Podcast / On The Nose
On the Nose is our biweekly podcast. The editorial staff discusses the politics, culture, and questions that animate today’s Jewish left.
In This Moment & Tough Conversations
Duration
0:00 / 01:17:29
Published
May 20, 2021

Is it worthwhile to focus our organizing on moving Jewish American public opinion on Israel/Palestine? How effective is it really in shifting the dynamics on the ground? Jewish Currents staff members discuss these questions.

Then, starting at 33:58, we discuss one of the main questions we’ve received in the last week: How do I talk to my family about what’s happening? We recount personal victories and failures, and explore how people actually change their minds.

Articles Mentioned:

Are 95% of Jews Really Zionists? by Caroline Morganti

Jewish Americans in 2020 (Pew Study)

Teshuvah: A Jewish Case for Palestinian Refugee Return by Peter Beinart

US media talks a lot about Palestinians — just without Palestinians by Maha Nassar

Responsa - How Not to Fight Antisemitism by Jewish Currents editors

A Guide to the Current Crisis in Israel/Palestine by Mari Cohen, Joshua Leifer, Alex Kane

The Palestinian Cause at a Moment of Transition, a conversation between Inès Abdel Razek, Salem Barahmeh, Dana El Kurd, and Fadi Quran

Books Mentioned:

Jewish Power by JJ Goldberg

Where the Jews Aren’t by Masha Gessen

Thanks to Santiago Helou Quintero for producing and to Nathan Salsburg for the use of his song “VIII (All That Were Calculated Have Passed).”


Transcript

Arielle Angel: Welcome to the second time we’ve recorded audio. We still don’t know if this is a podcast or what we’re doing, but we are trying to speak to you directly, dear listeners. I guess I’ll just start by saying that it’s been a really fucked up week. And part of the way that we’re trying to process all of the information and also serve our readership is by taking questions. We set up a Google forum and people just have been sending in all kinds of questions. The questions fall into a number of different buckets, I would say, some of them are really straightforward questions about this particular round of violence and what are the things that precipitated it and what’s actually happening in Sheikh Jarrah and we’ve actually published an explainer that we’re going to keep adding to on our website, jewishcurrents.org, that you can find there. But a lot of the other questions were of a different nature. I’d say the majority of them coming from Jews, who are probably kind of identifying themselves as being in some way at the beginning of their process in thinking through what is going on in Israel/Palestine, and what it actually has to do with them. And so we thought we might start just by talking a little bit about these questions that I would say are more sort of on the emotional end of things, even if some of them profess to ask for specific information. And yeah, let’s just dive in. I guess I should also say, I’m Arielle Angel, I’m the Editor of Jewish Currents, and I’m here with MC: and Josh Lifer, our Assistant Editors, and Jacob Plitman, the publisher of Jewish Currents.

Jacob Plitman: I think part of the challenge is just how fully entangled what we call ‘Judaism’ is with Zionism. And the entanglement, in many ways, begins at the root. I mean, an entire half-century of work plus was done to basically meld and blend and braid Judaism and Zionism together, of course, with the sort of inaugural year being 1967, where American Jewish Zionist, political perspective became the hegemonic one. At first slowly and then very quickly throughout the community. And I think part of what’s difficult about the position of someone that is both interested in Jewishness, but also against apartheid, and ethno-nationalism in Israel and anywhere, is that essentially, almost all of the base relationships one might have with Jewishness have become that eroded, essentially to a point of non-existence. I think that discomfort is a real recognition of, as Leonard Cohen put it, the level to which we have decayed. And I think Leonard Cohen, for instance, essentially believed, like many did, especially during the baal teshuva movement, when lots of secular Jews became very religious, at least for a time, that one answer to this was to, was to embrace God and to become a religious Jew and to live a Torah-led life in some way, shape or form. And for secular Jews, the religion, so to speak, for mainstream American Judaism has been Zionism. I would say that Zionism is the largest and most powerful denomination, so to speak, of American Judaism. That is less than less true, as Jews of conscience see Palestinian apartment buildings demolished by an army claiming to fight in its name. But at the same time, I think we have to recognize just how politically, but also sort of spiritually and intellectually, intertwined the liberal notions of statehood and nationalism, and ethnic identity, how intertwined those things are with whatever we call Jewishness. And I think that fact is part of why the question even feels hard, because even to build an identity around, say, anti-Zionism, it’s a common refrain among activists, “not in my name,” “this is not my Judaism.” But to build an identity around anti-Zionism already takes this hegemony for granted. It exists only in opposition to a hegemony and political formation which is much more powerful than its opposition.

Joshua Leifer: Jacob, when you were talking, the question that came that came to my mind was like, Okay, so we’ve reached this point where it feels like, at least, certainly at the institutional level, and like most people who identify as Jews in America, are either tacitly supportive or actively supportive of authoritarian ethno-nationalism in Israel. And I think, certainly in lefty Jewish activist spaces, it often felt like our goal, as much as it was to improve the lives of Palestinians and fighting against the occupation, the goal was also to save Judaism from being taken over by Zionism. But maybe that’s a lost cause. I think that in some sense, perhaps in order for the conversation to proceed, we have to give up the idea that it can be taken back in any meaningful way. I also think that a politics that is focused on that as its primary goal, and not around ending the forced transfer of Palestinians out of the land where they’ve lived for centuries—why would we focus on saving Judaism when that doesn’t seem right, to me, at this point?

AA: I mean, I, I totally hear that. I think what’s difficult about it is that we are in a moment where we’re perceiving openness, as we’ve said, and so I feel like the response—I mean, we can talk about how much we think this is true—But I think what a lot of us are noticing is that something is shifting, that obviously there’s still anti-Palestinian bias in American media. But I do think that even with part of the innovation around identity politics and representational politics means that groups do feel obligated to include Palestinian voices. And like with the transfer of the Jerusalem Bureau at the New York Times to Patrick Kingsley, there have been changes in, for example, New York Times coverage that I think are meaningful, like I mentioned, using the term Palestinian citizens of Israel, which I don’t remember seeing in The New York Times, maybe I’m wrong about that, or like, calling out some of the mechanics of occupation in some of the articles in ways that I don’t remember being the case. And I think that that is creating an opportunity where people are open to learn things that they weren’t learning before. And I just don’t think we can like, totally leave that on the table. Even as I feel like, here we are, we’re having this conversation about how we engage Jews, right? And the contrast, of course, with Palestinian suffering in this moment, I mean, some of the images coming out of Gaza, not to mention all of the kind of mob violence, but just the, the extreme bombing? You know, I mean, should we just be talking about that? There’s some way where it’s like, yeah, we probably should, and yet, it doesn’t seem like a not worthwhile cause to take this moment as an opening, to shift something. I think it would only be not worth doing if there was no hope that it could be done. And I think something that we’re seeing in this moment, is that it might be able to be done under the right conditions. Josh, you were talking about how unsatisfying or like flat Hasbara feels right now in comparison to the reality of what’s going on. And I think that that’s pretty important, because most of the time Hasbara feels really compelling to people.

