January 8, 2016

Spotlight on Israel: Jewish Voice for Peace

Spotlight on Israel: Jewish Voice for Peace
Aryeh Lande ‘18
This year, The Flame’s Israel section will be exploring a wide variety of views within the Jewish community. Throughout the year, we will examine various sides of the conflict in order to show how truly diverse opinions are. People from different backgrounds and different communities have different approaches to Israel, showing that the positions people support aren’t necessarily tied to their background.
There is not only one side that supports Israel and only one side that criticizes Israel; rather, it is a mix. In this issue we will profile a supporter of the far left of the political spectrum, Ilana Rossoff. As you read this article, please keep in mind that Rossoff’s views represent a particular point of view and not that of the student body, or editors of The Flame. In our next issue we will profile another, different view in order to explore the full spectrum of beliefs. These on-going profiles are not meant to shape your personal opinion about Israel. Instead, it is important to know the variety of approaches in our community.
Having grown up in Morristown, NJ, Rossoff, 26, now lives in Minneapolis, MN. A college graduate who is involved with many social action organizations, she is very passionate about advocating for Palestinian rights. The daughter of an outspoken Zionist, Rossoff grew out of her father’s shadow and developed her own opinions that differ from those of her family. She describes her schism as a result of exposure to new points of views and dialogue about Israel on her college campus.
In a recent email interview, Rossoff explained, “In college I met a Jewish Israeli who refused military service and was shocked to hear a Jewish person be so critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and overall society.
“I decided I rejected Zionism because I rejected Jewish nationalism, as well as other forms of nationalism and just as I was starting to learn about racism and white privilege, I also committed myself to learning about privileges I had as a Jewish person in the context of a system that systematically oppressed Palestinians.”
Her curiosity soon turned into a devotion to the issue and she quickly rose through the ranks of an organization called Jewish Voice for Peace. Today, she is the Midwest Regional Organizer of JVP, whose goals include, “seek[ing to find] an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law...” and other values that strive for peace among Palestine and Israel.
Rossoff’s goal is to show solidarity with the Palestinian People and fight to end their “systematic oppression” in order to establish long-lasting peace in the region. Rossoff has been to Israel four times: thrice on trips with pro-Israel slants and once on an eight-week internship with the Coalition of Women for Peace in Tel Aviv. During that internship she visited many areas past the Green Line.
“[The area past the Green Line is] beautiful and rich in culture and history,” she said. “Life thrives there, even in spite of so many barriers and limitations.”
She was, however, upset by the conditions the Palestinians were living in.
“There are checkpoints between cities and within cities, so surveillance and harassment are constant,” she said,  “which Palestinians understand to be a form of humiliation and dehumanization.”
This only solidified her understanding of the area and furthered her commitment to fighting for Palestinians’ rights.
Recently, there has been a sharp uptick in violence within Israel which has spurred a debate about security. Innocent Israelis have been stabbed and murdered in these attacks and the country is living on edge, fearing when and where the next attack will come. 
Rossoff makes sense of these acts, saying that they were caused by a buildup of anger. “Over the last 20 years things have been progressively getting worse for Palestinians under occupation, and people are being squeezed onto smaller and smaller parcels of land, with growing unemployment, violence at many different levels including checkpoint searches, raids in the middle of the night, settlers burning down olive groves, settlers attacking Palestinian youth and women, homes being demolished to make way for settlements… the list goes on,” she said.
“To me it is so obviously about the root causes of the general desperation people feel, because the occupation is only more deeply entrenching itself.”
Once again, in her opinion, the issue stems from Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. As far as stopping the conflict, Rossoff believes that human rights must be restored to the Palestinian people.
Some argue that Israel was established as a Jewish state and so Israel should be able to give the Palestinians a choice to stay or leave. Rossoff strongly believes that all refugees should have a right to return to their ancestral lands. As she sees the Palestinians as refugees whose rights have been repeatedly violated, she advocates for their right to return. This means she believes that all Palestinians should be allowed to freely return to their “occupied territory.” Furthermore, she argues that it should be Israel’s obligation to allow the transition to happen smoothly. That way, she believes, Palestinians can be granted full rights and live peacefully.
Whatever side of the issue you side with, it is apparent that Rossoff’s views represent an opinion pushing the expected boundaries of the Jewish community. She is a Jew who is clearly dedicated to finding peace both at home and abroad and she found that the most efficient way of doing so abroad was to advocate for the Palestinians.
She is not alone, with many groups advocating for similar demands. Just as many people find BDS to be the only way to find peace, she too finds this as a mechanism for peace. Although it did not split her family, Israeli politics and advocacy permanently divide many families and communities. Rossoff found her calling in “showing solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
If you would like to learn more about Rossoff and/or her ideology, check out jewishvoiceforpeace.org/mission/.
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