How I Changed from Being a former Israeli Soldier to Pro-Palestinian

How I Changed from Being a former Israeli Soldier to Pro-Palestinian

Dear Readers,

I wrote this lengthy autobiographical and deeply intimate piece on how I became a pro-Palestinian activist during the time that I was an activist a while ago. It is quite long and personal but I thought it needed to be shared. Opposers are welcome to criticize me for naivety but not for sincerity.

All my best,

Joshua Tartakovsky, November 12, 2014

(C) Text and pictures by Joshua Tartakovsky. All Rights Reserved 2014.

 

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How I Changed from Being a former Israeli Soldier to Pro-Palestinian

 

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If anyone would have told me 20 years ago that in the future I would advocate for Palestinian rights I would have thought he or she is ridiculing me. Growing up in a fervent nationalist and religious home in Jerusalem, in which part of what was considered a proper education was taking us to demonstrations against any political settlement with the Palestinians, in support of settlements in the West Bank, and frequent visits to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, I strongly believed in Israel’s impeccability, high moral standing as well as in the hostile and murderous intentions of Palestinians. In fact, it was not that Israel was not right, but that it was not right wing enough. I believed that Israel was the land which belonged to the Jewish people only, that Palestinians were nomads who did not originate from the land, that they were an angry and restless mob of people who desired to kill Jews and that they could therefore be stopped by force only.

As I became a teenager and began to question the narrative with which I was brought up, I started to think that a two-state solution made more sense for the sake of peace. Division of land seemed a way to ensure both sides will be acquiesced and therefore a rational solution. Yet being an avid reader of the Israeli newspapers and taking its commentators at their word, I thought that Israel was ready for a compromise but Palestinians never were. I also believed the IDF was a moral army.

At age 15, while volunteering in an emergency room of a medical hospital in Jerusalem, I brought in a wounded person following a suicide bomber attack in Ben Yehuda Street. He died shortly after. This experience logically left a strong impression on me. I thought it was a clear sign that Islam commanded people to kill as many Jews as possible and that in the face of such irrationality the only form of defense was through the use of arms.

Although I had plans to leave for the US at age 18 – as I had a strong motivation to explore the world and receive a broad education- I felt I had a moral burden to join the Israeli army and stop suicide bombers from carrying out similar attacks. I believed that I could not escape my responsibility. Just as many soldiers risked their lives and died to protect me, now it was my time to do my part. In December 2000, I volunteered, although I was not obliged to, to serve in an infantry combat unit where engagement in confrontation was highly likely. The training was quite difficult and the sudden lack of freedom and time to read was quite painful but I learned to develop my physical powers to a degree I did not imagine possible through the power of will.

However, along with the training came the indoctrination. We were taught to obey our commanders blindly, were given a strong sense of purpose as defenders of our nation from terrorism and maintained a strong camaraderie with one another.

After going through basic and advanced training, I was sent by my commanders to become a combat medic and then sent to the Jordan Valley around October 2002. As a young soldier, I had no idea it was occupied illegally by Israel. We were given the impression it was half-way between the West Bank and Israel with its status unclear and without too many Arabs. Little did we realize at the time that it was occupied illegally and that the question of Israeli sovereignty in the area would become a central issue in Israeli-Palestinian talks a decade later, while all signs point to the possibility that the Jordan Valley would remain a stumbling block for any potential two-state solution.

 

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The six months of training we received prepared us for a conflict with a neighboring country’s standing army or for arresting and stopping suicide bombers. We were never given an idea of what our actual duty would be. In one of the first days since we were stationed in the Valley, we were given a mission to enter an empty home in a Palestinian village. From the roof we could see children playing, mothers hanging their laundry and wandering sheep. There was no obvious physical danger to us. Yet we were standing on top of the roof of an empty house, our guns ready and loaded for any possible incident. “What are we doing here?” “This is a real occupation”, I thought to myself first, then mustered the courage to whisper to a friend several hours later. He agreed, but we did not know what we could do about it. As soldiers we were trained and indoctrinated to follow orders. Being a soldier means giving up a large degree of personal choice, as well as the possibility to reflect independently on things. The lack of sleep and complete lack of freedom meant that one must listen to one’s commander and do so with a perverse relief of having someone else make decisions for him.

Only later, did we realize that our predominant goal in the village was to make our presence felt and intimidate the villagers since a year earlier, someone in that area, though not necessarily from that village, fired on a private car on a settler’s road, and murdered a nearby female resident of one of the settlements. Our goal in the following months was to tour the village and harass its residents as much as possible.

First, we had to man checkpoints at the entrance to the village, stopping every car that went in and out and checking the documents of its passengers. We could barely sleep and spent 8 hour shifts at the checkpoint while gaining 8 free hours immediately after in which we could eat, sleep or read. On various occasions, Palestinians who passed by us, who did not have permission to continue since they did not live in the village, were told by our commanders to return and go via a different route. I later understood that Palestinians who did not live in the Valley were not allowed to drive through it, and that we served as a mechanism to ensure the Valley is isolated from the West Bank.

We would enter the village at night, search homes and enter schools   while children were studying. Our goal was to show our ‘presence’ and therefore ‘scare off’ Palestinians from attacking Israelis. Our commander would go in with 3-4 soldiers, who would enter homes, search them, occasionally throw a sound grenade next to a family and point barrels directly at old men and women. We were not stopping terrorists but occupying a village and terrorizing its residents. I was quite uncomfortable doing all this. It was clear to me from the first day that this was wrong and illogical and that we were in fact occupying innocent people. Yet the group dynamics of a army unit are such that most soldiers tend to follow orders, both due to fear of being isolated by the rest of the soldiers with whom one naturally spends all his time, and due to the psychological tendency to trust and obey the commander in charge, a tendency reinforced by 6 months of intense training and a process of indoctrination. In addition, we were infused with heightened excitement of being brave soldiers who protected our nation from terrorism, with a strong sense of self-assuredness and an exaggerated sense of self-righteousness self-confidence reinforced by our top commanders.

We never found any weapons, but we continued to harass the families of the village, eventually taking over several vacant homes there and occupying them for days on end. Our commanders would instruct us to enter schools, search children’s books for pictures of suicide bombers, enter private homes in the middle of the night and search them. We also waited at the other entrance of the village for people who tried to enter it by foot, who would then find us emerging from our hiding places and telling them to turn back. Yet, despite this senseless abuse, I still did not consider leaving the military. I naively believed that the day would come when we would actually stop terrorists and all would be worthwhile. I also was brainwashed to believe that the Israeli army was a very moral army and that our abuses were an exception to the rule.

In the following weeks and months, the situation intensified and deteriorated. We were given orders to patrol Palestinian cities by jeep at night with the hope of attracting Palestinian fire so that we could respond and kill the shooter. The gunman did fire at our jeep, and we disembarked and fired back. However, the gunman managed to escape. During Operation Resolute Path, we went on to occupy for a week several Palestinian cities. We once again occupied a large house, evicted the family and searched countless homes in the vain search for weapons and expecting gunmen to shoot at us at any given moment — an event which never took place. On a separate occasion, while occupying another village, I directed my gun at every place my eyes turned to, as I was instructed to do. The shock I felt when seeing how a child in a window looked at me in indescribable fright and then ducked her head in panic haunted me for months and years later.

In the coming months, we entered various Palestinian cities at night or during the day, based on particular intelligence we received, rounded up marked people in their homes and took them away handcuffed and with their eyes covered. We were told we were arresting terrorists and had little reason to think otherwise. The time was at the height of the Second Intifada, when various attacks, as the one I saw as a 15 year-old, were taking place. On once instance we occupied a Palestinian village for an entire night. In the wee hours of the morning, a man walked up to me in the street and handed himself over. I took him to my commanders. I later found out that he was the Palestinian policeman of the village, and that my commanders occupied his home earlier, threatened him to surrender himself on the phone and that a small handgun was found in his house. He was taken for interrogation and I do not know what happened to him eventually. It seemed quite odd to me at the time, however, that a Palestinian policeman would be considered a terrorist. While my military service as an occupying soldier of a peaceful village was a source of great shame and embarrassment, and while I realized the idiocy of stopping cars at the checkpoint when clearly they never had any guns, I still naively believed that we were stopping terrorists and that this made my service worthwhile. I was quite proud of surviving the harsh training I received, which in my mind, had to serve a purpose. If people would asked me what I thought about my military service, I would reply that most of it was nonsensical but that I was proud we stopped ‘terrorists’.

 

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Following my discharge, all I wanted to do was leave Israel and see the world. I went to study at Brown University where I pursued a BA in international relations.  At the US, I ardently followed Israeli news  , having been implanted with a strong identity as a proud Israeli. Following military service one naturally tends in most cases, to take immense pride in being a soldier and an Israeli, as if the arduous training engraved this new identity under one’s skin. While as an occupying soldier it was clear to me that the occupation was morally bankrupt, in the US, having encountered frequent criticism of Israel, I became quite defensive and more nationalistic. On campus, I met several vocal American Jewish progressive students who complained about the Israeli occupation in a self-righteous manner and viewed me critically, as if I was personally guilty of the situation. The preaching tone of students, who had never been to Israel/Palestine and came from comfortable backgrounds while I came from a very religious background and had to struggle to gain an education, did not win me over to their cause. On the contrary, I had little respect for those who I knew have never been through the training I had, and who probably never slept in a tent for more than a few days while I did so for 6 months. When meeting students from various Middle Eastern countries, I would proudly claim that I was from Israel. Usually, they’d overcome the initial hesitation and were friendly though we were wise enough to know not to discuss politics. However, I was quite uncomfortable with some of the pro-Palestinian activism that took place on my campus. I thought people there did not understand the reality in Israel and were against the only Jewish state in the world that was seeking to defend itself in a region where there were far greater atrocities taking place. Granted, I realized that abuses of power and an immoral occupation were taking place by my unit, but I believed that this was an exception to the rule and that the Israeli army as a whole did not act in such a way. Little did I know that in other areas the situation was much worse. Nonetheless, since I took the Israeli newspapers and commentators at their word and was not exposed to credible alternative analysis, I strongly believed in the Israeli army and state. Perhaps I had to make sense of why I had to give up 3 years of my life for a purpose.