JL: Yeah, the British Israeli Academic Yair Wallach had a good tweet about this, where it was like, he said that the Israeli rights’ response to this has vacillated between ‘1948 didn’t happen’, this kind of denialism about the Nakba and what Zionism has entailed for Palestinians, and then also a threat that ‘if they don’t stop, we’re going to do it again to them’. And I think that in a way that those two currents still run through the American Jewish Hasbara response to this as well, which is like a denial about the reality of refusal to view Jews as oppressors in Israel rather than as victims, while at the same time threatening, like extreme violence. I know that I was using the term ‘Hasbara,’ Hasbara literally in Hebrew means ‘explanation.’ But it’s the term that professional Israel advocates use to explain to international audiences and the rest of the world what Israel is doing, but it’s kind of generally means whitewashing, or justifying the Israeli army’s violence. I don’t think it’s clear. I mean, I couldn’t tell you who the primary respectable Israel advocate is even right now in the US press, which I think is pretty remarkable. Like it’s not Bret Stephens. I think there are people who like Bari Weiss, but I don’t think people have found her ‘the difficult burdens of sovereignty’ argument compelling when she basically said that part of having a Jewish state is periodically carrying out extreme acts of violence against Palestinians. And so I see what you’re saying Arielle, about there being an opening, but I just don’t know what becomes of that opening.

Mari Cohen: I think it might be helpful to give a little sense, a little context to you about where Jewish politics are exactly at this moment. to sort of understand this stuff. There’s a statistic that often goes around, that’s like 95% of Jews are Zionists—we have a good piece that we published by Carolyn Morganti last fall that I encourage people to check out—but it sort of talks about the ways in which that statistic itself is pretty problematic. That actually is not a representative sample study. And actually, it’s really hard to have accurate data about where American Jews are on Israel, because many studies don’t ask people if they’re Zionist, partly because there’s a lot of confusion about what the term Zionism means between a lot of different people, but very few studies even ask whether people want there to be a Jewish state that’s a democracy and what kind of solution they ultimately want. Instead, it’s more common for there to be questions that are about, “What’s your emotional attachment to Israel?” Which is complicated, because some of the people who ended up becoming some of the bigger critics of Israel, or have become anti Zionist, are people who have spent time there and might actually be more emotionally attached. And so in some ways, it’s kind of strategic, because a lot of these more mainstream Jewish organizations that run these surveys, they ask questions that in some ways, I think, are more palatable to what they’re looking for. That said, I mean, we do have data from these questions. And it is undeniable that a large majority of American Jews either feel some sort of connection, have some level of political support for Israel. And so I think also, oftentimes, there’s this move by left Jewish activists to be like, “hey, Zionism isn’t Judaism, we have to separate them. Lots of Jews aren’t Zionists.” And obviously, Zionism and Judaism are different. And lots of Jews are Zionists. And in fact, most American Jews probably are Zionist. But at the same time, you do see sort of a shift, especially starting with younger people now, like people in the age group 18 to 29. There is a pretty striking change in levels of emotional attachment to Israel or support for politics over time. So actually, the big Pew survey of American Jews came out Tuesday. And the questions about Israel, they don’t ask necessarily a lot of really explicit political questions. But there is this question about, you know, percent of Jews who say they’re emotionally attached to Israel, and overall for these Jewish people who are sampled by Pew, you’ve got 58% are either very or somewhat attached to Israel and 41% are not too, or not at all, attached to Israel.

AA: That’s that’s obviously true, but I think what the data does show again and again is that American Jews are low information. And that the more you ask about what they actually know, they don’t know that much about what’s actually going on. And so you know, especially we learned in the Pew study about BDS, for example, like how I think something like 40, something percent has never even heard of it, doesn’t even know what it is. So 10% of Jews support BDS, which I think is actually, as I said, a large number all things considered. I mean, especially considering the amount of misinformation about what it even is. But I guess what I would say is just as many people as support it have never even heard of it, which really speaks to the fact that Jews are low information. And so again, it just speaks to that opportunity, like we are, even those people who are “pro-Israel,” who have a feeling of like there should be—I mean, look at the questions that we got, we got all these questions that are like, ‘I know, what’s happening with the Palestinians is wrong, I still think there should be a Jewish state. What do I do with that?’ And I think that that’s probably where a much larger percentage of American Jews or diaspora Jews—it’s hard to say diaspora Jews actually—but just let’s say American Jews, that that’s probably where a lot more of them are, than we think. That their Zionism is sort of ambivalent on some level, and not necessarily laser focused, if you will.

MC: And just to quickly flesh out those stats that Arielle was talking about, because I’ve got the PDF in front of me. So for BDS, we’ve got 10%, who support it, but that’s not like as opposed to 90% who oppose it, it’s 10% support it, 43% oppose it. And then the rest, I think that’s a remaining like 46, or something like that, percent haven’t heard anything about it, or it’s like 43%, haven’t heard anything about it. So in some ways, like, if you take people who support it or people who haven’t heard about BDS, that’s actually a majority of Jews. So it’s kind of interesting. Since this has been such a major polarizing point in Jewish politics for so long, BDS being the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement against Israel, as a kind of nonviolent human rights protest strategy.

JP: Well, I was gonna say, I just think it’s important for us to, I think we should discuss what the stakes of Jewish public opinion are. Because I mean, part of what is at issue is the question of what effect does Jewish support, whatever that means, of Israel, what effect that has on Palestinians and others who are oppressed by the Israeli government—and including various people inside Israel with or without Israeli citizenship? And I think that the question of what the stakes are in terms of American Jewish public opinion matters, because if one thinks the relationship is very strong, then changing Jewish political support for Israel really matters. But on the other hand, I do wonder whether there is—I mean, when I was at summer camp, we have this big picture of Theodor Herzl, the sort of putative founder of Zionism, on the wall, and we all knew the phrase, “Im Tirzu,” “If you will it,” and the other half of the phrase is “Then it is no dream,” which is his perhaps most famous saying, and there’s this sense within Zionist ideology, that Jews, by creating Israel, grabbed hold of our communal fate, and established this thing for ourselves so we could finally ‘be safe’ or something. The trouble is, of course, is that the actual history is that’s not what happened. I mean, Israel was not created solely because of the efforts of Jews or a sudden uniquely Jewish desire for a national home or anything like that. It was part of an entire wave of small national movements from Greece and elsewhere, that Hertzel himself was directly engaged in, in dialogue, and was taking inspiration from and the fact that the entire creation of the state was convenient, eventually, because of the retraction of the British Mandate. I mean, there was like an entire geopolitical context that made the creation of Israel possible that has much more to do with global trends in in the way politics were happening then and are happening now than it does with any kind of Jewish self-empowerment. And I think, to a degree, the idea that American Jewish political feelings about Israel/Palestine are a determining factor actually follows straight in line with this kind of fantasy of Jewish power—a fantasy of Jewish self determination—as if we actually have our own fates in our hands, when in fact, what Israel really is is a colonial outpost for American empire. And it will remain that whether or not Jews like it. Which is part of why Bibi Netanyahu has been so successful in building relationships with other authoritarian, ethno-nationalist rulers from India, Hungary, Brazil and onwards is that this has as much to do with a kind of global realignment in the far right than it does I think, with any kind of Jewish communal expression or Jewish anything. And so that, to me, it troubles what the stakes are really, because I mean, for me, as a Jewish person in the United States, I care very much about what Jews think and how Jews feel, because that’s the community in which I live. But I do feel concerned that might be actually what is at stake with this, whether or not I feel comfortable in a political context here, not whether we can stop the mass murder and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by changing Jews minds.

