Guest columnists Molly Aronson, Aviv Nisinzweig, and Kaia Jackson: Common cause for Palestinians and Jews

Hundreds of marchers make their way from the Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton onto Route 5 toward Holyoke during the 25 Mile March for Palestine on Saturday, Dec. 16.

Hundreds of marchers make their way from the Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton onto Route 5 toward Holyoke during the 25 Mile March for Palestine on Saturday, Dec. 16. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE


Published: 12-26-2023 3:42 PM

What do we do with all our pain? On Saturday, Dec. 16, we walked.

More than 500 of us — American and Israeli Jews, Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim community members, antiwar activists, allies — in a 25 Mile March for Palestine.

Over the course of 14 hours, we walked the length of Gaza, step by step, with the common goal of a permanent and lasting cease-fire. We marched in the shadow of 20,000 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military in the past 10 weeks, and 1.9 million — 85% of Gaza’s population — displaced from their homes.

We marched amid news that three Israeli hostages were shot and killed by their own military as they waved a white flag of surrender. We marched in the wake of nearly a century of violence, a violence that has consumed so many lives.

We know that every single life is precious. We know it, but we forget it again and again as we embrace the logic of war. This logic seems reasonable, even necessary. We harden our hearts. We sharpen our arguments. We forget what it feels like to see the stranger as ourselves.

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Meanwhile Gaza, the most densely populated place on earth, where half the population are children, is attacked repeatedly with U.S.-made 2,000-pound bombs, at a pace and scale that has not been seen since World War II. We are told that these “civilian casualties” are unfortunate but necessary. We are told that some of us are more human than others.

What do we do with all our pain?

We, the organizers of the 25 Mile March and members of Jewish Voice for Peace, know too well what centuries of oppression and fear can do. The call of “never again” has often meant: Never again will Jewish life be destroyed as it was in the Nazi Holocaust. For us, the call means more: Never again will human life anywhere be destroyed as it was for us.

We have learned, belatedly, to see our own history as interwoven with the histories of other people. We have learned, belatedly, to see how centuries of colonialism and genocide have harmed people across the world.

Some will say we are naive. What about Hamas? What about the horrors of Oct. 7? And we agree, they were horrors. But we ask that the clock doesn’t start there and the questions don’t end there.

In 1948, Israeli forces killed 15,000 Palestinians and displaced another 800,000 — more than 75% of the population — to create the state of Israel. This is referred to as the Nakba in Arabic, meaning “catastrophe.” Palestinians were put under martial law, and 774 villages and towns were destroyed. Olive groves that had nourished communities for centuries were razed to the ground and replaced with European pine and cypress.

The state of Israel was formed to rid the Jewish people of a long history of pain and exclusion, but that pain was directly transferred onto the bodies and land of the Palestinian people. For European leaders, establishing Israel offered an answer to the “Jewish problem,” while for the U.S., it offered absolution for its turning away of Jewish refugees. For both, it opened the door for further economic and military presence in the Middle East.

Throughout Israel’s history, anti-Zionist Jews have opposed the ethno-nationalist state. Throughout Israel’s history, the suffering it inflicted upon Palestinian people was simply portrayed as a necessary byproduct.

Last Wednesday marked 75 days since the Israeli military began its siege on Gaza, in its 75th year of Nakba. It must end. We can give statistics, we can count the dead, the injured, the orphaned, but underneath all these figures are human lives, attempting to survive inside a system that does everything it can to make survival impossible.

The global calls for a permanent cease-fire grow louder and more pervasive each day. They must, and will continue.

And we know there will still be work to do. To recenter the humanity, dignity and self-determination of Palestinian people. To reject narratives that pit Jews and Palestinians against each other. And to fight for a future in which Palestinian and Jewish safety are a common cause. Anything less perpetuates the lie that our pain can only be healed by hurting someone else.

What do we do with all our pain? We figure out what it means for us all to be free.

Molly Aronson, Kaia Jackson, Aviv Nisinzweig, Charlie Hollenbeck, Kaila Goldstein, Max Baumkel and Tyler Rai are core organizers of the 25 Mile March for Palestine.