While I stayed away from pro-Israel political activism on campus as I had other things on my mind and was seeking to understand the world around me, I did defend Israel in class when the issue came up. Anyone who knew me well from that time, knows I was fervently pro-Israel. In an international relations class on international legal bodies, I took on the yoke of protecting the separation barrier/ wall Israel built in the West Bank explaining that it was built to protect Israelis from suicide bombers. In my mind, the wall was located somewhere in the vast expanse between Israel and Palestine. I did not know yet that it tightly encircled Palestinian cities and cut people from their fields and water resources.

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When pursuing internships in Europe, I was exceptionally sensitive to criticism regarding Israel. Hearing Europeans criticize Israel, in a continent where anti-Semitism has been prevalent for centuries and where the soil was soaked with Jewish blood, pushed me into a defensive mode immediately. I felt that they barely saw me as a Jewish person without experiencing some level of immediate hostility towards me and now they wanted to make me apologize for being Israeli. On the other hand, experiences on the ground began to shake my rigid stance. While studying in Oxford and London, I made very close friends from a Muslim country and later went on to attend a wedding there. My friends and I both came from traditional families, and we realized how much we had in common right away. These friendships grew and matured and over the following years, this coupled by the fact that I lived in immigrant and Muslim neighborhoods in Berlin and London, made me realize that in fact as a Jewish person, I have far more in common with people from the Middle East and other Muslim countries than with white Europeans. It was clear to me that Muslims were not inherently anti-Semitic, that culturally we are actually quite similar, and that we have much more in common than we realize.

Yet I still defended Israel strongly. In my view, Palestinians were one thing and Muslims at large were another. The more I was criticized for being pro-Israel, the more defensive I became. I was certain Israel was entirely being misunderstood and being vilified for a criminal it is not. All it was doing was seeking to protect itself. Palestinians were a brutal mass of people who only understood force and wanted to destroy Israel. This was my view nourished by decades of growing up in a right-wing environment as well as by following the Israeli media and believing its version of events. In this logic, while I interned in Bosnia and in Berlin for humanitarian causes, the Palestinian issue was the one issue which could not be fixed and which could only be dealt with by force due to the primitive mentality of Palestinians.

I did not realize to what degree this indoctrination had not been true until several events caught me by utter surprise. In 2008, I took friends from India and China who were my classmates at Brown to visit Israel. One day, along with an ultra-Orthodox friend, we took the car and drove to Silwan, a Palestinian impoverished neighborhood in East Jerusalem. At some point, as we drove down to the hill, our car got stuck and we could not make a u-turn as the streets were too narrow. I was a bit concerned. Here we were, stuck in a dangerous village in the middle of the night and I was concerned about our safety. Residents who heard us started coming out of their homes. I was calm but a bit worried. Residents started approaching us and explained how we can make a u-turn. They gave us directions and helped driving the car backward. This was a neighborhood that suffers from immense discrimination from Israel and where homes are being demolished on an almost daily basis. They saw my friend, a religious Jew, me, an Indian guy and a Chinese guy and they helped us. We even talked to them in Hebrew. We got out of there. A few minutes later we went to see the Wall separating East Jerusalem from the rest of the west Bank and took a few pictures. Moments later, as we kept walking along the wall, we ran into an Israeli Border Patrol. They started yelling at us to leave the area. For the first time, I felt what it was like being a Palestinian. They did not see me as an Israeli, for them I was a danger. I felt quite humiliated. They talked at us in such a nasty way as if we were non-human. Now, even when I was in the military, I was always nice to people. Friendly to the people I occupied. I was never rude. But most Israeli soldiers are usually not. This shook me, as I realized the kind of humiliation Palestinians go through, precisely the same friendly Palestinians who helped us out just a few moments later.

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Following this period, and during various `internships in Europe, I would become even more defensive when people would criticize Israel. I identified with Israel to such a degree that an attack on Israel was experienced as an attack on myself. This sentiment is entrenched as the Israeli state has successfully formed a new subject: an Israeli Jewish citizen who identifies with his country, is proud of its achievements and considers its achievements its own, is willing to fight and die for his country and is rooted in a country where he finally has a home, in a place where memories of forefathers from thousands of years ago are still lingering in the air.

 

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When I interned in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2006, I was quite curious about the country. Here were three ethnic groups, the Bosnian Muslims, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats living in the same country only years after brutal fighting between the three ethnic groups. I realized over time that all people there were equally human, and that working for an international organization there I wanted what was the best for all. So, if this is the case, I thought, if I could easily cross from Republic Srpska into Bosnia, is it not absurd that in Jerusalem, my own city where I grew up, I could not walk freely into Silwan? How could I advocate on behalf of humanity in the former Yugoslavia but be anti-Palestinian in Palestine? Still, I believed that Palestinians were still a unique exception. They were hateful for no reason, their primitive culture meant that they simply wanted to see more blood spilled and a reasonable compromise could never be reached with them. In my mind at the time, while humanity around the world at large was worthy of my compassion, Palestinians were the exception due to their own actions and state of mind.

 

In 2008, right during the early weeks of the war in Gaza, I visited Israel. The Israeli media was claiming that Sederot was under attack by Hamas missiles and that this could no longer continue. I agreed completely. Which other country would tolerate missiles being rained on its citizens? Does Israel not have a right to defend itself after seven years of being hit by missiles while withholding itself from responding? I believed Israel must attack Hamas and attack it with a final blow. I was staying with family and watching Israeli television and could not help but experience too the overwhelming collective national frenzy of self-assertion and indignant self-righteousness that swept over us all. A few days later I was back in London to continue my master’s degree. The numbers of the dead began to rise. What was tens of people started becoming hundreds. Many children were killed. All this time, I was being confronted by European friends at LSE: ‘Look, we know Israel has a right to defend itself, but isn’t it over-reacting? Look, at how many people they are killing’? ‘No’, I told them. ‘Israel has to destroy Hamas. They are a fanatical organization composed of mad people who launch missiles on civilians. Israel does not target civilians, it is Hamas who hides behind civilians and this explains the high number of casualties.’ I kept sticking by my story for a few more weeks. Yet as the number rose and rose, and the number of the dead reached 1300, something died in me. Ok, even if Israel is right, I thought. Is the price not too high? For Israel to survive must thousands of people be killed? What is the price of having a Jewish state in the Middle East? The constant bloodshed of lives? Are all lives not equal? Human life comes first, and Israel must find a way to negotiate with Hamas rather than firing missiles on the people of Gaza. However, I still maintained that Israel was a moral country and did not realize the degree of Israel’s brutal occupation.

Following my master’s degree, I needed a break from years of study and went to Latin America on a backpacking trip. I landed in Brazil and fell in love with the country and culture. I went on to volunteer in a favela in Rio de Janeiro. Favelas are basically slums located on mountaintops above the city and within it, where the poor reside. In a conversation I had with an Israeli friend months before, he told me that these slums are ‘hornet’s nests’, filled with drug gangs and that they need to be ‘cleaned up.’ I decided to see these places for myself. Walking in every day to the favela, I encountered young children carrying AK-47s , waiting for the police to raid the favela. They did not stop me from entering and on one occasion when they did, I told them I teach there so they let me go. Visiting the favela every day has changed my perspective radically. I met the most amazing and adorable children I could possibly imagine, who suffered from extreme poverty and were stuck in an harsh environment that was beyond their control. The favela was not a hornet’s nest but a community of hard-working and kind people. This experience made me wonder whether there was more to my earlier preconceptions of Palestinians. If in the favelas, I thought, I encountered kind people despite the negative way they are portrayed by the media, was it not also possible that in the Occupied Territories an entire population is being stigmatized because of the existence of terrorist groups who do not represent the majority?

 

IMG_0104A favela in Rio.

 

In 2011, I went to visit Israel for 2 weeks. In the course of my visit, I decided to do the unusual, and take a bus to the Palestinian city of Ramallah in order to visit a classmate there. Sitting on the bus quite tensely, I was worried as we were driving into the city, with memories of a recent lynching Ramallah residents had carried out against two Israeli soldiers fresh on my mind. We drove in through the Qalandiya checkpoint slowly, while I was afraid that Israeli soldiers may walk onto the bus and ask for our identification papers, but within several minuets I was inside Ramallah.

 

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My friend took us on a tour. First we saw the Wall circling Ramallah, which in all my years of living in Israel I never saw. I always believed that the Wall was somewhere in the vast expanse between Israeli settlements and the Palestinian cities but I did not realize it encircled Palestinian cities quite tightly. Secondly, I experienced Palestinian culture. We walked around beautiful Palestinian homes, which reminded me much of my own neighborhood where I grew up. In the most paradoxical and unexpected way, Ramallah was exceptionally peaceful. It had lovely cafes and trees by the sidewalk. Beautiful architecture and large homes made of stone. The streets had signs of fashionable women wearing stylish clothes which would be viewed as permissive and provocative in the highly-religious Jerusalem areas, with which I was all too familiar. Alcohol was sold in various stores. Restaurants offered delicious food and of course we could not skip on the Rukab’s famous ice-cream which, my friend claimed, is the best in Palestine. I was received warmly by many people even though some of them could tell I was Israeli.

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Something in what I saw did not make sense. Here in Ramallah, people were living normal lives, people who were in fact more secular than I expected, though of course there were plenty of religious people as well, and yet they were under occupation, while it is clear from the architecture and ancient buildings that they were here before the Zionists arrived in Palestine. Why then, are they not citizens of Israel? Why are they living in a separate and enclosed area? After all, it is clear that they have such a rich culture from which Israeli cuisine took its most famous delicacies such as falafel, hummus and schawarmeh as their own. Why must this occupation go on?