JL: I mean, I want to take two steps back—one to respond to Mari, and then also to respond to what you just said, Jacob—well, maybe I’ll reverse the order. Jacob, what we’re circling around is what was the fundamental unanswered question of like, of what IfNotNow was trying to argue. That American Jewish support for the occupation was, in fact, a pillar of how the occupation was sustained. And I think one of the things that we’re that we are seeing now, and it is remarkable, and it’s worth mentioning, is that the discourse does feel to have shifted in some way. In the better way, one of the things you can say, is that there are more Palestinian voices on TV, there are more Palestinians writing for The Times than there were before, there is a general sense of a better understanding of the Palestinian narrative. And at the same time, things are worse in Israel. 2014 happened at the end of a round of attempted peace negotiations. And obviously, there was a huge problem with the Oslo Peace paradigm, but there at least was like some theoretical, like, the Israeli government had some kind of lip service to ending the occupation, but seven years later, the occupation is permanent. And we’re in a paradigm where Israeli government is contemplating annexation—annexation seems much more like of a likely outcome than a final status, like partition agreement. And so you know, that certainly tests the hypothesis that if you get the discourse right in America, the policies will get better in Israel/Palestine, and it seems like there’s a huge disjuncture there. But the other thing that was striking to me when Mari was talking, is that when I was in college and working on Palestine Solidarity stuff, and embroiled in what ended up being a BDS resolution that nearly failed, I felt—and this was also at the same time that the first wave of Black Lives Matter protests happened—I thought, at the time, that what was going to happen was that American Jews were going to end up like beleaguered white grievance white Americans on the issue of Israel/Palestine. But what I think is been interesting, is that, because the most young American Jews are actually disaffiliated from institutions that would have otherwise formed them politically in like a Zionist fashion, they actually are much more like white liberals than then they are like, say, Orthodox Jews who do have an ideological and religious formation to orient them toward specific policies. And so what I do think you are seeing in the 18 to 35 demographic or whatever that has lived their lives in the twilight of the major Jewish institutions that probably don’t have very much connection that are majority unaffiliated, maybe even like a huge segment of Jews of no religion, is that they are looking at this the way that same demographic that was overwhelmingly supportive of Bernie Sanders, and that is overwhelmingly supportive of Black Lives Matter have used it, which is like as a clear situation of like, oppression.

MC: Yeah, I mean, I think if there’s any evidence of how interconnected—they’re always talking about how interconnected certain struggles are, in particular, the Black and Palestinian struggle—I think we are seeing, to an extent, the effect of being acculturated to certain kinds of politics during Black Lives Matter, now having those be operative in this context. But there’s like so many things I want to respond to Josh, in what you just said. The question of whether we can do anything in Israel is a really strong question, but it’s like, if we are asking that question, you can say that almost about anything at this point. I mean, like Israel is on a track. Josh, you and I were talking about how the mainstream public opinion in Israel has, has kind of laid a groundwork ideologically for mass expulsion for another Nakba, and for the for the transfer of Palestinian citizens of Israel out of Israel. And it’s very hard to see. I mean, like, if you look at the numbers of the ways that younger Israelis are being introduced into politics, and even the way that older Israelis might be changing their politics, I mean, peace spaces are solely old people at this point for the most part over overwhelmingly and, and they’re extremely small. So like this question of like, “Can we do anything to stop what’s going on on the ground?” You might as well say that about almost anything. I mean, I hate to be hopeless, I don’t think anyone could give you like a really good answer, because like, there’s nothing that’s happening on the ground that’s actually making any difference. The only thing that’s going to make a difference is Palestinian resistance on a mass scale. And I think we’re seeing that.

MC: What do you mean you might as well?

AA: I just mean, if you’re asking like, “Can Americans do anything? Or “Does American Jewish opinion matter in terms of what’s going on in Israel?” I think that there are very few things that matter actually, and I think one of those things is Palestinian resistance. And like, barring that, I don’t know. I mean, there’s like a question of, is there anything anyone can do? You know, and I’m not sure that there’s a really good answer, like the tracks are very set in certain ways. So that said, I don’t think it’s wrong to focus on American Jewish public opinion on some level, because I don’t think it’s only about American Jewish public opinion. I think like, you know, for example, I think all of us were brought into, for example, the 2014 movement around Jewish American politics in relationship to Israel/Palestine, one of the results of that is this magazine. And I think that this magazine has a role to play, even in influencing American foreign policy. I think we know that there are people, you know, I don’t want to overestimate things, but within American government, I mean, Rashida Tlaib, from the floor of the House, quoted from Peter’s essay published in Jewish Currents earlier this week. And it’s not just, you know, the squad or whatever, you know, you have people in the foreign policy establishment who, you know, know of us and read us. I’m not trying to overinflate our importance in this, I think it’s just one example of the way in which a certain movement in Jewish politics brought about something that’s sort of useful more broadly, in broader politics. And again, I really don’t mean to overstate our influence in particular, but just to say that, like, we are particularly the results of those politics, even as we want to, like distance ourselves from them now, because they seem so much not the point. And yet, like I think as a lot of people have pointed out, the river only flows one way, like once you start going down this path of like uncovering what’s actually going on on the ground in Israel/Palestine, you don’t you don’t you kind of don’t revert, like, if you’re being open and honest to what’s going on. I think we see that in Peter’s trajectory. And I think it gives other people permission, and not just Jews, I think it gives a lot of Americans permission to change their minds or to challenge assumptions that they’ve held. And, you know, America gives billions and billions of dollars to Israel. And that matters. And if we believe that that matters, then we have to believe that the work that we do in American public opinion matters, and that Jewish American public opinion matters to that equation, and particularly in terms of like, let’s just say it, media. If you look at the past and how often Jewish voices are published on Israel, Palestine, as opposed to Palestinians, I mean, if we have episode notes, we can put a link to the 972 piece that actually just lays out, it’s kind of like 1000 to zero in this regard. In all of the major outlets, even progressive ones.

