the politics and poetics of (young, proud) diaspora

by tobybee

at the Jewish Federations of North America Jewish General Assembly that is happening currently in New Orleans, there has been a bit of a disruption cause by some rad young Jews.

check them out in action during Netanyahu’s speech:

Watching this, for me, is simultaneously fucking inspiring and amazingly depressing: they get shouted down so quickly, and Netanyahu is so ridiculously smug. But of course he is – he knows that he is so completely in control, and that these amazing people might yell and hold banners, but he can just call them dupes and the masses will cheer. urgh.

but if you just want the inspiring, and the hilarious, check out their spoof Birthright trip, and the fantastically worded, and completely spot-on retraction (“Moreover, presenting a multiplicity of narratives would undermine not only the idealized image of Israel that Birthright presents, but also the sense of emergency that gives such power to the Birthright experience. We know that trauma is a potent educational tool, and the Birthright program—ten days of intense activity with an armed escort, Holocaust references, intimate encounters with IDF soldiers and second-hand stories about ‘violent’ Arabs—has been carefully devised to infuse youth with the conviction that Jews everywhere are on the brink of annihilation, and that the only way to survive is to support Israel without question.”).

and the newly-formed group that all this action came out of: ‘Young, Jewish and Proud’, which is part of Jewish Voice for Peace. Reading their opening statement, for me, was spine-tingling. Here’s an excerpt (but you should definitely read the whole thing):

I. we exist.
We exist. We are everywhere. We speak and love and dream in every language. We pray three times a day or only during the high holidays or when we feel like we really need to or not at all. We are punks and students and parents and janitors and Rabbis and freedom fighters. We are your children, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren. We embrace diaspora, even when it causes us a great deal of pain. We are the rubble of tangled fear, the deliverance of values. We are human. We are born perfect. We assimilate, or we do not. We are not apathetic. We know and name persecution when we see it. Occupation has constricted our throats and fattened our tongues. We are feeding each other new words. We have family, we build family, we are family. We re-negotiate. We atone. We re-draw the map every single day. We travel between worlds. This is not our birthright, it is our necessity.

[...]

IV. we commit.
We commit ourselves to peace. We will stand up with honest bodies, to offer honest bread. We will stand up with our words, our pens, our songs, our paintbrushes, our open hands. We commit to re-envisioning “homeland,” to make room for justice. We will stand in the way of colonization and displacement. We will take this to the courts and to the streets. We will learn. We will teach this in the schools and in our homes. We will stand with you, if you choose to stand with our allies. We will grieve the lies we’ve swallowed. We commit to equality, solidarity, and integrity. We will soothe the deepest tangles of our roots and stretch our strong arms to the sky. We demand daylight for our stories, for all stories. We seek breathing room and dignity for all people. We are committed to the struggle. We are the struggle. We will become mentors, elders, and radical listeners for the next generation. It is our sacred obligation. We will not stop. We exist. We are young Jews, and we get to decide what that means.

so ridiculously great, for the poetry of their writing, for the energy, for the way they take the idea of delegitimisation and throw it on its head.

**update 11/11: to read the rad perspectives of some of the people involved in the protest, check out two pieces on Mondoweiss: this piece by Matthew Taylor, and this piece by Rae Abileah