On Re-Thinking Activism Approaches for 2017

I haven’t written much lately.

I use writing as a way to process. Yes, I have a thought or point that I want to get across to others, but mainly I want to understand it myself. A lot of events over the past few months have caused a back-up in my brain. I have had too much to think about to sit down and write about any of it, but as I approach this random date called the New Year, it feels right to at least try.

This election has made me re-think where I should be putting my time and my energy, both in activism and in life. Is being in Israel, the only place I really think of as home right now, where I should be because I have invested ten years of my life, activism, and my future here? Or should I be in Philadelphia, where my family is and my roots are. Should I be fighting Bibi or carrot face?

I still don’t know.

A few weeks ago I had an activism mishap, where I posted some pictures of women, though not their faces, from a village we had been working in, and one or more of the men in the village became upset. I took the photos down, of course, and apologized. Since I had discussed it with the women, it didn’t occur to me to ask the men.

Though not a huge deal, this did cause me to think again about how I spend my time and energy. Why? First, because I’m a woman, and my own experience and that of other others have told me and many of my fellow women friends that our gender inhibits the type of relationships we can form in the West Bank. Yes, I can form relationships, but not as strongly or easily as the men around me can. That doesn’t make the work we do less valuable, but it is as frustrating realization nonetheless. Secondly, some of the dissatisfaction on their part was due to local political considerations that I can’t even try to begin to understand. Naturally, this caused me to question if it makes sense to dedicate most of my time in a surrounding in which I will probably never fully grasp the complexities. Is being there physically the way I can best serve this cause and these communities?

I feel grateful to the Palestinian communities that have allowed me (and the collective us) to work with them in allyship. On-the-ground work is incredibly important to me and imperative to creating grassroots resistance against the occupation here in Israel-Palestine. I try not to take it as obvious or for granted that I have been invited into these spaces. I see this as an enormous act of trust from these communities and a responsibility to be respectful of their traditions and culture, while also amplifying their voices and about the injustice done unto them by my own government.

 

But after I made this mistake, and after orange carrot won the U.S. election, I also realize that the time has come for me to pause and re-think about where I can be most useful to a cause I care about. Where and how can I best contribute?

A lot of those questions have pointed me to back to places I came from, to the communities that raised me.
As a response to the U.S. election, I saw a straight-cis person write on their FB status recently that they support LGBTQ rights and if you don’t, please unfriend them immediately. And while I understand the sentiment, I felt frustrated by it, because who will engage these non-supporters if not this straight, cis person? As a queer person, I can’t be constantly defending my life and rights—it’s too tiring and unsustainable.

But then I had to ask myself, “Am I engaging my own communities about the rights of others?”

The response I seem to have found is, no, not really. One community in particular stands out. For years, I immersed myself in the Former Lone Soldier community, and I still see friends and acquaintances who I knew from that time period on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. As I became more politically aware and active, I stepped out of that community, because I couldn’t reconcile the two. How can I spend so much time in a space that is driven by values I take major issue with?

I started working in Human Rights and social change organizations, and over time, the communities I interact with simply became communities I already agree with. This is human nature, and we’ve all changed social circles for exactly this reason. And yet, I still connect to the lone soldier community on a lot of levels. It’s not where I’m at politically today (not that there is only one political opinion to be had), but I do still relate to a lot of reasons as to why my fellow former lone soldiers moved to Israel and joined the army in the first place. I definitely would never join the army today—but that doesn’t change the fact that I did 8 years ago.

So perhaps the best way for me to continue fighting for this cause is to return to a community that helped shape me. After all, I understand the culture and its complexities. I know the functions this community serves because I come from it. Over the past years I have been running from it, but I’m not sure this path I ran on has a logical end point. If I want to create real partnership on the ground in Israel-Palestine (hint: I do) and a future based in a just and equitable society, I have to take responsibility in creating that discourse and space in my own communities, not just as a Jewish-Israeli in the Occupied West Bank.

I see a lot of fellow privilege white people in America right now wanting to disengage their carrot-face-supporter friends. I don’t want to disengage from my communities I disagree with anymore because without challenge, support for fascism and racism will only grow unobstructed. And its victims won’t be me, but the communities I have been spent time with in South Hebron Hills over the past many months.

As long as communities in the South Hebron Hills and elsewhere invite us work with them, I will continue to show up. But in 2017, I also need and want to re-focus on my own communities, on the places that I as an individual can and want to create change in, so that we can all share a different reality, together.

Hey, tell me what you think!