MC: There’s multiple levels, right? It’s like, to what extent can the Jewish left influence the Jewish mainstream community writ large? To what extent does the Jewish mainstream community influence American politics? And to what extent can American politics influence Israel, and you can get into debates on like, every single level in that run, or like every single point of connection there. But I do think it is true that the section of the Jewish community that actually is the sort of powerful white right-wing force on Israel might be actually a smaller section of the Jewish community or not representative, and it’s still very powerful and well funded and makes, I think, a real impact on politics here. I mean, for example, if like someone like Jamaal Bowman, Congressman representing the Bronx, signs on to the McCollum bill to restrict funding to Israel from being used for detaining Palestinian children in occupied territories and for destroying Palestinian homes and annexing the West Bank, Bowman is getting major pushback on that in his district in the Bronx. And he’s getting pushback from rabbis and Jewish organizations, and particularly, I think it’s orthodox rabbis there, but they’re organized. And they’re the ones who are matching the attack. Also, I mean, if you even think about some of the stuff that goes on in college campuses, the ways in which there’s pretty severe often harassment of Palestinian students, a lot of those right-wing groups, like Stand With Us, Camera, those are Jewish groups that are supported by Jewish donors, and sometimes directly from federations, and those things do impact people’s lives. And so then there is this question, these groups and funders and donors that are already so right wing, we’re not going to change their minds thoroughly or influenced them. Can we shift the space of discourse so that they’re less powerful, or that they’re less authoritative about necessarily representing Jewish interests? I mean maybe that’s kind of the game? And the question that is all about the IfNotNow question, but I think that’s sort of the arena in which we’re thinking about this. But I guess like, also, when people say it’s not just Jews, it’s Christian Zionists. I think that’s important. And I think it is just true that if Jews weren’t here to support Israel, I think Jacob is right, that it has a major dependence on what America’s strategic interests are in the region. And it’s not really that much about Jews, and that the Christian Zionists would give Israel plenty of support. And I think that’s all true. And I think it’s a lot of Jews that are powerful, and provide a lot of the support for Israel and a lot of the rhetorical justification for it.

AA: You heard it here, folks.

MC: Yeah, sorry! We just have to reckon with it. It’s just true.

JL: It’s funny to me. It’s funny to me that phrase has become controversial, because J. J. Goldberg, who is the editor of The Forward, wrote a book that was published in, like, 1999 called Jewish Power. It’s actually a really interesting book. I think anyone who is interested in Jewish American politics should read it because it’s like the last time anyone ever wrote a panoramic view of what like Jewish organizations are doing on Capitol Hill and structuring the political terrain on Israel/Palestine. He has remarkable anecdotes about AIPAC making Yitzhak Rabin’s life difficult. That, at first, there was this whole deferential relationship with Israeli government, but then it really turned out to like Likud and like, rightward people were calling the shots in American Jewish institutions. Anyway, it’s a great book, but it’s funny to me that that book was published by a regular publisher. It’s actually quite a good book with the title ‘Jewish Power’, but now somehow, that’s become a dog whistle, rather than like, we built these institutions! I think we had this sentence in the responses. Also, like, the posts were Jewish, American Jewish community built these institutions to wield its power. It’s just that now they’ve become, you know, they’ve enlisted themselves in the defense of the Israeli state and not just of the state but at a territorial maximalist position. And I think that like, in some ways, it’s not that they lost their constituency. I mean, the argument that Goldberg has in the Jewish Power book, I think, is actually worth listening to, because he argues that they basically never had a constituency. But American Jews have never been primarily activated as Jews on this issue, except for in a few instances and that they’ve largely operated with most Americans, us having no idea what they’re doing. That’s like how he opens the book, actually. That most of these organizations, most of the people who stopped them would be utterly unknown to American Jews. And that was 30 years ago at this point.

AA: Well, so maybe we should move on to looking at some of the questions that we got. I mean, since we’ve already been at it for a bit. I mean, look, to a certain extent, just to reiterate, we’re going to be answering some of these questions, particularly the more concrete ones in the next, you know, week or a couple of weeks, or however long this goes on, on our website, and so you can keep checking back, we’ll keep updating. I think, as I said, some of what our intention here is to answer, particularly the questions that we can answer as a group of Jews, which have to do with some of the processing and like emotional side of this. I think one question that we’ve gotten a lot—and you guys can tell me if this isn’t like the first place that you want to go, we can go somewhere else—Is is about how to talk to the people in your life who have been repeating the same lines on this for quite a long time. And where those lines come from very specific sources. I think a lot of people that are writing to us and a lot of people that I’m just talking to in my everyday life sort of have the sense that this is wrong, but whenever they get mired in a discussion, they feel like they’re not prepared to have the conversation. That’s one side of it. And so that manifests in a lot of asking for resources, but it’s a very, very complex issue when you’re actually like dealing—sorry, let me backtrack on that—It has been sold as a very complex issue, in terms of the morality of it, and actually, it’s not that complex morally, because of the power imbalance. So I’ll just say that right now, but there also is a way in which it took me almost a decade to learn the things that I know about Israel/Palestine in order to be able to have a competent conversation with people who are sort of armed with the party line. And so I guess, one of those questions is sort of like, what does it mean to kind of be prepared or to start down the path of being able to have those conversations? And I think another one of those another, like, a subset of that question is really, how do I talk to my family? Or like, how do I talk to my cousins in Israel? Or how do I talk to the people who are closest to me? So I thought I would sort of open that up a bit in terms of, you know, our personal experiences with that.

MC: And I think too, like kind of maybe a question that’s embedded in there, too, is like, what role do like emotions, if we’re going to talk about emotional attachment to Israel. And also a term that people throw out a lot in this topic is intergenerational trauma, this idea that because people feel because there was this trauma of the Holocaust, and obviously, before that, rampant European anti-semitism, obviously, other histories of anti-semitism, then also, like, sort of the Mizrachi and Sephardi history of anti-semitism, Mizrachi Jewish expulsion from various countries, basically has resulted in this sort of, like hardening of a sense of Jewish victimhood and fear that really pervades a lot of the conversations about this. And then I think there’s arguments about how much to talk about that, or what does it mean when you’re arguing with somebody in their sense of Jewish victimhood, or like, sense in which they are under threat is actually not a reality based in what they’re actually facing at the moment? To what extent do we like humor, those sorts of positions? But I do think it’s something we have to talk about, because I think that comes up for a lot of people. And it definitely comes up when I talk to my family and arguments become very emotional.

AA: I certainly don’t think we should downplay Jewish trauma, I mean, my grandparents are survivors of Auschwitz. I think we talk about it in a very clinical way as like, an emotion to be managed or something, but it is also real, and there, and a fact of all of this. Which is just to say I don’t think we have to minimize historical Jewish suffering, or any present day anti-semitism in order to look at the situation in Israel/Palestine and say, what is happening there is wrong. But that is almost like slightly to the side of the question in my mind.

JL: I mean, I feel conflicted and complicated about this—in part because I think that there’s a way that answering this question properly requires disambiguating different kinds of Jewish stories. And for every story of Auschwitz survivors, there are stories like my family, which arrived in the United States before the Holocaust, and I think there’s something probably wrong with like, people in my family claiming the Holocaust as a source of historical trauma as a kind of like post memory that they didn’t experience but like the broader community with which they identify experienced. And so it’s mediated through that communal attachment. Many American Jews are not the descendants of Holocaust survivors. And so their relationship to what happened is also mediated and I do think it is a question to what extent like that particular instance of Jewish trauma can justify a refusal to look at what’s happening, like in Israel/Palestine. I also think it is important to say that the Holocaust is not the sole Jewish trauma of Jewish history, there are many other events, Kishinev, the pogrom, we can like rattle them off, you learn them in school. But at the same time, I think it’s very hard to argue against Zionism when your primary way of entry into thinking about Jewish history is what the Jewish historian the great Jewish historian Salo Baron called ‘the lachrymose view of Jewish history’, that it’s suffering all the way down, or to use another term that I’ve seen in the scholar Saul Magid’s writing, that like this kind of Judeo pessimist view that looks at Jewish history as like solely the experience of oppression? I think that that necessarily feeds into or not necessarily, but it at least experientially, in our current world, the view of Jewish history in that way, ends up very quickly being justification for, like, violent nationalism. Because it’s an imperative to defend oneself. I think it’s really hard to argue your way to a different point, if that view of history is what you’re working with.

