Dear Jamal Julani-
There are many aspects of the attempted lynching of you and your friends in Jerusalem that frighten me. The fact that it was unprovoked, the unapologetic attitudes of the perpetrators, the bystanders unwilling to act or speak out against the violence unfolding before them. However, I think what scares me the most is the attempt by members of the Israeli political culture and American Jewish establishment to paint the incident as isolated, divorced from the everyday reality of Palestinians and Jews living in Jerusalem and Israel.
When I think back to my experience living in Israel for a year, I can think of many clear examples of the deep penetration of racism into the Israeli Jewish psyche. There was the kibbutznik who drunkenly thundered that “the only good Arab is a dead Arab,” and the disdainful look in peoples’ eyes when I told them that I worked in Rahat with Bedouin youth. I saw the way in which such explicit demonstrations of prejudice affected the Arab youth with whom I worked: when we asked our students whether or not Israeli society placed an equal premium on their lives as their Jewish counterparts there was absolutely no thought or hesitation behind their “No’s”. A feeling of inferiority was so built into their reality that to vocalize it seemed to them unnecessary and indulgent.
All of this is to say that I believe it is an injustice to you, and to the many Palestinian and Israeli Arab youth who have witnessed physical and emotional violence, to articulate the events of August 16th as disconnected from a larger cultural trend in Jewish society. In order to combat such increasing and explicit hatred, we must recognize its roots and be honest about its status. Only then can we, as Jews and as people, begin to educate towards mutual understanding and begin to heal. I sincerely and desperately hope that Jews in both Israel and America can take this crucial step towards peace, and pledge to do my part to see that such a recognition occurs.
Much hope for healing for you and your family,
J Street U Haverford