation to engage in a critical discussion of what is being done in our names. We must be able to discuss these things, agreeing to disagree at times, without allowing others to accuse us of being self-hating Jews. The future of millions of Israelis and Palestinians depend on this. If we can succeed in sparking a widespread, critical debate about Israeli policies within the Jewish community, we will then see a more reasoned and productive national debate.
Build bridges between Jews and Palestinians
The gulf between Jews and Palestinians in this country is very, very wide. If Jews and Palestinians do not have contact with each other, do not hear each other's stories, then they can so much more easily dismiss the real concerns on each side. If Palestinians hear Jews only expressing uncritical support for the government that kills and brutalizes their people, anti-Jewish sentiment will quite naturally develop. If Jews only learn about Palestinians from media that routinely dehumanizes Arabs and portrays all of them as terrorists, we will continue to accept crude rationalizations for horrific human rights violations—and harbor deeply racist views of the Palestinian people.
We work with other Jewish and Palestinian groups who are building bridges between these two communities. Through dialogues at synagogues, churches, and mosques, and by our presence at activities and demonstrations planned by the Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim communities, we hope to break down the barriers, reduce prejudice and hatred, and form bonds that will strengthen the movement for a just and lasting peace.
Support and publicize the work of peace groups in Israel and Palestine
Because we believe that a real solution to the conflict can only be established by Israelis and Palestinians, we not only oppose the obstacles that prevent this, but we actively support their work. We were among the first to introduce American audiences to the courageous Israelis who are refusing to do their military service in the Occupied Territories. We launched the independent Refuser Solidarity Network to continue this important work. We also publicize and support the work of the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions, which, by bringing Israelis and Palestinians together to rebuild demolished homes, is helping to build peace brick by brick. When Gush Shalom, one of Israel’s oldest peace group, was threatened by the Israeli Attorney General, we initiated an emergency campaign that placed two statements of support, signed by over 700 people world-wide, in Israeli newspapers.
In addition, we have sponsored speaking tours of Israeli and Palestinian activists, and attempt to promote their work in print and on radio.
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