MC: But if someone already has that view of history, how do you talk to them? I mean, I think—sorry, go ahead, Arielle.

AA: I guess I was gonna say a version of the same thing, Mari, which is basically I think putting what Josh is saying into a constructive way, instead of destroying our premise, which is actually trying to help people talk to their families and have conversations is to say that like, one way of doing that might be to change the conversation a bit, you know, to shift the terms of the conversation. Now how to change the channel from Holocaust, I think, is really hard to do. I think you’re undoing a lot. As you all know, because we’ve talked about it, I don’t think it’s possible to do any of this work once and for all. I think that basically, the number one—I’ll just share that I’ve actually been quite successful in moving my family over time. My mother and my grandmother in particular, who are very staunch Zionists, I don’t think that they have changed their identity as Zionists, but they pretty much agree with almost everything that I’m saying at this point, which is interesting. And I don’t really know exactly how they’re reconciling that. But what I will say is that it really didn’t start that way. I mean, we were really opposed. And in 2014, I really felt like I didn’t know where my relationship with them was going to go. And it has taken eight years of sustained hand to hand combat. And I think that number one, for me, at least, and I really don’t know what people’s individual situations are with their families, and like the tolerance for conflict in every individual family, and how destructive certain kinds of behavior is, so it’s not one size fits all. But I will say that, for me, the number one thing that has made me—and there’s actually a few relationships, and also relationships with cousins of mine, who are actually religious Zionists—that have been very fruitful, is I am always willing to engage in the argument. There is never a moment where I’m like, “No, I’m not going to have this argument” or “It’s not worth it.” I basically am bringing the argument all the time. And I mean there’s a way in which I kind of enjoy it, I mean, it’s not fun, it can be really exhausting, and I’m crying and I’ve been up all night with my cousins in Tel Aviv, literally crying and everybody’s yelling, but I think that in order to do any of this work, you have to be willing to engage and to engage again and again and again. And I do think that, to a certain extent, it has been helpful for me to educate myself on the issue in order to respond. And in order to be able to kind of shift, I think in Jewish Currents, when we feel like a certain kind of conversation is getting stale, we try to look for the intervention, the way to kind of shift the ground in which the conversation is being had on and I think having more information allows you to do that more effectively. I think that a lot of people who are writing to us are asking, essentially, “How do I become educated on this? I don’t even know where to look.” And I think that is a valid question because it takes a long time. I think that, to a certain extent, you just start and you have to follow your instincts somewhat. And if you just keep that interest alive and you nurture it, something will happen, you will be changed in time. It is hard to figure out where to start, but you find a few sources that feel right to you, and you start reading them on a regular basis. That’s one way. So I guess part of the anxiety, I think, especially in the questions that we’ve received, comes from the idea “It has to be once and for all,” like, we have to find the best source to start with, or we have to have the conversation with our moms that’s going to change things. And I think you just have to be willing to do this work over a long period of time.

JL: Yeah, it never ends. I second that. I don’t want to blow up my families spot in too many ways. I would say that hand to hand combat also would, in some ways, describe what has happened over the last years. My parents, I think, have changed their politics in a really substantial way. I will say that I think Arielle, what you said about information is really crucial. Because I think back to when I was in college and was doing more activist stuff and they were not very receptive. But they’re much more receptive to the journalistic work and they’re willing to read and they’ve been willing to engage and, over time, engaging them in a regular, sustained way about what is actually happening there has moved them from, in some ways, like a kind of knee jerk, pro Israel position to being enthusiastic about Givat Haviva, which is a place in Israel that does coexistence work between Israelis and Palestinians. It doesn’t mean that their political transformation is over or that’s the terminus, but that is a very substantial shift in my family. I also think it depends on who you’re talking with, like, the conversations with friends and family in Israel look very different and much harder, because there, the conversation is not about getting them to recognize the facts, but it is about much more fundamental questions about like, what does it mean to live in a country that is not an ethno-state?

AA: I agree with that. Josh, my conversations with my family in Israel are much, much harder. But I also think that I’ve had some movement over time.

MC: I think I can offer a slightly different experience, which is I’m not sure if my very long campaign to change family minds has worked. I don’t know. Mom, if you’re listening to this, let me know if you think it’s worked. But I think in some ways, I’ve had to sort of step back and think that maybe constant engagement on this isn’t—I sometimes I almost wonder if it’s produced the opposite effect in which I’ve almost created more stubbornness. I mean, this depends who you’re talking about. I think that there are certain friends, certain family where I have been able to make some headway in our conversations. But I think, in some ways, my family was never right-wing Zionist. They were always kind of liberal, anti-Netanyahu Zionists, but at the same time, the atmosphere was so truly Zionist and pro Israel, that it wasn’t like, we’re going to do a specific program of teaching you this sort of thing. It’s just like, oh, yeah, this is what we are. But in some ways, I wonder if by so consistently coming in with dissent, and also by perhaps often being emotional in my dissent, because it’s emotional for me to fight with people close to me about this, I wonder if I’ve almost, in some ways, produced more resistance in response than I even would have had before. Because there’s defensiveness, there’s emotions. There is a lot of this Judeo pessimism around like, you know, “But we need to have a state, what else are we going to do?” And I don’t know, sometimes I think I’m getting somewhere and that I’m changing minds and making headway and bringing on facts, and then we kind of end up back at that place in the conversation again. At the same time, I work here and my family reads my work, and they read Jewish Currents, and they don’t always agree, but they’re reading it because I’m here. And they’re reading Peter’s pieces, and sometimes messaging me about them. But I do kind of wonder, maybe I’m not the right person to talk to my mom about this, like maybe things are gonna have to change in the broader community and the broader liberal democratic sphere and then ultimately that’s going to sort of move my family along. But if I keep going in and just like, really emotionally talking about it, it might just end up producing more emotional defensiveness. So I do think part of this whole thing is you have to understand when you’ve lost. And I think also, sometimes Arielle’s strategy of just always engaging, I think sounds like it works has worked really well. I think for me, sometimes it helps me to strategically not engage, because I think that I have to preserve the relationship. And also there’s a certain amount of goodwill and understanding that if I sometimes choose not to engage, I think that in some ways that’s really appreciated and can potentially buy me more listening next time around. So it’s hard. Sometimes you’re the best people to talk to your own family. And sometimes, maybe you’re not the best people to talk to your own family. But then it’s hard, because then you have to deal with the fact that you might be really divided from your family on something that you really care about, and that you have really strong moral feelings about.