Is the reason Palestinians are kept under occupation because they do not recognize Israel? Plenty of taxi drivers in Ramallah told me they wanted Israelis to come and see them on the other side of the Wall, since they themselves are often barred from visiting Israel, and that they harbor no sinister intentions but want peace and justice for all. Is the reason they are under occupation because of several terrorist groups? Well, the ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem also has its vandals and the Secular community has its share of lunatics, but does this mean an entire group must be confined to a tight area behind a wall? The reason is must be that Israel does not want the Palestinians there since plenty of them are secular, well-educated and easy-going. Visiting various bars and clubs in Ramallah later on convinced me of that much. Yet this was the country of the Palestinians. What right does Israel have to continue the dispossession of Palestinians it began in 1948 to ensure it has a Jewish majority in Israel, in order to achieve what it sees as a just solution of a Jewish state with a Jewish majority, while taking land from others and expelling them from their homes in order to achieve its goal?

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At the end of the day, we headed home, and arrived again at the Qalandiya crossing. This time I was shaken to the core. Tall light towers were shining a blinding light on the entire empty area below, making one feel exposed and vulnerable. Shouts in Arabic from loud speakers above were directed at people who were instructed not to congregate and to keep moving. The Wall stood in its immensity surrounding us entirely. This feeling was surreal, I was shocked deeply. What could I tell my friend, a Palestinian student from my university, where we both were treated fairly and accepted in the US while here, she is subjected daily to a systemic terrorizing campaign, just because she is Palestinian? Furthermore, how can people try to terrorize this civilian population? Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the Israeli army that I glorified treated ordinary people in this way.

In the following years, I took a lot of time to reflect on what I saw and what I experienced. In a single day visit to Ramallah, I understood what I did not understand in seven years. That Palestine existed before Israel. That Palestinians are imperfect people like everyone else but are also exceptionally hospitable and peaceful. That Israel as a state is exceptionally paranoid and views all Palestinians as terrorists, while cowardly locking them away behind the Wall. I decided then, to see more for myself and visit various Palestinian cities while also attending various Palestinian demonstrations against the occupation in which Israelis join Palestinians. Since I was a soldier on the ground, it was important for me to experience the reality in the most physical manner.

The first demonstration I went to was at Nabi Saleh. This village had its water well confiscated by the nearby Israeli colony of Halamish (where I spent the Jewish Sabbath several years earlier). I had watched a video about the incredible brutality with which Israel handled protesters there including female protesters and I wanted to see things with my own eyes. I still believed in the Israeli army’s morality and thought they would not dare attack peaceful Palestinian protesters. After gathering in the center of the village where children, teenagers, adults and internationals began chanting and marching towards the water well, Israeli soldiers were waiting for us with their jeeps and skunk cannons. As soon as they caught sight of us, they immediately began firing tear gas canisters on us even though a single stone had not been thrown at them yet. I could not contain my rage.

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(A Protest in al-Walajah, near Bethlehem).

 

In another protest I went to, in the village of al Walajah, Shireen al Araj  from the village of Wallajah which has been entirely surrounded by the Wall, had led a massive effort to bring awareness to the issue. The hostility with which Israeli soldiers treat Palestinian women, suggests that the problem is not merely an abuse of power but is part of an ideology. The Zionist ideology holds that Jews must be strong and defend themselves against all threats and that issues can be solved by force, not by compromise. Since the right of an Israeli for protection overrides everything else, and since Zionism is naturally in need of an enemy so it can assert its strength, it naturally seeks to create more enemies and sees all Palestinians as its enemy.

In the following years I attempted to spread awareness about the Israeli occupation. Where does this leave me? First, as an Israeli-American-Jewish person who was an occupying soldier, I now have excellent Palestinian friends from various backgrounds, therefore revealing the fact that the issue is not co-existence between Jews and Muslims, but rather a state discriminates on the basis of religion. Secondly, since history has shown that the price of creating a Jewish state in Palestine is the displacement and oppression of another people, this can hardly be a moral solution nor a Jewish one, and certainly not one which should be the lesson of the Holocaust. Rather than having a state which spends a huge amount of its GDP on defense, sends its youth to occupy another people and attempts to minimize the number of non-Jews in Israel and the Occupied Territories so it can have a Jewish majority, a far more reasonable option would be developing a society where justice is restored and where people do not suffer discrimination based on religion, therefore providing true peace and justice and allowing Israeli Jews to finally live without fear of being attacked. One may argue that Jews and Arabs cannot live peacefully together but Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem are all bi-national cities where most people manage to get along well.

It took me years to have the courage to finally visit the Occupied West Bank and see the reality there. This would have not been possible without years I spent thinking and reflecting on the subject and overcoming my own conditioning. I realized that Palestinians are people too, just as any other region, and that I would be a hypocrite trying to work on global problems while neglecting to discuss the illegal and brutal Israeli occupation that has been going on for the past 45 years with no end in sight. The years I spent abroad gave me the critical space necessary for reflection and calm judgment and have opened my eyes to the sad reality in my own country. Indeed, human rights cannot be advocated everywhere around the world and not in Palestine. Furthermore, the Jordan Valley that I once occupied has been facing over the past few years, an onslaught of Israeli army regulations. Water resources and trucks are frequently being confiscated by the Israeli army, Palestinian homes are being demolished and young teachers and activists are being arrested and held in confinement all with the goal of breaking the will of the residents there so that they will leave. I now understand that this process, of gradual harassment to ensure life becomes unbearable for the occupied, is one I contributed to and took part in as an occupying soldier. Finally, an optimistic story: several months ago I visited the same village I once helped occupy. The people of the village were surprised to see an Israeli car enter their village and wondered if I was lost. I stopped over at a small shop and told them I was actually had been an occupying soldier there 10 years earlier. They were amused I came by and offered me to sit with them, offering me food and drink; we engaged in a long talk, and I finally left after they asked me to return and visit in the future. If a former soldier can meet people he once helped occupy and have a friendly conversation with them in their village while he admits his own wrongdoings and they manage to overcome their grudges and hard feelings, then surely there is room for optimism for the people of Israel-Palestine.

 

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With my good friend, human rights defender Younes Arar of Beit Umar

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Ramallah

124 Comments

  1. I’m very proud to see there are other Jews who can realize there is another reality. Very brave! Thank you very much for what you do, Joshua!

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      • Hi Joshua,

        After reading your biography I am perplexed, I feel the tears of hypocrisy running down my heart instead of from my eyes. Many around the world are blinded by the veil of ignorance/mainstream media concerning the Palestinian cause – I am amongst the many. You are a hero, your endeavours, sincerity and dedication to give the world the reality of what is going on in Palestine will be written in the history books. Keep on the good work…

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      • Congratulations.

        Looking back over your times in the UK and elsewhere, was there anything said to you that (perhaps if it had been repeated often enough) would have brought you to awareness much sooner?

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        • Good question. I would say more personal contact and conversations with Palestinians would have helped earlier on. Once friendships are formed abroad, the actions of Israel against a population that happens to be born to the wrong ethnicity appear more bizarre. All my best.

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          • Nothing much we can do in the business of anti-hasbarist persuasion then? Seems a pity – there should be something that we could say.

            What if we remind Israelis that they want us to recognise Israel – but won’t tell us where the borders of Israel lie?

            Or we could remind them that Israel very solemnly promised to let the Palestinians back to their homes. Promised this twice, once in an address to the assembled world and once in writing.

            In fact, Israel made these promises in order that Israel be allowed to join the UN and renounce the use of force.

            Strikes me that one of these arguments (or something else entirely) should ring a bell and you might be the very best person to suggest what it was!

          • They have their heads deep in the sand.

          • When things seem to bleak, it’s experiences such as yours Joshua that help Palestinians such as myself feel that there is genuinely hope for this occupation to end and for all people to live together peacefully. Just a note on this comment, that I agree more contact is necessary. Unfortunately this is exactly why the wall was built, to separate Israelis and Palestinians from one another in order to make it easier to dehumanize them and view them as “the other”. I remember my family in the West Bank telling me they regularly have contact and casual friendships with “the Israeli at his gas station”, or “the Israeli pool club for Palestinians and Israelis”…. Thank you for doing what you can as an Israeli to bring about the necessary change to get us back to those days and to an ever better time of togetherness.

      • Joshua, I think it’s wonderful that you opened your eyes to the atrocities and crimes that have been taking place in Palestine. Here is my question. Do you feel that the Zionist entity “Israel” has the right to exist on the Arab land of Palestine?

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    • What a moron. Just because some people are friendly to you you want to demolish the only Jewish country in the world?

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      • Hi Hannah, I met more than a few people, I did not like everyone just as I do not like everyone I encounter in Israel or elsewhere. Israel is an artificial state as it is based on Jewish supremacy and on minimizing the number of non-Jews. In other words, it does not match the reality on the ground and requires the suppression of others. There is no reason why Jews cannot live peacefully with Palestinians and I have no doubt that it will happen in the future, hopefully in our lifetime. I support giving people the right to vote, which I assume you do not.

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        • I so appreciate your optimism regarding the future. If we will it, it is no dream. אם תרצו, אין זו אגדה.

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          • Hi Rabbi David, Thank you for writing. In the short-run I am quite pessimistic and think things will get much worse, and that unless people impose extreme pressure on Israel, boycott and isolate it, it will not stop. In the long-run I am optimistic but this could take decades.

      • Your hideous comment reminds me of what decent people in Israel, Jewish or not, are up against. I don’t think you deserve a Jewish state. Israel should be secular with equal rights for all. People like you should leave and live with other extremists somewhere else, where you can do no harm.

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        • Hannah can have her opinions but she needs to ask herself deeper questions. The desire to have a Jewish state makes sense in light of a history of prosecution. But must the Palestinians be kept behind a wall as they form a demographic threat? Do Palestinians need to pay the price for Jewish suffering in Europe? Israel created a ghetto in the Middle East while it failed to provide tranquility and peace to its citizens. What if Jews could live anywhere in the Holy Land, travel to neighboring countries and live in a state that represents all those who live in the area, regardless of religion and is respectful of all? In other words, I do not seek to demolish a state physically but to allow people to live in a multi-ethnic society where ‘Israel’ or ‘Palestine’ as a country will still be there (how can it not?) but the political framework will be democratic. After all, these are the rights American Jews enjoy the US, so why do many of them support a democracy-for-Jews-only in the Holy Land? The Holy Land is a beautiful, spiritual and blessed land, regardless of the name people give it.

