Alice Rothschild is a 68 year old Jewish-American physician, author, filmmaker, and peace activist. Raised in an Orthodox Zionist family in Boston, she became active in feminism and health care reform, especially for poor and marginalized women. In 1997 she turned her abundant intelligence to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Rothschild like many “Jews of conscience” has tried to understand how Jews, with a long history of justice-making could become so blind to the oppression of Palestinians. Her thinking out loud produced two books Broken Promises, Broken Dreams: Stories of Israeli and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience and On the Brink, written in the summer of 2014 while she was in the West Bank during the events leading up to the massacre in Gaza. Rothschild has also produced the documentary Voices Across the Divide an attempt to understand Israel’s shocking behaviour rooted in fear and trauma.
Recently Rothschild appeared on Israeli television and spoke forthrightly about her experience in Israel. As per usual her Facebook page was deluged by vitriol and personal attacks by fellow Jews with absolutely no experience in the west bank or Gaza .None of her detractors has had the open-ended history that Rothschild has had in Palestine. This is part of her experience:
I traveled last spring—and will return next month—to the West Bank to work on art projects in a refugee camp in Nablus and a small Palestinian agricultural village in the Jordan Valley scheduled for demolition by the Israelis. Once there, one cannot help but see the ugly face of the occupation: the mammoth indignity of the separation Wall, the steady encroachment of the Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, the appropriation of Palestinian water and resources, the omnipresent military checkpoints, the house demolitions, the constant humiliations. All of this being done with the help of U.S. weapons and equipment. But most of all is the overriding clarity that there is not now nor has there ever been any desire for or possibility of a Palestinian state. When Netanyahu said recently that he had no intention of allowing a two state solution, many people in the US were shocked. But, in fact, that has been the policy all along. The “peace process” has been a mirage manipulated by the Israelis to defuse criticism. And the U.S. has played magician’s assistant in pretending the mirage was real.
And this is a précis of her TV appearance
I elaborated on the clash between progressive Jewish values and history in the US and the indefensible occupation and the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza that I had personally witnessed in 2015 and on annual visits since 2004. I explained that BDS is a response to Israeli policy, growing racism in the society, and the death of a functional peace movement. I explained that the core issue is that Israel is the last colonial project in a post-colonial age, that having a country symbolized by a tank with Star of David is dangerous for Israelis (Jews and Palestinians) as well as our respective Diasporas.
The narrator ended the episode reflecting on the changes between older Zionist families and their children and grandchildren and expressed astonishment that there appeared to be a connection between blacks and minorities in the US and Palestinians. Who would believe this could happen? Perhaps this is the new audacious cool thing to do? As usual, Israelis were described more as passive victims than active participants in whatever was happening. So maybe Omri didn’t really get it, which is of course why I support the strategy of BDS.