AA: Yeah, I would also just say, ‘hand to hand combat’, when I use that term, it implies a lot of aggression. And in the case of my family, and because of how we actually communicate with each other, I would say that that’s accurate. As my husband likes to say, they just keep the hostility at 11. That’s just like a kind of normal way of engaging. But I would also say that there’s a way to continue to engage, if you can manage it, that is not that. I’ve also seen the way my husband engages around this issue. And this isn’t his issue, but he knows a lot about it. And he ends up in arguments with me very frequently, because we’re often together. And I think he’s a much calmer presence, he asks a lot of questions, but he’s still engaging. He’s still in the work of the conversation without it necessarily having to be high dramatics. And so I guess I just wanted to say that there is also a mode that is available that’s about asking questions and listening, but that also redirects some of the energy in the conversation elsewhere. So I just wanted to say that. Jacob, you’ve been a little quiet. I didn’t know if you had any thoughts on this?

JP: I mean, to a degree, yes and no. In terms of talking to my family— Hello, Mom, if you’re listening to this—I mean, they’re very political, in the sense that I think my mom’s Twitter bio says ‘unapologetic liberal’. Which in the context of High Point, North Carolina is a bolder statement than it might be here in Brooklyn. They’re the only house in our neighborhood with a Black Lives Matter sign, which my mom put up on a tree in our front yard like 10 feet up so that kids wouldn’t yank it off. And I don’t really argue with them about this. I was further to the right than them on this issue for many, many years. I mean, I grew up going to a summer camp where one year, for color war, the four teams were named after Israeli paramilitary groups, and the team that won was representing Lehi, the racist far right group, and they won.

JL: “We teach life.”

JP: Yeah, “We teach life, they teach hate”, exactly. Of course, we had no idea what Lehi was about. It was just a name, right? And people knew it meant ‘light’ or something. So that plaque that won was a painting of a candle. It was just totally disentangled from the actual politics that were being taught. And so I remember actually, I was living in Israel a bit after Cast Lead had occurred. And I was arguing with my parents saying “Look, Israel has to do what it has to do.” My dad was like, “Shouldn’t someone like impose some order over there?” And I was just like, “That is not an American’s place.” I was just like an absolute parody of like a Hasbara-deranged young man. So I mean, I’ve also worked for J Street for a number of years. When I lived in Israel, I had the catastrophic experience many have for a young, right-wing pro-Israel person, which is that you actually meet Palestinians, which will do a big number on your brain and your heart. And like many people, I ended up in J Street U with other confused and angry early 20-somethings. And so when I worked there, basically what I did is I sat on the phone, doing one-on-ones with people who had some kind of experience that had made them question what they had been taught, and I would spend about an hour on the phone with someone different five times a day, five days a week, and I did that for three years. And it did not feel like hand to hand combat, though there were some very combative individuals that I spoke to. What it felt like ultimately, was that the only thing I ever saw change anyone was a traumatic experience. Like the only people I saw really move, and I’m including myself, the thing that changed me it was actually going to Bethlehem. And seeing the inside of the wall and thinking to myself, the inside of this wall looks like the inside of a prison cell, because it has scratchings on it, you know, the graffiti. And I remember seeing the guard towers and seeing that Palestinians had painted over the guard tower somehow, though they’re like 30-40 feet high, because they’re tinted. So you can ever tell if someone’s looking down at you. And so they felt the need to paint them over to know that no one was in there, though no one had been in those towers since the Second Intifada. And I remember going home that day, this was sometime in the spring of 2009, and it was the first night my entire life that I did not sleep. And my girlfriend at the time asked me, she was like, what’s wrong? And I said to her, I don’t know. What was happening to me, I literally did not have words to describe what was occurring in my brain. And every person I know from organizing, of the 1000s of individuals I’ve had one on one conversations with over the years, I can barely think of anyone that changed deeply on this issue without something like that happening. Without losing at least a night of sleep because of some fucked up thing that they saw. And I think it’s not always like they went to Palestine or whatever. It’s just that something got to them, eventually. And I think it’s like manufacturing those experiences— thats probably too loaded of a term—I mean, creating opportunities, I should say, for those experiences, is the business of like encounter. And the many, many trips that take people into the West Bank and elsewhere, to sort of show them the bare fact of facts of the occupation. And I think that work is really important. I also think that just the fact that someone often needs to literally stand in the ruins of the market in Hebron—that is a former marketplace for Palestinians now filled with razor wire, literally, like a giant, imagine a road of razor wire—the fact that people need to see something like that in order to sort of shake off a lot of the lies that have been told to them, I think speaks how deeply ingrained this is. And I can’t think of anyone I’ve convinced, aside from just describing those things, I can’t think of anyone have convinced by force of argument. The razor wire is the argument.

AA: I do just want to push back against that a little bit. I mean, first of all, I agree with you, in a certain sense that it is an emotional process. And there’s no way to just engineer it to a certain extent. I do think that the model of like, ‘you have to be confronted with something very directly,’ is obviously not necessarily—well, first of all, it’s really expensive. The left would have to manufacture something akin to birthright for Americans, not just American Jews, to be able to see the occupation. It would cost an insane amount of money. It’s just like the slowest organizing, ever. I think that the questions about imagery in this in this context, and how much they move people in the same way that the video of George Floyd’s police murder does something, I think we’re we’re confronting that now. Because I think for a very long time, there was a way in which those images were not really being processed the same way that other images were being processed. I mean, based on racism, based on just keeping them at arm’s length. But I do think that that those moments that you’re talking about can come out of a lot of different things. So like, for example, I remember talking to someone that I met at a dinner party who was actually raised in the Orthodox community. And she said, “For me, I came across a line and an article that said that Palestinians can’t vote.” Like Palestinian citizens of Israel can vote in Israeli elections, but in the West Bank and Gaza, that are functionally controlled by Israel, they cannot vote for the government and the military that controls their lives. And just reading that one line produced that experience for her. I think a lot of people relate to Peter’s writing in this way. So I would just say that the bar doesn’t necessarily need to be so high as like standing at the Qalandia checkpoint or being in Habron seeing it for yourself. I think that there are things that can break through that are surprising. I had another person talk to me about seeing a college roommate with a Palestinian flag on her keychain who is Palestinian and realizing, “Oh, that’s not a hostile symbol to me. That’s a flag that represents a group of people.” And it’s so small, but it sent things kind of cascading. So I guess I just don’t want to overestimate the bar.

JL: I think there’s a good point in that, Arielle. And I do think that the images matter. I mean, I think about my own initial break out of Zionist indoctrination was that it wasn’t just the image—partially it was the images of Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009—but it was the images combined with the feeling that I had no one that I could talk to that would give me the straight up answer for what was happening. And that at that point, it was like pretty normal. I was still mostly in the day school community and it was normal to hear things like, “Oh, the only way to deal with Hamas is to like, turn Gaza onto a parking lot.” Because that was a thing that people were saying. And me, at the time in 2008-2009, I was 14. And for a curious kid at that age, that was not a compelling answer for me. And it wasn’t so much hand to hand combat as it was just beginning to ask questions of people who, at first seemed like they knew what they were talking about, but then couldn’t even begin to explain their own positions, except in a kind of blood thirsty way, certainly catalyzed me on what ended up being a life’s project and journey to figure out what this was all about. So I agree that small things can be catalysts as well.