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      • i thank you for your efforts, I too was blinded by the propaganda we got here in Canada, all news is pro-Israeli, we don’t hear about the rubber bullets shot at children or the abuses the Palestinians face daily. It wasn’t u til this past summer with the Protective Edge campaign that I realized 2+2 was not adding up to 4. The outrage televised at the deaths of Israeli’s but upon watching the news and seeing the number of Palestinian deaths compared to that of Israel was eye opening. That Israel was crying to the world about the evil of Hammas while murdering children by bombing areas such as schools and hospitals, this woke me up to the real Israeli plan, genocide of the Palestinians. That Israeli politicians have come outright calling Palestinians subhuman for the world to hear is u believable! Israel must realize the world is waking up to its atrocities and hopefully we the people can make a change, if enough pressure is put on the United Stayes, to stop its funding of military weapons and onto Israel itself through peaceful initiatives such as BDS. Bibi has shown himself to be another Hitler, he is determined to be the dictator of this Palestinian holocaust. Israeli’s should hang their heads in shame. I am not anti-Semite but I am anti-Zionist, people of the world need to realize the two are very different, while both being Jewish the later is the version that is seeking a fascist regime. This problem has divided the Jewish people, It is a very sad situation indeed. One last word is that the people of Israel who tell the world that Palestinians are Anti-Semetic forget that Palestinans are Semites as well. Wake up people, realize what is actually happening in Israel

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      • You the moron. Israel had and has no right to steal someone else’s land. Palestine never belonged to the Zionists and never will. People that have an ounce of humanity and a heart will see the truth, clearly you are not one of those people

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  2. Thank you for sharing your experiences. It’s really hard for me to have a personal and fact based opinion on that conflict; I live in Italy (a friend of Daniele), reading about your life, your personal experiences and thoughts is really helpful. Thank you again. Marco

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    • Grazie mille, Marco. I hope you will be able to visit one day and see with your own eyes.

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  3. I am so proud of you.
    Thank you for all of the good work.
    May God bless you and keep you…..
    Your sister in solidarity for Peace in Palestine and through out the world.
    Jil

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    • Dear Jill, thank you for the kind words. May God bless you in all too. Josh

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  4. What I read in this tale can be summarized in 1 word: hope. Toda raba Joshua!

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  5. Great job. As an Armenian who has no link to neither Jewish or Muslim religion, when I open my mouth on this topic, SOME of my Jewish friends take offense and think that I am advocating the heartless murders on the Jewish community by the terrorist Islamic-jihadist groups. I do not favor one religion over the other. I do however hate the abuse and oppression of people; whether they be Muslim, Jewish, Christian or atheist.

    People need to realize that the more you oppress, the more people will fight back. The more love that is shown, the further ahead we will be as a human race.

    As a human being, I am very happy and proud that you took the time and effort to share your story with us!

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    • Thank you, very true. It’s all about showing sympathy for other people’s suffering, presenting a perspective that takes into account their view and yet refutes their claim by their own logic.

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    • Actually the attack on the synagogue was operated by PFLP members who are communists and not Islamists. Nice try though.

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  6. GOD BLESS AND KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

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  7. Thank you Joshua,
    For questioning yourself, for searching the truth and then bringing it out.
    I sincerely pray that many would do what you have done in regard to understanding the other side. God bless you.

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  8. You are a remarkable and courageous man, Joshua, and it can’t have been easy to re-think everything you’d ever been taught about your beloved country. All credit to you. You remind me of Miko Peled and Gideon Levy, which puts you in mighty esteemed company. Keep up the good work!

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  9. Dear Joshua

    My summers were defined by eating as much as I could Rukab…I am happy you experienced my childhood’s favorite icecream!

    I was born in Jerusalem in ’73 but my parents had to make the difficult decision to leave in ’75 as there was no prospect of building a solid future for their family by staying in Jerusalem. And so we moved to Saudi Arabia but continued to visit Jerusalem every summer to see our families. Today I live in Canada and am not even allowed to claim being a Palestinian from Jerusalem as Israel has policies aimed at insuring those that left can not come back. One such policy is a requirement to go back once a year to renew paperwork. When we were living in the region we were able to maintain such requirements but once we moved to Canada it became more difficult due to the costs and distance. So today my rights as a Palestinian in Jerusalem are wiped out.

    Last year my cousin passed away from cancer in Jerusalem. My mother, who lives in Jordan, could not go to Jerusalem to be by her sister’s side during this difficult time. She had to have special request done which would take months to process.

    Your work is fundamental to finding an end to this nightmare. And and end is very much attainable. One state is the only solution. As you experienced, and as I can reaffirm, as Palestinians, all we want is to be treated as a people with rights. I know there is a day somewhere on the horizon where we will live, not side by side, but together. We are after all cousins.

    Bless you for taking the courage to speak your heart and soul out. It is not an easy task but the rewards will be realized, sooner or later.

    Peace, salam and shalom to you.

    Rasha Ayouby
    Montreal, Canada

    Reply
    • Hi Rasha, thank you for sharing. I’m well aware of the plight faced by East Jerusalem residents, have many friends there. In Jerusalem, the supposedly ‘united’ city, some citizens have an Israeli passport if they are Jewish, while Palestinians in East Jerusalem are given residency rights and very rarely citizenship rights, and of course if they live abroad for over 2 years they can never come back. If they seek to expand their homes, it is very hard to get permits and frequently after expanding their home they get a demolition order, all for the sake of minimizing the number of Palestinians (Muslims and Christians alike) in East Jerusalem and with it destroying Jerusalem’s unique fabric, historical legacy, cultural customs and so on.

      Thank you again for sharing. Much patience, solidarity and tranquility is required as this is a long journey.

      All my best.

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  10. Thanks for a great read, Joshua. I have shared it with my Facebook friends and family.
    The point you make that Israel is “paranoid” and considers all Palestinians to be terrorists is an excellent one and one that many don’t comprehend. It also allows the Zionists a convenient excuse to continue their efforts to drive the Palestinians off their land – either by building the wall, settlements displacing Palestinian homes and fields or by the sheer harassment, intimidation and brutality that is intrinsic to their occupation.
    Of course, that raises the question, what is the purpose of the genocide inflicted in Gaza? Those people can’t escape their confinement there to emigrate. So does the Israeli Government simply hope to kill all the Gazans, convert them to Judaism, set an example for the West Bank, or what?

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    • Hi Thomas, thank you. I would say the purpose of punishing Gaza is to give a message to the Palestinians ‘don’t mess with us’, ‘fear us’, ‘we will not suffer in silence’ etc. In other words, the entire population of Gaza (1.8 million people) needs to pay the price of 2,000 years of Jewish prosecution. Israel does not want to deal with the issue of Gaza- since if it does it must question its own founding (the Nakba of 1948 as many Gaza residents are originally from Jaffa). So it prefers to build a wall, pretend the others do not exist, and yet if they attack will be cracked upon severely etc. Israel has no long term vision for what to do with the Palestinians, it simply wants to pacify them by force. From Israel’s perspective, no resistance is every justified since it’s their state and their land, and this time they will defend themselves, unlike in the past. That is the mentality.

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  11. This is a remarkable piece, Joshua. I admire your candor and honesty. But I really admire you for having the ethical and intellectual fortitude to look at yourself, and Israel, with a critical eye and as a result change your thinking and behavior. But I wonder how many Israelis are capable of such an evolution. You were able to do so at least in part because you traveled and had experiences that made you question what you had been taught and believed. Do you think other Israelis who have not done that are capable of changing their views, or are they too trapped in a parochial, nationalistic mindset? It does seem that anti-Palestinian racism is actually increasing in Israel.

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    • George, excellent question. You are absolutely correct, in my view. The majority of Israelis are deeply brainwashed and victims of an indoctrination inherent in society from an early age. They need some kind of shock therapy, be it US cutting off ties, external pressure, sanctions etc. Because they cannot let go of power, sadly, and people usually do not want to give up the power they have of their own accord, especially as the society is deeply traumatic and fearful. At the same time, as much dialogue as possible on an individual basis should be welcomed, in my opinion. But it will not work with most as most cannot liberate themselves from the groupthink.

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  12. very nice article and useful experience i liked it very much

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  13. Joshua I admire your courage of your convictions. Keep campaigning till you able to muster the will of the youth whom have now beginning to realise that the future survival of the jewish race is in jeopardy and danger of extinction. The old generation of the zionist pipe dreams and new world order aspirations are numbered.there is a beautiful world out there that has such human kindness which you have already experienced. The freemasons and the zionist entity are going through their pains and comatose.

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  14. Thank you for sharing your experience so honestly. I find that the Jewish people I encounter who can see the situation in Israel in a more impartial way very much inspire me. I am inspired by you. Keep safe, Jonathan

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  15. As a Muslim, both Parents Palestinians, expelled, we never ever were taught or told to hate Jews. As a matter of fact my parents neighbors when coming to the US were Jews, who formed a very close friendship with my parents. Many of my close friends are Jews.
    This was inspiring to read. God is Oft Most Forgiving. Very handsome u are too.

    The issue is the regime. The oppression, racism, humiliation. Not so much about the land. Gods earth is spacious and for everyone, it is the oppression that is heart wrenching, mind-boggling and I mean no one anywhere should get oppressed. Very happy for you! God Bless You for sharing your story!

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    • Thank you so much Abbie. God bless you. And I hope Hannah on this page who said that ‘just because you met a few nice Palestinians you want to destroy the Jewish state’ read what you wrote that Muslims and Jews can live in great harmony once people are treated fairly and equally and outside of the prism of fear advocated by Zionism.

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      • They can and should get along. Sane leaders on both sides should be put in the government and Zionism for the sake of the Jews who followed Gods laws (Torah) and not man made should end. The Zionism has led many Jews astray that very much bothers me, as Judaism has been around for thousands of years. As I tell everyone what my mom use to say, they are living there now where do you expect them to go? I agree, however the problem remains is the oppression and terror inflicted on them, it comes directly from the Government.
        My mom had a Jewish neighbor, watched their kids and even breast fed one of their kids when the mom of the kids got very ill after giving birth, same time when my mom had my brother, she told us stories how peaceful it use to be living there and how everyone was very close. Sadly it changed. Maybe one day that can be the case and peace will come. God Willing, for the sake on both sides.
        Take Care

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  16. Really enjoyed reading this piece, Joshua. Very engaging, very honest; the more people we see like you, the less blood we shall see.

