Jewish nonviolence: “The world is watching.”

lana Sumka is the director of the Center for Jewish Nonviolence who works out of Belgium. She is also a “Jewish Jew” not an Israeli who turns her back on injustice, not a tribalist originally from America who has a hard time reconciling what Israel has become.


Sumka is a Jewish hero one committed to ending the Israeli occupation. She was the first by being the first Jewish person to receive an honorary Bethlehem “passport” as part of the international Open Bethlehem campaign.

None of this prevented her from being manhandled by israeli soldiers whom she was taught were superheroes “who’d protect me from harm.”
She recently described her journey in Haaretz from being young and Jewish in the USA 70s to her present role as an anti-occupation activist.
While the rest of the world was preparing for the new American president’s first visit to Israel, in a small village called Sarura deep in the West Bank, 130 American, Canadian, European and Australian Jews were standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Palestinians, taking blows from Israeli soldiers.

Sarura was a Palestinian village in 1999 and on the pretext of it being “a military firing zone,” 700 were evicted.In 2001. Across from this village the extremist settlers moved in and established an illegal outpost now linked to the electric and water grid. Last week, a coalition of Palestinians, Israelis and Diaspora Jews came together to reclaim Sarura. We called the project “Sumud: Freedom Camp. ‘ Sumka describes her “awakening.”

Like many Jews around the world, it took time for me to realize I couldn’t reconcile this reality of Israel’s occupation with the Israel I thought I knew. For me, it took living in Israel for seven years, studying and eventually traveling in the West Bank every day to witness first-hand the rise of settlements and the on-going displacement of Palestinians to reach a conclusion that terrified me, and that I had not been able previously to accept.   Israeli policy in the West Bank is based on racial and ethnic discrimination in which Jewish rights and Jewish access to land are privileged over and at the expense of Palestinian rights and Palestinian access to land.


There is no moral case to be made that justifies the separate legal systems, the unequal access to basic resources, the impunity that settlers enjoy or the constant harassment, violence, and displacement that Palestinians face. There is certainly no Jewish case to be made for this. Two years ago I founded the Center for Jewish Nonviolence to bring Jews from around the world to join the Palestinian grassroots nonviolent movement on the ground, alongside our Israeli counterparts.
On May 20 at midnight the brave IDF moved in to dismantle the camp and manhandle the protestors.

But oh how things have changed. Israel can no longer hide what it has been doing for decades.The computer, cell phones, cameras, Facebook has shattered the mendacious israeli narrative and exposed the stunning persistent cruelty of a settler colonial state.

The presence of hundreds of Jewish Americans, Europeans and Australians changed the equation. We linked arms, stood shoulder to shoulder – Palestinians, Israelis and Diaspora Jews – and took out our cameras.  Rabbis, Jewish academics, Jewish day school graduates, Jewish summer camp counselors were all there, filming and livestreaming to our friends, family and communities back home, and the Israeli army knew it.  When these confrontations happen to Palestinians alone, the Israeli army can count on no one watching. We were there to make sure the world was watching.

This brave woman concludes:

It will take more than busloads of American Jews standing in solidarity in the West Bank to end the occupation. But tonight, my Palestinian, Israeli and Jewish American friends are sitting around a campfire drinking hot tea, showing the world an alternative to the status quo. When we turn our privilege into power for our oppressed sisters and brothers, and when we value justice and shared humanity over displacement and discrimination, we win.


1 Comment »

  1. 1
    mushafta Says:

    We need these stories- big time!
    They counter the apathy and the mindlessness that pervades our society that really doesn’t want to be bothered by this or any other stuff that interferes with our right to self idolatry.
    Narcissism needs strong medicine. Ted’s posts on the rights of the Palestinians and the terrible injustices they suffer are a perfect antidote.

    Thank you Ted!

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