JP: Right, but I want to point out how different the things we’re describing are from being in an argument. Like, these are totally different experiences. And that’s the thing, like I remember there was an article right after Trump was elected, that was something like “This Thanksgiving, prepare for battle.” And it was like how to go about fighting with your racist uncle that was going to be at Thanksgiving dinner about what had just happened in the election. And I remember seeing that just being like, that seems just insane to me to go into a situation like that. And I think that there’s always questions of communicative style and whatnot, there’s lots of love in a heated argument with family, I don’t want to deny that. And the aesthetics of communication can be almost anything. But at the same time, I think, like part of what was so was both really powerful for me for trying to do that therapeutic work with people essentially, hour after hour after hour, year after year, was the images and experiences that touch people were often minor. They didn’t always have to do with the trip, where they saw something. Often, they were a small detail, like a punctum of detail that sort of lanced the mistakes and misunderstandings that people have about Palestinians. It was very powerful to be able to see that people actually can change if you can move them into a way of actually having to look and think about those things. I like to think that, at our best moments, we’re trying to do that here at Jewish Currents. At the same time, it’s tiring and difficult, you know, it’s like the conditions, all the things that have to line up for someone to be able to read a line of something, and recognize just how important it is that Palestinians can’t vote, a lot of things have to happen for someone before that. And I think that a lot of those conditions are just are enormous and and have to do with sort of large structural realities of politics in our society that are just not in our control in the way that what we say in a conversation is in our control. And that’s the part about Israel/Palestine, I think, it does directly point to conversations and political struggles that are much larger than what’s happening to people in Israel/Palestine or here. I heard Peter once say on the panel that the more the more he thinks about it, the more Israel is the American right’s utopia. It is what the American far-right wants. And I think the idea that fighting apartheid in Israel does actually have ramifications not just in stopping the wholesale massacre of Palestinians, which is an important goal in and of itself, but which is actually a frontline in a global international struggle against the form of capitalism, which we live in, which is this carceral, insane, racist, violent behemoth that we’re up against. And so I do feel hopeful actually to a degree where I think, as things change, wherein the sort of deep interconnectedness of the struggles, the idea that from Ferguson to Palestine is being set in Congress right now. I think that that interconnectedness is actually a very powerful thing. And I hope will provide more and more opportunities for people to connect these dots, which once you’ve connected them, you wonder why they weren’t connected before. But people have also invested a lot of money in making sure you don’t think about it.

AA: I think we’re probably getting to what should be the end of this, so I thought maybe—we’ve answered like, literally a question on our list, sort of. But I think if people like this, then maybe we’ll do more. I don’t know. So far, that’s our deal with this audio stuff. One thing I wanted to end on, which I didn’t prep you guys for, so I hope it’s okay, is just to say one thing that you’re hopeful about right now? Which maybe that’s not fair, and maybe there’s a way in which that’s not appropriate. So if your approach would be just to push back on that, I think that’s okay. But I just wonder if there’s room for that on this? I don’t know. What do people think?

JP: I mean, I have something just immediately. I mean, it’s to see Palestinians, Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians in the West Bank, Palestinians in Gaza, and the diaspora Palestinian community, all struggling at the same time, in a closer form of unity than I’ve ever seen in my adult life, I think is amazing. It’s amazing that that can even happen given the ongoing Nakba. That really does make me feel hopeful. I’m like, I can’t believe you’re still alive and fighting.

AA: I agree. There’s really a lot of hope in that. Does anyone else want to offer something?


JL: I said my initial hopeful thing early on this podcast, which was uncharacteristic, that I thought the fact that white American Jews were not being radicalized in a rightward direction. Like white people, generally in America, but that are white Republicans, but that were behaving a lot more like white liberals was encouraging. We can problematize the white liberal in the next podcast, perhaps. But the other thing that I do think is hopeful is that I must confess, and Arielle, you mentioned this earlier. I think the discourse and liberal spaces feel very different than it did in 2014. And 2014, it felt like a hermetically sealed world where you couldn’t talk about what was happening. And now, it doesn’t seem that way at all. That might just be totally a selection bias, in a way, that we work in media, and I’m reading things that seem that I would read normally, but I do think that has also trickled down though, to young people more generally. And I, just walking around Brooklyn, kind of eavesdropping on people having conversations on the street. And Brooklyn is obviously not America and is not real life. But I’ve been surprised at the kinds of conversations among normal people. But they’re not as bad as I thought they would be. And that the Palestinian narrative is almost common sense. And in many places, it is common sense that the Palestinian narrative is the one that we should be listening to. That feels like a really big change and it does make—I don’t know if hopeful is the word—but I want to recognize that things have changed and that is in large part because of the tireless work from like Palestine Solidarity advocates and Palestinians and maybe things can change.

MC: Wow, that’s huge coming from Josh. I want to echo those things. I think seeing the Palestinian resistance and the pretty unified and broad resistance is amazing. And I think also seeing support for it from people that maybe I would have previously identified as more liberal, or people who were mostly interested in domestic policies—Jewish or non-Jewish people—people in my circle, who are maybe kind of ambiently pro-Israel and are now speaking out, people who weren’t Jewish, but weren’t interested in this stuff, and maybe back in 2014 were kind of put off by militant social justice rhetoric, because some people felt that way in college, and now they’re like, oh, no, this makes sense to me. I understand these power dynamics. And this is wrong. And I think the way that a lot of people got politicized around the Black Lives Matter uprising last summer, and people are able to kind of connect the dots to what’s going on now in Israel, and are able to carry that forward and have this more international lens about Palestine. And I think that’s pretty cool. And it does make me hopeful. I think one thing perhaps that doesn’t really make me hopeful, actually, but that kind of gives me a weird form of consolation, which is like one thing I want to talk about real quick. One thing I think that’s really hard in all of this stuff is that it sucks to reckon with this decay of the Jewish community into Zionism in this way, to reckon with the fact that things being done in Israel are being done specifically around this Jewish ethno-nationalism, to reckon with the ways in which American Jewish interests are so embedded in supporting it. And I can’t always offer a lot of consolation about that, but I think something that is a useful framework for me for this is that I think I grew up kind of thinking of Jews in this exceptional moral way, because my Jewish education was very focused on like, social justice. And I had this very like ‘tikkun olam’ inflected idea about Judaism. And so it was very hard for me to reckon with a lot of the ways in which political Judaism/Zionism could be destructive. And so to zoom out and say ‘actually, Jewish people are simply humans and humans, when they have ethno-nation states become bloodthirsty, become politically oppressive or dehumanizing. Colonialism is a bloodthirsty and oppressive process, no matter who does it, even if it’s Jews. And I actually think that that is a, you know, in my opinion..

AA: You feel liberated by that.