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  17. Hi There.
    I am from Iran and a culturally Muslim (not more). I live in NY, and I understand the sentiment behind the defensive stance of Israelis when they are confronted with what their government does. Some of my closest friends and colleagues are Israelis and whenever we talk politics we never pass the red line on the conflict, because I know they are gonna be defensive. It is an awkward situation indeed and very sad one for me. It is particularly sad when I see they are nice (and really nice people), but this blind to the actual cause of this conflict. For me, your piece was an amazing journey of change, of recreating mentality using new input that one receives, and a proof that to have peace in the world, this hypocrisy of being nice to some people while treating others like animals should be overcome.
    One final word is: much of this change-if you look closely- came through new first-hand accurate information. Now, yes, not everybody is as receptive as you to the information, but your case clearly shows how propaganda, brainwashing, and indoctrination work: constantly feed your audience with false, semi-true, or distorted information via several channels. He/she is finally gonna submit to your cause. The earlier, the more effective, the less reversible. Israel is an extreme case, but this is true for every power structure including our Islamist government or Hamas.
    Your voice needs to be heard by a broader audience. Try writing for major news outlets, like Guardian, Independent, or the Salon.
    Much respect for you.
    Sincerely

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    • Hi, thank you. Will look into it though I do not have contacts there.

      The problem is that it is not easy to present people who live in such a society (where a conflict reigns and where people are not reflective but have a fight-or-flight response) with a different perspective since people are social animals and do not wish to drift away from the mainstream. Furthermore, Zionism has given people a new identity as Israelis; they identify closely with the state (confusing the state with the physical country) and see an attack on it as an attack on themselves.

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  18. It’s people like you who make a difference in this world. Thank you!

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  19. Shalom!

    Joshua, would you consider coming to the United States and touring as a speaker doing presentations with various advocacy groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine?

    Your story is incredible and needs to be told to as many Americans as possible so we can end this stranglehold that Israel has on the United States and its politicians and government.

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    • Hi Tom,If you know of a particular place that would be interested in hosting a Palestinian friend and me, kindly let me know by email.

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      • Okay, I sent you an email a day or so as go with all of my contact information.

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  20. What are the jews doing there in Palestine? They have never been natives of Palestine but occupiers !!!

    I tell you history according to the jewish Torah, the Old Testament, the Talmud and the oral jewish history Hamishna:

    The jews were never natives of Palestine

    According to these books, in the old ages the jews were invaders to Palestine just like the modern days. The jews in the old ages were roaming tribes outside of Palestine and they even didnt know how Palestine looked like as their tribal Sheikh Moses sent 12 spies to explore the already inhabited Palestine with its natives the Canaanites.

    As inhabitants of the barren desert, they were surprised to see how fertile was Palestine, and they came back to Moses to tell him it was a “land of honey and milk” BUT 10 out of the 12 spies advised him not to invade because Palestine was already inhabited with “strong civilized” people who had iron while the jews were just nomadic uncivilized tribes …. just 2 of the 12 spies wanted to fight the natives of Palestine … to encourage them, Moses told them that his “god” “promised” him that land … some jews tried to invade Palestine from the South but they couldnt ….

    It took the jews another generation to invade Palestine from the East under the leadership of Joshua starting by burning Jericho and then devastating the rest and killing the natives as they toppled the “paganist” Jebusite temple in Jerusalem and built theirs on its rubble … it is a bloody religion … reread the old bible to see how it is a bloody inhuman religion that their God ordered them to kill even infants and animals… reread their bible to see how the natives were massacred out of most of old Palestine and how Joshua then allocated the land among his tribes !!

    Again nowadays ! they come from Europe to repeat the same story of claiming Palestine? …. this land is not yours nor your false “god” to “promise”…. its for the native Palestinians Muslims, Christians and jews, but not the invader European zionists !!

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    • 1. Someone who is born in Israel is nowadays as much as a local as a Palestinian from his or her personal perspective.
      2. Many Palestinians probably have a Jewish origin and probably descended from those who did not leave the country after the Roman conquest.
      3. Note that in South Africa the colonialists were not sent back to Europe as the new reality was acknowledged. If you want to advocate sending Zionists to Europe or the US, you can go ahead, but you will not reach many supporters nor is this a humane solution.
      4. No land is ever pure of immigrants nor is the nation pure of foreign people.

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      • Excellent points, Joshua, especially the one about South Africa. The best way for Palestinians to win support of Israeli Jews and their supporters elsewhere is to promote the South African approach of creating a society of equals. Some people may choose to leave, but no one should be sent back to where they came from.

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  21. Thank you for this, Joshua. Having grown up Jewish in America, I understand well the racism toward Arabs we are fed from birth. I post a lot on Facebook about the illegal and brutal occupation, and I have successfully opened a few eyes.

    But of course I still have friends who call stone-throwers “animals” and think I am a self-hating Jew. They pull out all the usual tropes about self-defense and Hamas using human shields, etc. (when in fact Israel has done everything it accuses Hamas of doing). They pretend they don’t hate Arabs, only Hamas. It’s always Hamas.

    I will share your article on Facebook. Do you have a suggestion for a comment to accompany the link? How can I best encapsulate your experience to try to touch the better part of my indoctrinated friends’ hearts and interest them in reading your piece?

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    • Hi Laura, it’s not easy reaching to people, though usually when people form personal friendships with Arabs they realize that things are not exactly as they are told by their teachers or by the media. I think the headline is good enough to evoke people’s interest,hopefully.

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  22. I have Israeli friends who are yet to transcend their knee-jerk defensiveness and dig deep within to reach your level of self-awareness. Sometimes I am inclined to give up as I think they need therapy that I am unequipped to offer them ;). Your sincere and moving account reminds me of why it’s important not to lose hope and keep on believing in the possibility and power of such transformations. You seem amazing and we need many more people like you. Thank you for sharing your experiences, your work is vital!

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  23. Joshua, reading this was especially moving! It truly breaks my heart to see the suffering inflicted on innocent little children in Palestine! Every child should be able to be happy and run free without fear of bombs being dropped on them and certainly not be forced to live in extreme poverty! Such horrendous suffering is man made and it’s our duty ( to our fellow human beings) to stop!! Your human rights advocacy gives me hope! Your strong and powerful work will certainly get others to join the human rights cause! You have a massive community who supports what you’re doing! Wishing you all the best in your pursuit for human rights! From the bottom of my heart, thank you!
    Susan

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  24. Thank you, Joshua, for putting out your experiences and thoughts.
    What would be wrong with a Jewish one state solution? Every state has an identity, a set of values, a basic ideology. I think a Jewish state, which allows for freedom of belief and religion, would be the best solution.
    Jared Israel has very interesting articles on Bosnia/Serbia, have you ever looked at his site, “Emperors New Clothes”?
    Here’s a link:

    http://emperors-clothes.com/yugo.com

    Your sentiments are fine, and your message very worthwhile.
    One reservation I have is that you may draw in people with antisemitic beliefs, whether conscious or unconscious. Some commenters seem to equate Zionism with Nazism, and to believe that Israel is committing genocide. You let these comments go unremarked on, do you believe they are true?
    My other big reservation is that it seems to me that you may underestimate the antisemitic elements implicit in Islam and also in European/American thought. I completely agree that there are welcoming, generous, kind people everywhere, but any religion or ideology which names another people for severe criticism in the way that Islam and Christianity (the founding ideology of Europe/America) does to Jews, needs, unfortunately, to be considered a potential threat. History has proved this both true and unpredictably so.
    The Jewish experience under Islamic rule has always been as a “protected” people who are tolerated, rather than respected as equals, on the basis of their never challenging Islamic supremacy. What would be different today? Better a Jewish state for Jews and for others.
    My own experience, travelling in Europe, Israel, America is of safety amongst Jews who I have never seen to be violent, tolerance and fairness in Israel, which I liked for many reasons, not least its equanimity. I have, however, experienced violence from Arabs in Eilat, and in France, both unpleasant experiences which may have influenced my thought.
    Shalom

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    • Hi Nick, Thanks for your comments.
      1. In such a state as you propose Muslim and Christian holidays would not be public and half of the population is supposed to be comfortable with a the religion of the other half being represented in the state’s laws. If non-Jews are a majority, they will change the constitution, therefore their number must be minimized, by this logic (the same logic that is operating today).
      2. Criticism of Zionism with strong words is not antisemitic as Zionism is a political movement. Besides the fact that Zionism itself adopted many antisemitic ideas as its founders expressed this openly. Despising traditional Jews in Europe and mocking Holocaust survivors are two small examples.
      3. Spend some time in the West Bank, not in Tel Aviv, on a Friday, and watch Israeli soldiers in action firing gas or rubber bullets on non-violent protesters, and then we will see if you will make the comment that non-Jews are violent while Jews are “never seen” to be violent. My article had a few youtube links regarding violence in Nabi Saleh that I assume you skipped on.
      4. Religion has been abused by its followers to have biases towards others, this is common in all monotheistic religions. Jews and Muslims enjoyed very friendly relations even in Gaza before Zionism as Professor Avi Elyakim of Bar Ilan University testifies. The dhimmi laws were far from perfect but we cannot judge them by modern liberal democracy standards, since at the time they were fairly progressive (far better than Europe). Of course that is not what I envision for the future and that is why a future one state must uphold the rights of all its citizens (and not as you suggest where only that of Jews). There are various anti-gentile quotes in Judaism, so let’s not go there. Arabs cannot be antisemitic as they are Semites, they can be anti-Jewish.
      5. I recommend you travel more throughout the West Bank and see how this affects your experiences. My guess is you did not visit yet.
      Kol tuv
      PS. Will check out Jared Israel, thank you.
      I highly recommend you read Nusseibeh’s ‘Once Upon A Country’.

