Mark Braverman: A Zionist rethink

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Mark Braverman is a retired clinical psychologist, a Jew  who in 2006 decided to devote himself full-time to working on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. His book, Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land, combines a description of the spiritual and psychological forces which define the conflict, with a memoir of his own personal journey. He believes that American churches have a pivotal role to play in any future resolution, thus he has devoted most of his efforts to working with Christian activists.

Somebody asked me that the other day. Where does all your passion come from about this issue? And I said it comes from being raised as a Jew. I was raised to believe that the core of my Judaism was to believe in social justice, very much in that prophetic, out of that prophetic tradition.  In fact my father who was not a religious man, but who identified strongly as a Jew, was a member of the Anti-Defamation League back in the 50s and 60s when they were the good guys.  I was raised being opposed to prejudice, which was what we called white on black racism in those days.  My dad gave me a very very strong education in social justice.  So that’s one side of it.

The other side of it was that I was totally raised as a Zionist. If you were a Jewish kid, raised in Philadelphia which had a strong Jewish community, and born in 1948, you’re raised in a very potent combination of Rabbinic Judaism and political Zionism. The two are totally merged. And Israel is redemption and Leon Uris’ “Exodus” was effectively part of the bible, so I absorbed both of those at the same time. And to make a long story short, when I finally saw the occupation, those two things came crashing against each other so I knew what I was seeing and I had to do something about it. But also, having been raised on Zionism, and having been passionate about that story that I had been told then I learned there was a whole other narrative, a different narrative, and this narrative was the story of the Palestinians, who played the part of the enemy in the Zionist story.

I realized that the Zionist story I was taught was not working, and I had to do something about it.  So I went back to the United States after my exposure and felt that I had to tell the Jewish community, hey we are really in trouble guys, this is not working, this story we tell is full of lies and distortions.  And a big part of this is admitting it and we have got to do something about this or the whole thing is going to come crashing down.  And, of course, the doors of the synagogue did not exactly fling open in welcome.

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