2017: A Year of Foreboding Anniversaries for Israel-Palestine

By Ilana Sumka

Published in Dutch in Knack, January 21st, 2017:  http://www.knack.be/nieuws/wereld/israel-palestina-er-is-nog-veel-werk-om-de-fouten-uit-het-verleden-recht-te-zetten/article-opinion-804503.html

A few days ago I put up my new calendar to welcome 2017, and while often I welcome the fresh start that a new year offers, this year I hung up my calendar with a sense of trepidation and foreboding.  Some of that apprehension surely comes from the fear of rising right-wing sentiment in Europe and the corresponding racism and xenophobia that it heralds; add to that Brexit, a global refugee crisis and a Trump presidency in the US and it’s not surprising that my anxiety is higher than normal.  But much of my apprehension comes from profound uncertainty I feel regarding the future of Israel-Palestine.

Photo: Direct action in Hebron, The Center for Jewish nonviolence

Photo: Direct action in Hebron, The Center for Jewish nonviolence


As a religiously observant Jewish person who is deeply concerned with advancing peace and justice in Israel-Palestine, the unease I feel about the year 2017 is connected to the significant anniversaries that this year marks: one hundred years since the Balfour Declaration was issued; seventy years since the United Nations adopted a resolution in support of the partition of Palestine; and fifty years since Israel conquered the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza.

All of these anniversaries – and the subsequent wars and displacement of people from their homes – are reminders of how much work there is to do to right past wrongs and chart a path for the future based on a genuine commitment to equal rights and self-determination for all.

On November 2, 1917, Britain issued the “Balfour Declaration” named after its author, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour and sent it to Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community.  It called for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.  It had two caveats: in the process of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine, nothing should harm the civil and religious rights of the pre-existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine – that is, the Palestinians – and nothing should harm the rights and political status of Jews in any other countries.  Both of these conditions have been egregiously violated in the one hundred years since the Balfour Declaration.

As a young Jew growing up with a strong attachment to Israel, I was taught that the Balfour declaration was the first major political victory for the Jewish people in the twentieth century, since, in language simplified for my young teenage ears, ‘the United Kingdom gave Palestine to the Jews.’   I will always stand by the call for Jewish self-determination and the demand for full equal rights for all Jews.  What I question is the path we’ve taken in an attempt to get there.

It was only later in my adult life that I came to question the very assumptions that the Balfour Declaration is based on.  What right did Britain have to ‘offer’ a piece of land in the Middle East, whether to Jews or anyone else?  And what about the people who were living on this piece of land, what rights did they have?

Seventy years ago, in 1947, the United Nations voted in favor of partitioning Palestine to create two states: an official Jewish homeland and a Palestinian State.  While Israel was established the following year, a Palestinian State was never established.  Again, a significant political victory for the Jewish people.  And again, no recognition in the Jewish communities that raised me that this represented a devastating loss of land and sovereignty for the people already living in Palestine at the time.  Instead of recognizing the profound loss and humiliation that the partition plan represented for the Palestinians, too many Jewish communities – then and now – blame the Palestinians for not being grateful to be left with half of what was once theirs.

Fifty years ago, Israel conquered Gaza and the West Bank in the 1967 war.  The result has been five decades of Occupation under Israeli military rule: settlements, more refugees, land confiscation, home demolitions, unequal water distribution and the wide-spread imprisonment of Palestinians, including children.  Fifty years later, in the first week of January 2017 alone, the Israeli government demolished 151 Palestinian homes in the West Bank – nearly four times the weekly average of the previous year.  That a ‘weekly average of Palestinian home demolitions’ even exists is a shocking testament to the inhumane treatment the Palestinians have received under Israeli military rule in the West Bank, now reaching its 50th anniversary this year.

We were greeted by one bright piece of news just before the new year, when the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that reaffirmed that settlements are illegal and are a violation under international law.  The group I’m a member of, Een Andere Joods Stem, applauds the endorsement of the UNSC resolution by the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs. We call upon the minister to take concrete steps to promote the implementation of the decision, starting by instructing Belgian companies to halt any business activity in the settlements and by banning the import of settlements products to Belgium.

The significance of these three anniversaries has prompted us to join a European-wide campaign called “Enough is Enough.”   Jewish groups from across Europe will proudly affirm our commitment to human rights for Palestinians and call for an end to the occupation through various political and artistic events during this monumental year.  In addition, hundreds of Jews from around the world will travel to the West Bank this summer with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence to stand in solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli activists to call for an end to 50 years of occupation.

While the Israeli government attempts to equate its right-wing and repressive politics as representative of Jews worldwide, more and more Jews are speaking up to say that we believe in human rights over discrimination.

To this day, we are living with the consequences of these significant anniversaries: the existence of at least five million Palestinian refugees; the status as second-class citizens of the one and a half million Palestinians who live inside Israel; and the lives of some 4 million Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza are living proof that these anniversaries – from Balfour to the 1967 war – have created more problems

Jewish Israelis are also living with consequences: an on-going sense of insecurity and fear in the region, asking, “why don’t the other Arab nations like us?”  This stems in part from a failure of the Israeli public school system to teach the actual history of the region, and is combined with an utter inability or unwillingness by so many Jewish Israelis to see how their presence and creation of their homeland has come at an unbearably high cost to the Palestinians who had been living in Palestine for generations.