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    • Hello Nick. That is the problem. Stop worrying about “IF” people who are antisemitic are going to be drawn to this. I’m not Jewish . Yet because I see how the media likes to control people by showing one side, I wonder how much money is taken out of my paycheck to buy the bullets and artillery that killed those more than 900 children and I wonder why there are only “Jewish”only roads, and theft of peoples homes , would not make me (I AM NOT) antisemitic. However, this man, that is courageous of what he has done. He explored the truth and went against his own upbringing to find truths that HE NEVER KNEW were there. That takes allot of courage and he should be PROUD!!! as you should be too. That is finding righteousness right there~!!!

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  25. Brave Joshua, thank you for sharing your efforts! I am Italian and Vic (Vittorio Arrigoni) is my hero and his motto “Restiamo umani” (Stay humans) is imprinted in my heart. Hope other many Israelis people can open their eyes!

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    • Hi, I’m far from being a hero, the real heroes are Palestinians who never lose hope.
      Most Israelis will open their eyes the hard way, I am afraid.

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  26. Dear Joshua, thank you for your very worthwhile share. We applaud you for your courage, honesty & your stance…this cannot be easy. Our world needs more of your voices, like the voice of Professor Ilan Paape, Yvonne Ridley, Jews against Genocide, Rabbis for Peace and the like.
    As a Muslim South African born & bred into an Apartheid society, I feel the pains of oppression of all humanity, irrespective of religion, race, creed or colour. Daily I search for these stories, stories like yours that can reinstate my faith in humanity!
    Peace! May God be with you, always.

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  27. Thank you, Joshua. I am convinced that if everyone thought with his own head, the atrocities that happen would not exist . If everyone thought with his own head, to kill children, women, men, just because they believe enemies would not be possible. You did a job on you and you arrived to be what you are: a man, a native of Earth and not of a state. That ‘s what we all should do.

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  28. Hi Joshua, I am so glad I came across your blog. I am from Singapore and I have a close friend who is half Jewish and although we are very close , we never discuss what’s happening in Israel presently . I intend to let her read your blog and hopefully , I hope we can discuss what’s happening there more honestly without me being afraid that I would loose her friendship . You see she supports Israel and I am a Muslim . We have many uncomfortable moments when we hear horrible stories of recent escalation of Israeli brutality on Palestines especially pictures of children injured in the war .
    By reading your blog , I hope she too can realize that Palestinians are humans too just like us and deserve to be treated fairly . I hope it wil help her see things from a more humane perspective and not from the religious perspective only .
    Thank you and May God bless you .

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  29. A brave and honest accounting of your path through life leading to a greater understanding of the world around you. I hope that the young in Israel do read your account, as there seems to be an even deeper thread of absolute hatred of the Palestinians running through Israeli society at present, which is deeply worrying. Settler and IDF attacks are increasing with the situation in the occupied territories, as well as in Israel, is deteriorating for Palestinians all the time.

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    • Hi Roanna, for certain. Which is why unless people of the world wake up, Israel will not seek a peaceful solution but on the contrary, will do all that it can to continue to wipe Palestine off the map.

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  30. Dear Joshua, your story adds to our hope that there is a peaceful solution in sight. Being a Norwegian, we have received a much more balanced version of the conflict as opposed to inside Israel and the US. The Norwegian doctor, Mads Gilbert, has been given a lot of air time reporting from Gaza. Israel has now banned him from entry into Gaza “indefinately”. It seems like the support for the israeli policy is rapidly diminishing in Europe. More countries are now recognizing Palestine as a nation, Sweden being the last of these. Israel has been held in very high esteem in Norway, even by the political left who in the seventies frequently visited kibbutzes. But even here the times are changing and most of the news are critical to Israel following Operation Protective Edge. It also seems that Israel has lost its touch on the propaganda. My theory is that the social media makes it a lot harder to hide the truth. Your story would have been a lot harder to find ten years ago. I think that this conflict also feeds hatred far outside Israel and Palestine, so I hope there is a solution coming to the region soon. And your contribution is important, thank you.

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    • Hi Nils, I followed the work of Dr Gilbert who is nothing short of a true hero. Europe is finally showing signs of taking Israel’s crimes in the West Bank seriously, though Norway and others have awoken to this reality long before the UK, Germany and France. My hope is that Europe will intensify its economic pressure and prosecute Israeli generals for war crimes. While Israel still has the US as its main sponsor and ally, it will not be too happy to be isolated from Europe since it is closer to it physically. All my best

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  31. I am Muslim, Lebanese and pro-Palestinian to the core. Yet, I cry to every holocaust movie, I visited the Jewish museums in New York and Morocco and I support the rights of all the Jews of the Arab World to their confiscated lands and properties, the rights of every holocaust descendent to the stolen rights in Europe.

    Does being White prevent you from seeing that slavery is wrong, does being British prevent you from seeing that Indians are humans ? justice is whole and indivisible, you have to be fair and just even if it against your kins in religion or race. Josh is not a rare incident in humanity, and naivety is far from what he is. Naivety is to slave a whole race for 250 years and go to the church every Sunday , and the examples from very human corner on Earth are abundant.
    And to be just is never easy, it is for the strong of heart only to look at the people he or she loves and tell them they are wrong.

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  32. Hi Joshua! What a great read! I hope you will come to Germany again and tell your story.
    I have been an anti-Zionist for about two years. The website Mondoweiss opened my eyes.
    When I grew up, I didn’t take any interest in the conflict at all, partly because I believed that it doesn’t concern me and partly because I didn’t understand what was going on. German mainstream media merely report that the conflict exists. They never explain how the conflict actually started, who started it, and why it started. However, this information is necessary in order to determine who are the victims and who are the perpetrators. German mainstream media always try to put the blame on both sides equally, i.e. Israelis are the settlement-building occupiers and Palestinians are the anti-Semitic terrorists.
    There were several things that aroused my interest in the conflict.
    – First of all, as I grew older, I simply started feeling stupid because I didn’t understand the conflict. The conflict has been around for my entire life and is regularly discussed in the media. The people who debate on the conflict are usually very passionate. All this led me to the conclusion that the conflict is an important topic and that I should try to understand it and develop an opinion on it.
    – Second, I noticed the extreme overreaction of German Jews to even the slightest bit of negative criticism against Israel, e.g. accusations of anti-Semitism or bringing up the Holocaust. I was totally puzzled as to why German Jews refer to critics of Israel as “anti-Semitic”. German Jews act as if negative criticism against Israel were some kind of personal attack on them. This didn’t make any sense to me. Such an irrational way of dealing with negative criticism is suspicious. It made me start thinking that probably the negative criticism against Israel is justified. Because if it were unjustified, then German Jews would simply refute it by giving factual counter-arguments instead of resorting to name-calling.
    – Third, I noticed that the opinion of the German people is very different from the opinion of the German politicians and media. While the people are mainly “anti-Israel”, the politicians and media are much more “pro-Israel”. Therefore, I wanted to know: How come that the politicians refuse to represent the people on this issue? Who is right, the people or the politicians? Who started the conflict, the “Israeli occupiers” or the “Palestinian terrorists”?
    I turned to the Internet for answers, but I discovered so many different versions of history that I ended up being more confused than before. As someone who had no clue, how was I supposed to figure out which sources are reliable and which are not? I dismissed pro-Israel Jewish websites and anti-Israel Palestinian websites as probably biased. I concluded that the most trustworthy sources are anti-Israel Jewish websites because Jews wouldn’t bash the “Jewish state” if it weren’t true. That’s how I came to Mondoweiss. What I also found interesting to discover is that there are several anti-Israel Jewish websites but no pro-Israel Palestinian websites. So, a significant number of Jews could be convinced of anti-Zionism, whereas hardly any Palestinian could be convinced of Zionism. This mere fact already shows that the anti-Zionist side has the better arguments. On Mondoweiss, I learned about what happened in 1967. This made me turn from an ignorant person into a “liberal Zionist”. Then, Mondoweiss taught me about what happened in 1948. Although I understood that the Nakba was totally unjust, I kept on believing that separation in form of a Jewish state and a Palestinian state is the best solution. Then, I saw a comment from a reader. He explained the difference between ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism. That’s when I had my epiphany moment. I realised that Israel as a “Jewish state” is like Germany as an “Aryan state”. And Palestinians are put into ghettos, just like Jews were put into ghettos. Immediately, I became an anti-Zionist. Later, I listened to a talk by Shir Hever. He explained that change from within Israel won’t happen and that therefore pressure from outside is necessary to make Israel stop committing crimes against the indigenous Palestinian people.This convinced me to support BDS. Then, I learned about my own country’s complicity in Israel’s crimes, e.g. the delivery of German submarines to Israel at a discount.
    It took me several months of reading Mondoweiss to realise how evil and unjust Zionism actually is. I think that it was because I didn’t want to believe it. I simply couldn’t believe that there are people who whine about the Holocaust at one moment and shout “Mavet la aravim” at the next moment. How can there be people with such terrible double standards? On Mondoweiss, I kept seeing photos of price tag attacks with Hebrew graffiti. The captions claimed that the slogan means “Death to the Arabs”. I found it so hard to believe that a Jew would call for genocide that I learned the Hebrew alphabet (block and cursive letters) just to be able to check for myself if the given translation of the slogan is really correct. I think that for Germans accepting the truth about Zionism is as difficult as for Jews. Because we are all victims of Zionist propaganda.