MC: No, in some ways, I think the myth of Zionism, is this idea that Jews are somehow going to be better at having a state or going to be a light on the nations and it’s honestly really sad—there’s a really good book called “Where the Jews Aren’t” by Masha Gessen that’s like a lot about Jews in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe before the Holocaust and it quotes the Jewish historian, Simon Dubnow. And he has this quote where he’s writing and he’s like, “If the Jews ever have a state,”—and this is like, pre-Zionism, kind of dealing with anti-semitism in the sense of not having anywhere to go—“I don’t think the Jewish state will ever happen, but if it does, it will definitely be the most beautiful and most moral state, and it would never be like these other nation states.” And, you know, reading that now is like, very emotional, and given what has happened, and it makes me sad. And it’s like a very understandable impulse to think about, and also that, we can kind of say, okay, we know with our politics, that’s that’s not how states work. That’s not how ethno nation states work, and to say that Jews are able to be different than other humans in that context is to reinforce the same kind of ethno-superiority notions that underlie Zionism. I think it’s a consolation in a sense. It’s not a justification. It’s just a way to look at it that says, oh, our politics are correct. These political formations are damaging and violent and that’s true no matter who is driving those formations.

AA: Yeah, I want to lift up something that Inès Abdel Razek said in Jewish Currents recently about basically Israel/Palestine as an experimental space for how to transcend the nation-state and I think that is very exciting, even if it does feel utopian, but something will have to happen. So why not something else? I think it would be sort of poetic for a kind of late colonial state, a too late colonial state to sort of innovate out of the form entirely. But yeah, I echo what everybody says about all these hopeful things. I mean, not to undercut all of the stuff that is not hopeful. And I know that everyone’s getting a lot of that out of frame. But I will say that, for me, it’s been impossible to imagine any kind of change at all. I think with Jewish Currents, we often run into the problem of being like, how do we even report on this anymore, it’s just the same thing over and over again, and everything is part of the same thing. And I think that this is no exception, even in the sense that it’s magnified. But there are significant ways that everyone here has brought up in which we’re starting to see a change of some kind. And I think that there’s no way to look at that and to discount it. If there’s anything we know about how things end, it’s that they sort of end in some way unexpectedly, like everybody thought apartheid was just going to be around forever and then suddenly, something happened and it changed. Or the Berlin wall or the fall of the USSR or whatever. I think it’s a reminder that things can happen, even things that look bad on their face. That some kind of change is possible.


End Credits: Can’t get enough Jewish Currents? Keep in touch with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And visit jewishcurrents.org to subscribe and see our latest. A very special thanks to Nathan Salzberg for providing us with music from his album “Landwerk No. 2” and to Santiago Helou Quintero for producing this segment. Thanks for listening. That’s all from us.

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Sep 15 2022
Mom Save America (33:37)
Arielle Angel interviews her mother, Jeri Cohen, about getting back into the reproductive justice struggle at 69.
Aug 25 2022
Documenting the Struggle (41:51)
Joshua Leifer speaks with Oren Ziv, co-founder of the photojournalist collective Activestills, about chronicling the violence of apartheid.
Aug 11 2022
The Scream Clarifies an Elsewhere (01:03:07)
To celebrate the release of Culture Editor Claire Schwartz’s debut poetry collection, Civil Service, she discusses the social meanings of poetry with Managing Editor Nathan Goldman and Graywolf Press editor Chantz Erolin.
Jul 28 2022
The Trouble with Germany, Part 1 (01:06:59)
Arielle Angel speaks with Emily Dische-Becker and Michael Sappir about the bizarre and worrisome ways that “memory culture” plays out in Germany among Jews, Palestinians, and Germans, as well as the recent attacks on Dische-Becker in the German press.
Jul 14 2022
¡Inquilinos Unidos, Jamás Serán Vencidos! (51:29)
Recording from a convention of the Autonomous Tenants Union Network, Ari Brostoff speaks with organizers Kenia Alcocer, Danya Martinez-Spider, and Claire Spiehler about the tenant movement across the country.
Jun 30 2022
The Mapping Project (53:25)
Jewish Currents staff discuss the controversy that arose after Boston activists published a map of Massachusetts institutions they deemed complicit in Zionism and US imperialism.
Jun 16 2022
The Age of No Revolutions (49:08)
David Klion speaks with history podcaster Mike Duncan about why the left’s discontent with the status quo hasn’t led to a sustained uprising.
May 26 2022
The Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh (51:36)
Dylan Saba, Dana El Kurd, and Fadi Quran discuss Israeli obfuscation and strategies of resistance in the wake of a journalist’s murder
May 5 2022
Campus Wars (54:10)
Jewish Currents staff discuss the latest flashpoints in campus conflict over Israel/Palestine
Apr 20 2022
A Surge of Violence in Israel/Palestine (36:27)
Peter Beinart, Dana El Kurd, and Daniel Seidemann discuss the recent increase in fatal attacks in Israel/Palestine.
Apr 1 2022
Volodymyr Zelensky and Post-Soviet Jewishness (56:15)
David Klion, Julia Alekseyeva, Linda Kinstler, and Helen Betya Rubinstein discuss the meaning of the Ukrainian president’s background.
Mar 17 2022
The Assault on Trans and Reproductive Rights (58:16)
Senior Editor Ari M. Brostoff, scholar Jules Gill-Peterson, journalist Meaghan Winter, and reproductive justice advocate Laurie Bertram Roberts discuss the recent wave of executive and legislative attacks on trans people and abortion rights.
Mar 3 2022
I Want to Believe (54:54)
Upon the release of Senior Editor Ari M. Brostoff’s debut essay collection, Missing Time, they discuss the political potential of The X-Files with Editor-in-Chief Arielle Angel and Managing Editor Nathan Goldman.
Feb 17 2022
The Black–Jewish Relations Industrial Complex (59:54)
In light of recent flashpoints in so-called Black–Jewish relations, Contributing Writer Rebecca Pierce joins artists and activists Anthony Russell, Reuben Telushkin, and Shoshana Brown in discussing the continued prevalence of anti-Black racism in the American Jewish community and the ongoing exclusion of Black Jews.
Feb 3 2022
Whose West Side Story? (01:02:32)
Editor-in-chief Arielle Angel spoke with scholars Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Brian E. Herrera, and Daniel Pollack-Pelzner about the parallel resonances of West Side Story in Jewish and Latinx communities, and the tensions that emerge over questions of power and control.
Jan 20 2022
After Colleyville (43:36)
Jewish Currents staff discuss their immediate reactions to the recent hostage crisis at a Texas synagogue.
Dec 16 2021
Jamaal Bowman and DSA (43:38)
Jewish Currents staff discuss the debate within the Democratic Socialists of America about Congressman Jamaal Bowman's divergence from the organization on Israel/Palestine.
Dec 2 2021
What Does the Record Show? (57:28)
Culture Editor Ari M. Brostoff and writers Vicky Osterweil and Kay Gabriel discuss Sarah Schulman's Let the Record Show, the dangers of nostalgia, and the challenges of reckoning with our political forebears.
Nov 18 2021
Israel's Attack on Palestinian Civil Society (23:55)
Senior Reporter Alex Kane interviews Palestinian American analyst Yousef Munayyer and Israeli human rights advocate Sarit Michaeli on Israel's October decision to declare six Palestinian human rights organizations “terrorist” groups.