As a Jewish resident of Oak Park, I was disturbed by the negative responses in the Viewpoints letters to the article “Jewish, Muslim Oak Parkers on the Israel-Gaza war: ‘a collective mourning’” [News, Oct. 25] in which I was quoted as a member of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).
Those letters called the article offensive, biased, imbalanced, inaccurate, and claim that Jewish Voice for Peace does not represent the mainstream American Jewish community. These responses intend to stifle and censor important voices within our community and indicate the writers’ fear of changes happening within it, particularly among the younger generation — a growing realization that there must be justice and equality for all those who live in the land between the river and the sea, with no group claiming supremacy over another, and that there is no military solution that can bring that to fruition. Only peace and justice can do that.
Calling for a ceasefire — as JVP does, and which both the American and Israeli administrations reject — is a call for peace. Calling for an end to militarism and the use of American tax dollars to continue funding the military-industrial complex and arm other countries is a call for peace. Calling for the end to Israeli military training of U.S. police departments is a call for peace. Calling for an end to illegal settlements and the blockade of Gaza is a call for justice, without which there is no peace. Calling for equal human rights for Palestinians is a call for justice, without which there is no peace.
Even moderate voices recognize the inequality at play. In 2006, former President Jimmy Carter, in Peace: Not Apartheid wrote: “Apartheid is an accurate description of what is going on in the West Bank.” In January 2021, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem issued a report that termed Israel an apartheid regime. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both concluded that Israeli treatment of Palestinians meets the definition of apartheid.
U.S. politicians and media have distorted history by incorrectly conflating antisemitism with anti-Zionism. This distortion led politicians in Illinois to pass a law against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement. This is a peaceful movement to pressure Israel to change its practices towards Palestinians. Consider the consequences of making peaceful protest illegal.
There is a long history of Jewish anti-Zionism. My parents were both anti-Zionists. The Jewish congregation to which I belong, Tzedek, led by Rabbi Brant Rosen, in 2022 voted to define ourselves as anti-Zionist. There are many rabbis — a diverse group including young, gay, trans, Jews of color, and women — who are anti-Zionist and are speaking out for peace and justice. Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. We anti-Zionists have a legitimate place within the American Jewish community.
I am hopeful for the future. I have seen many Jewish young people rejecting the narrow thinking of their elders, rejecting militarism as a solution, rejecting apartheid as a system, and rejecting the assumption that Israel speaks for all Jewish people.
Deborah Adelman is a longtime Oak Park resident and professor emerita of English and Film Studies at College of DuPage.