    Reply
    • Halo Dorothea,
      Thank you for sharing your candid thoughts. You have a passion for honesty and the truth and therefore it took you to uncomfortable places- but that is how needed change begins. Most Germans would prefer to avoid this issue since they are fearful of being accused of anti-semitism.
      In any case, a few quick points:
      1. That Jews oppose Israel in itself is not a proof that Israel is wrong, as there are Arabs who support Israel, such as Gabriel Nadaf, Walid Shoebat and others. The problem with Israel today is the ongoing occupation, you cannot justify morally keeping people imprisoned, nor their languish in refugee camps due to wanting to live with your own keen. Past suffering does not excuse current suffering of others.
      2. Changing the mindset from below in Germany is very important as Germany is Israel’s biggest supporter and Israel is engaged in a self-destructive course. It is not easy, however.
      3. There are many actions I cannot understand regarding the German government, these include support for Israel, support for the current government in Ukraine that is sending neo-Nazi military units (The Right Sector is in charge of National Guard, Azov Battalion and others), to kill ethnic Russians in Donbass, support for US imperialist policies in the Middle East and so on. It seems that the most convincing explanation is that Germany is indeed to a significant degree entirely submissive to US demands due leverage the US has over Germany.
      4. I would wholly agree with your friend Shir Haver. And again, making Germans more aware is very important. Thank you for your courage, I would say that you are a lover of humanity, a philosemite, which is why you are involved in this uncomfortable yet desperately-needed task.
      Best wishes

      Reply
      • I am a bit confused. In your article, you say that you “strongly oppose Zionism”. This would make you an anti-Zionist. In your reply to me, however, you claim that “the problem with Israel is the ongoing occupation”, not the Nakba. Also, you seem to find it sad that Israel is on a “self-destructive course”. This makes you sound like a “liberal” Zionist. So, what exactly are you? Your statements are contradictory.
        In many cases, the German government is much more right-wing than the German people. For example:
        – Unlike the German government, the vast majority of Germans would want to grant Edward Snowden asylum in Germany.
        – Unlike the German government, the vast majority of Germans support marriage equality.
        – Unlike the German government, most Germans reject a delivery of weapons to the Kurds.
        – Unlike the German government, many Germans want to see a more even-handed approach to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
        However, I disagree with you on your submissiveness theory. According to Glenn Greenwald, the relationship between the USA and Germany is mutual and the USA needs Germany as much as Germany needs the USA. Watch here:
        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jFaC2C74NIc
        I know that it was meant as a compliment, but please don’t call me a philo-Semite. I regard it as an insult. Loving Jews because they are Jewish is as wrong as hating Jews because they are Jewish. In both cases, Jews are reduced to their Jewishness and receive “special treatment”. I, however, support equal treatment. And equal treatment of Jews includes that the self-declared “Jewish state” needs to be treated like any other state that commits crimes against humanity. The problem with German politicians is that they are philo-Semitic. That’s why they let the self-declared “Jewish state” get away with everything. I am reminded of this article by Uri Avnery:
        http://www.palestinechronicle.com/gunter-the-terrible/
        Can I ask you a favour? I wouldn’t be angry if you don’t want to do it. I would really like to know how “justice for Palestinians” is pronounced in Hebrew. I can spell it and I can say “tzedek”, but I have problems with the rest. If you have time, perhaps you could upload an audio file to forvo.com.

        Reply
        • My opinions: I don’t need to fit a certain orthodoxy or camp, if you want to waste your time placing me in one or finding which one is it, then good luck.
          The biggest problem today is Israel’s ongoing occupation and the refugees but you can’t expect me to mention all each time. I support a one state solution, but if a two state is more feasible or would end the occupation sooner, I would support it too.

          Germany-US relations: note how it was revealed that CIA was telling a German journalist what to report on, that US bases exist in Germany and that Germany today takes a position which differs strongly from that of its own population. Putin’s point that the US collects data on politician and black-mails them is part of the answer.
          So, maybe Germany can stand on its own according to Greenwald, but it is not acting that way.

          Tzedek lafalastinim.

          All my best

          Reply
  33. Dear Joshua,
    Thanks for sharing your personal history, most valuable in giving hope. Just too bad that you and your kind of Jewish are a very small minority, from what I gather. Likewise, the ultra-right wing Israelis are very strong and determined to eradicate the Palestinians any time soon, most likely being driven by political ambitions. Accordingly, a change needs to be made very fast, before they complete the Holocaust of Palestinians. At this time the decisive pressure needed should come from outside of Israel, and I do not see anything else being more effective than financial sanctions and boycott of Israel.
    I truly respect you and feel the sincerity of your words, coming out of your heart. I hope to be able to visit independent, free Palestine, some time in the future, coexisting peacefully with Israelis, like you experienced in Ramallah.
    Best wishes
    Paavo

    Reply
  34. Thanks for your article and especially about your individual journey from being a soldier brutalising the native population to seeing with your own eyes what the regime is doing.

    I live in South Africa and the European settlers haven’t been sent away most still won’t integrate with the population here.

    It seems there’s a mindset of some people to feel they’re superior to other humans and the only way to show that superiority is to be exceptionally cruel about it.

    I wish for a time that we can introspect and find that part of our humanity that all religions preach about but most followers seldom emulate.

    Justice!

    Reply
  35. Incredible. I’m an American writer living in Ramallah, and my deepest drive in life now is to unveil this terrible situation for the Palestinians to my own communities back home. I can share (and have shared) hundreds of journalistic/political articles but there’s almost nothing more valid than sharing an experience like yours to raise awareness. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Mark, what we in America need is more of the truth about this terrible situation. Little by little stories like Joshua’s help some of us — who are willing to open our eyes — see what has been happening, what our own country has been supporting, for far too long. Some of us are new to this campaign, but the more truth we can spread, the sooner we have a chance of changing the situation. One of the first things, in my opinion, is to get our government to stop having Israel’s back, stop protecting a bully. Please do what you can, we here in the States will continue to do what we can (I just sent letters to my US Senators and Congressman yesterday), and Thanks to God for people like Joshua who are willing to take the risk of telling the truth. Blessings, Joshua!!

      Reply
  36. This is an amazing story, and I don’t think enough people realize the brainwash that occurs in the army to young unaware soldiers. It’s truly horrifying and scary. I’m glad you had the guts to come out and speak about your experience as a former Israeli soldier, and thankful for your continuous efforts to raise global awareness!

    Reply
  37. Joshua- I salute your sincerity, courage and commitment to be another outspoken and fearless Jewish (and Human) voice for a Just Peace that ends decades of violent oppression, brutalization and dehumanization of Palestinians by the Israeli state with its strong military might. As someone who grew up during the infamous decades of grand apartheid ideology in South Africa, and who experienced firsthand (while growing up and long into my adult years) its racist and military oppression and control, I can understand, relate to, and empathisize with and support with passion the cause of the Palestinian people who continue in their legitimate and relentless struggle to end the illegal occupation and usurpation of Israel control of the region, including Gaza and the West Bank. The ANC (and other groups who resisted apartheid) were branded ‘terrorist’ and ‘communist’ and a threat to SA ‘law and order’ for decades, and it was also an often brutal SA Defence Force was used to enforce and protect this so-called ‘legitimate State’ with the backing of many (mainly white) citizens in the country and with their active support (afterall, it was only ‘white’ citizens in SA who had the vote for years and could have kept the apartheid state in power for so long, and it was many ‘white males’ who were conscripted into the SA Defence force to fight the ‘enemy’ on the border, and the ‘enemy’ in the townships of SA. And of course there was Israel (and the USA and UK among others) who supported this apartheid State for years and years. Their moral culpability in the oppression of millions of South Africans for decades is an historic fact. Then there were those, like you, and sadly a small minority by comparison in our own country from among the ‘ruling’ group, who dared to speak out and who bore reproach, alienation, imprisonment. and even death for their stand. And now, since 1994, we have so-called ‘terrorists’ in power in SA and the world recognises SA. Yes, we have immense problems and challenges to traverse now, and some of our leadership is not what many would want to take us forward, but we would NEVER want to go back to the notorious days of apartheid rule. And we continue to pray for and actively support (in different ways) the courageous struggles of Palestinian people, and the growing number of Jewish voices and supporters like yourself, who dare to speak out and act to bring about that ‘new day’ for all truly peace-loving peoples in the region/

    Reply
    • Thank you for your points. Indeed, as in South Africa, it is difficult psychologically to break out of the privileged collective.

      Reply
  38. dear josh,
    an amazing read. great answers in the comments. I’m really touched by your story, and your “state of mind”

    when have you made your story public?
    I heard of people being threatend because they spoke out against the unjust.
    have you experienced such things?

    ps: people like nick basset, never experienced things like you, he rather repeat propaganda he heard somewhere.
    and he cares about comparisons, like comparing zionists to nazis is worse than the daily killing and humiliation of Palestinians

    Reply
    • Hi,

      Thank you.
      Yes, made it public here in my blog.
      Israel is a democracy for Jews, so Israeli Jews can say whatever is on their minds, while Arabs citizens face greater prosecution. For example: http://www.imemc.org/article/67668

      Reply
  39. Bless your heart and thank you for sharing your journey! I am delighted and inspired by your good thoughts and actions.

    Reply
    • Thank you. Same to you. Palestinians who go on living every day with dignity despite apartheid conditions in East Jerusalem and elsewhere are the real heroes.

      Reply
  40. Salaam/Shalom Joshua,

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us, people like you are a beacon of hope. Your description of the demonstration at Nabi Saleh terrified and moved me immensely.

    I pray that G-d gives you success in your endeavours and eases your path.

    Gabriel

    Reply
  41. Joshua, First thanks for being a Human, but I need answer to this, dont you think that someone somewhere had created a nationality out of religion and sold it to the world?, Jews have features of every race on earth, Africans,caucasians, latino,indians and all whites,Blacks ….how can a nation claim nationalism out of religion. there was lots of Palestinian Jews in palestine with palestinian passports like Iraqi jews with Iraqi passports, German jews, and so on… and they look Iraqis and Yemenis and Egyptians…. Ethiopians , they all supposedly believe in Judaism,but not a nation. otherwise all christians should live in one country and claim nationality. lot of Jews still live in palestine as palestinians and refuse to relinquish their palestinian nationality even with all attraction offered to them. Thank you again Joushua

    Reply
  42. Apparently, my question about whether you are an anti-Zionist or a “liberal” Zionist upset you. Sorry for that. This really wasn’t my intention. It was merely an ordinary question for clarification. Your contradictory statements combined with the label “pro-Palestinian” in your title reminded me of what Omar Barghouti said during one of his talks in Germany:
    “The most important right is the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Why is that the most important right? Simply because 68% of the Palestinian people are refugees. 50% of the Palestinian people live in exile, outside of historic Palestine. 12% are Palestinian citizens of Israel. And 38% are in the West Bank and Gaza, including East Jerusalem. This means that anyone who says ‘I support Palestinian rights and therefore I support ending the occupation.’ is only saying ‘I support SOME Palestinian rights for a MINORITY of the Palestinian people.’ 38% in fact. They are not addressing THE Palestinian people.”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2y-8tnOr7cs (from 7:10 to 8:30)
    In other words: If you were a “liberal” Zionist, then your self-identification as “pro-Palestinian” would be incorrect.
    Of course, you are right when you say that I can’t expect you to mention all issues all the time. However, your emphasis on the occupation made you sound like a “liberal” Zionist. Anti-Zionists usually emphasise the Nakba and the refugees’ right of return, because that’s the most important issue.
    Also, I remember to have read somewhere that some “liberal” Zionist groups and individuals deliberately misuse the label “pro-Palestinian” in order to deceive people and to make it look like politicial Zionism were compatible with equality for Palestinians. Their ulterior motive is to preserve the Jewish supremacist state on at least 78% of Palestinian land via a so-called “two-state solution”.
    The focus needs to be on Palestinian rights, not on the number of states in historic Palestine. No matter how many states there will be in historic Palestine, Palestinians deserve equal rights in each and every one of these states. So, a two-state solution with Israel as a “Jewish state” would be an unjust solution. If Israel continues to exist, then it must become an “Israeli state” with equal rights for all its citizens, including those Palestinian refugees who choose to exercise their right of return.

    Reply
    • Again, I do not live to please you or seek your approval.

      Your point that by saying Israel is self-destructing I support it makes no sense.

      I would like to see Israel replaced by a genuine democracy, but not because I am put to the corner by a thought police/Inquisition.

      If you enjoy preaching to the crowd or constructing straw men then shooting them, that is fine with me, but probably a waste of time.

      Reply
  43. You are so brave to write this, Insha Allah (God willing) one day Jerusalem will find peace and the bloodshed will end. When humanity prevails.

    Reply
  44. As a South-East Muslim who wishes to advocate for Palestinian rights one day, I cannot be happier after reading this post. I only hope that more people like you can break the roots of ignorance running rampant in our society nowadays. Kudos to your piece.

    Reply
  45. Ahh, to have a world with more yous. Well done Mr. Tartakovsky!

    Reply
  46. wow. brave. it was so validating to read this. i spent time in Israel on a kibbutz in the 70’s witnessing really bad treatment of sephardic jews and palestinians by isrealis and I just could not understand it. On the one hand they got along, but on the other many isrealis you could see thought the palestinians and any arabs in fact were of a lower caste. i had some terrible encounters with israeli soldiers – one attacked my brother on a bus as he thought he was arab and another group of soldiers searched us and held us hostage in a youth hostel for the same reason. this was ashock for and irish catholic canadian teenager. having been brought up by parents involved in the anti-apartheid struggle and having worked on Cesar Chavez boycott of california grapes in Canada I had been raised with the idea that Israel was a moral and just state for all the reasons you mention in your writing. so i felt brainwashed too – I would question the bad behaviour I saw and challenge it but I was never taken seriously and was often laughed at for my position -infantilized I guess. Your writing is so important for mainstream or moderate jews to read so they can feel OK about taking a more unpopular position in their communities. it is so polarized here in Canada on this issue. I have been spat on and cursed at — been told I am a Nazi killing Jewish babies by well-dressed middle class jews in Toronto – at a rally to support the boats breaking the blockade. it boggles my mind that people who are like me can behave like that. I have seen young beautiful jewish kids laughing and dancing at rallies in toronto to support the palestinian struggle, chanting anti-arab slogans and making light of the recent incursion into Gaza. My son is jewish so it is really hard for me to see this – it seems so incongruous with the reality of what is going on and speaks to the strength of the brainwashing. It warms my heart to read what you have written and most of the responses to your writing by commentors here. gives me hope. and energy to keep working for change. thanks. for me and for my son. If you come to Toronto to speak or even to visit please get in touch with the people at Beit Zeitoun.

    Reply
  47. Thank you for your bravery and deep insight. No naivete in this piece, point-on.

    Reply
  48. You give me the strength to continue fighting for Palestinian rights. thank you so much for your truth and sadness. Did you ever hear of this???::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::Lamargo Petersen
    commented on a video on YouTube.
    Shared publicly – 17 Feb 2014

    Zionists invading Palestine against the RULE of the CREATOR

    The Zionist “statesmen” ridicule the sacred oath which the Creator placed upon the Jews in the Diaspora. Our Torah, in Tractate Ksubos, folio 111, specifies that the Creator, blessed be He, swore the Jews not to occupy the Holy Land by force, even if it appears that they have the force to do so; and not rebel against the Nations.

    Reply
  49. Dear Joshua your experience and conclusions are deeply inspiring and uplifting. I too have observed the defensiveness in Jewish friends the world over on the topic of the “defence” course of the Israeli government, and have learnt as Byron Katie says, defence is the first mode of attack. As one of the first generations of South Africans to go to school in mixed racial classes I have celebrated my own Greek/Portuguese heritage whilst being enriched by my African, Malay, Indo, Dutch and Anglo fellows. Today we share a common culture, nationhood and love for the land we were all born in.

    It would be truly gorgeous to see a similar sense of unity amongst a new generation of children, born into a unified state in Israel/Palestine that recognises all who care to to call it their home as honoured, worthy human beings. I believe Israel and Palestine hold the keys to bring about a wave of peaceful global transformation.

    Thank you again for your efforts for peace and introspection.

    Reply
    • Hi David, the question is if we will see it in our life time, I’m quite skeptical and concerned much blood will be shed first.

      Reply
  50. Joshua:
    I salute your courage in going public with your realization. I’m sure there are any number of conscientious Jews who will see the truth in your narrative. How did your family react to the change in your understanding? What would you say to your former colleagues in the IDF to help them see the reality around them and overcome the indoctrination that makes them devalue the lives of Palestinians?
    Zia

    Reply
    • I would say people should visit Ramallah and experience Palestine for themselves. It involves overcoming psychological barriers but is far safer than people realize. There are plenty of good clubs and cafes.

      Reply
  51. Joshua I believe you serve as a fine example of a good man who educated himself out of a power called “nationalism”. I believe that this ideology of :nationalism” and “patriotism” is the worse enemy of the Israeli people and it is even a threat to Judaism as a religion itself; and, you have surpassed this power. thank you and I hope others will follow in your footsteps!!

    Reply
  52. Hello Joshua,

    I thought your words were just lovely in their sincerity. I am a married woman, probably old enough to be your mother in Canada and have been pro-human rights for a very long time. I support Palestinian self-determination or what the Palestinians choose for themselves. I support human rights for every person in the world regardless of age, ethnicity, gender or sexuality.

    I believe that after 1500 years of persecution by Christian Europeans, European Jews were certainly entitled to want to seek a solution to the problem of pograms, genocide and oppression. I firmly believe that if European Jews had been permitted to integrate there would be no Israel or need for Zionist state anywhere.

    After the murders of Palestinian and Israeli children in May and June, along with the arrests of more than 100 children in the WB, I launched an organization to put an end to these crimes. It is still preliminary but I am doing good work, including trying to get the mainstream media to have more balanced reporting on the Arab World and Palestinians. Such as naming them and not referring to them as militants for example.

    My husband is from Brazil and his family is from Denmark/Netherlands originally. His father’s side was Jewish over 100 years ago however upon their arrival to Brazil they identified as Catholic. It is heartbreaking isn’t it? To deny who you are because you desperately are seeking a fresh start free from persecution.

    Once I get my organization in good stead, I am also going to do work in the favaelas. I am going to bring opportunities to the youth to amplify their voices and expand their skills. Sustainable development along with psycho-social support.

    Please continue to shine your voice. You say you are pro-Palestinian but for me you are pro-human rights.

    Please also continue to write about your experiences as a soldier. I think it is very helpful for those on the fence to understand that Israeli soldiers are mostly young people put in very tenuous situations through indoctrination. That it is a disproportionate “defense” which in my own writings I deny as Jordan and Egypt are now peace partners.

    Occupation is dreadful. It causes trauma for both sides, and mostly for the vulnerable. I don’t care how long it takes, I am in this for the long haul. All humans have the right to self-determine and to live with the same freedoms and rights as many others. There is no difference between any of us as there is no such thing as race. Yes there are genetic markers that indicate geographic locations but in the end we all have the same internal organs and biological make-up.

    Take care my dear, and as I say keep speaking and writing.

    Shawn Robinson

    Reply
  53. I am so proud of you and many others like yourself who support the truth .i was overwhelmed and cried while reading this .i hope many will come forward to acknowledge the suffering of the Palestinians.God bless you

    Reply
  54. Salaam/ hello
    Thank you for sharing ur journey of enlightenment with us. I feel we as beleivers of any faith are being used as pawn to fight one another and go far away from the rightous path. I pray for the day jesus is amongst us and we all live in peace and harmony. Your journey is inspiring and has made me re adress my conception of jewish people.

    Reply
  55. It was heart warming to read your story Joshua. I can’t believe the injustices brought upon the Palestinian people in these modern times. Hopefully more people within Israel can read your story and ask themselves such hard hitting questions.

    Reply
  56. I endorse Joshua as the next president of a free Palestine!! My policy is to not comment on anything, drama always follows because not everyone agrees with your point & then they feel an insult is the way to get you to agree. Right…NOT! You nailed it though about the Israeli paranoia, the Palestinians suffering becasue the Jews did, the cultural similarities, etc. I pray that this beautiful country will one day be peaceful. I pray the Zionists leaders will one day realize they are harming their citizens more than protecting them. Everybody has the right to live freely. The Israeli cituzens believe they are living in the only democratic country in the Middle East. This is the 1st & largest lie told in that region. Israeli citizens need to open their eyes & ears & realize the right to think fir themselves is the 1st right taken away from them. They are just as oppressed as the Palestinians. They are ruled by a dictatorship not a democracy. i pray for them as much as i pray for Palestinians. Both are being blindsided & suffering to further the agendas of the Zionists regime. Every leader that has wronged or mislead its people needs to be reminded that we all have the same God & one day will be held accountable byb their creator.
    #peaceinpalestine

    Reply

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