For the past hundred, seventy, and fifty years, we have been engaged in an ill-fated game of human dominoes in which one piece is knocked down, setting off a chain reaction and knocking down piece after piece after piece.  Only until we are able to adopt a truly global understanding of shared humanity will we be able to devise solutions together, creatively, that establish genuine, long term, sustainable win-win outcomes for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Ilana Sumka is the founder and director of the Center for Jewish Nonviolence. With two decades of experience as an organizer, educator and activist, Ilana previously spent five years as the Jerusalem director of Encounter. Ilana currently lives in Belgium where she co-founded Een Andere Joodse Stem/Another Jewish Voice to elevate progressive Jewish voices in the Belgian and European political discourse.

EAJS supports the UN Security Council Resolution

The West Bank settlement Beitar Illit can be seen in the background of an olive tree field in the Palestinian village Husan, where 38 trees were damaged by settlers in October 2013. Photo credit: EAPPI/J. Kaprio

Een Andere Joodse Stem/Another Jewish Voice expresses its support for the UN Security Council resolution to reaffirm the illegality of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the demand to stop all its settlement activities.

All settlement activity dispossesses Palestinians of their lands and intentionally makes the occupation of the West Bank irreversible; it therefore damages the chances for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The fierce and absurd reaction of Netanyahu and his ministers to the resolution reaffirms that the current Israeli government is not interested in stopping the occupation or taking any steps towards peace. As such a concrete action from the international community is needed.

EAJS therefore supports the endorsement of the UNSC resolution by the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs. We call the minister to take concrete steps to promote the implementation of the decision on regional, national and European levels and to start by instructing all Belgian companies to halt any business activity in the settlements and by banning the import of settlements products to Belgium.

(Photo: The West Bank settlement Beitar Illit can be seen in the background of an olive tree field in the Palestinian village Husan, where 38 trees were damaged by settlers in October 2013. Photo credit: EAPPI/J. Kaprio)


De Bedoeïenen van Jahalin : Onteigeningen en weerstand in de Westelijke Jordaanoever

De Bedoeïenen van Jahalin : Onteigeningen en weerstand in de Westelijke Jordaanoever

Geïntroduceerd en gemodereerd door Brigitte Herremans

Wanneer? Zaterdag 10 december 2016, 18u-20u

Waar? Zaal Arenberg, Gemeenschapscentrum Pianofabriek , Fortstraat 35, 1060 Brussel

Op initiatief van de VN (in 1950) werd 10 december wereldwijd uitgeroepen tot de Dag van de Mensenrechten: een dag waarop alle lidstaten en organisaties worden uitgenodigd om de rechten van de mens in de kijker te zetten. Dit jaar willen we vanuit Een Andere Joodse Stem van de gelegenheid gebruik maken om te sensibiliseren over de schendingen van mensenrechten die schering en inslag zijn in de Bezette Gebieden. Het niet-naleven van mensenrechten is een wereldbreed fenomeen, dat ons sterkt om vanuit een humanistische grondslag op te komen voor de rechten van specifieke individuen en groepen, waaronder de rechten van de Palestijnen.

Iedereen is van harte uitgenodigd om deel te nemen aan onze actie “De Bedoeïenen van Jahalin: Onteigeningen en weerstand in de Westelijke Jordaanoever”. We ontvangen vertegenwoordigers van de Jahalin-stam, een stam die in 1949 uit de Negev-woestijn verdreven is na toenemende druk van Israël en zich vervolgens gevestigd heeft ten Oosten van Jeruzalem in de Westelijke Jordaanoever. Heden ten dage wordt de stam opnieuw geconfronteerd met het risico op uitzetting, omdat Israël zijn verblijfplaats ziet als een strategische ligging tussen Jeruzalem en een aantal Israëlische nederzettingen in de Westelijke Jordaanoever.

We vertonen een korte film over de geschiedenis van de Jahalin, gevolgd door getuigenissen door hun vertegenwoordigers over de dagdagelijkse realiteit en de strijd waarin ze verwikkeld zitten.

The Bedouin of the Jahalin: Dispossession and Resistance in the West Bank

Introduced and moderated by Brigitte Herremans

When? Saturday, December 10th, 2016, 18:00-20:00

Where? Zaal Arenberg, Community center Pianofabriek, Rue du Fort 35, 1060 Brussels

In 1950 the UN invited all member states and organizations to celebrate yearly each December 10th as Human Rights Day. At Een Andere Joodse Stem/Another Jewish Voice, we believe this day should remind people of the human rights violations that happen on a daily basis in the occupied territories. It is true that disrespect for basic human rights continues to be a worldwide phenomenon but we must always stand for the rights of specific individuals and collectivities. By reaffirming Palestinian rights, we reaffirm our common humanity.

You are all invited to attend our event “The Bedouin of the Jahalin: Dispossession and resistance in the West Bank”.
We will have the opportunity to host representatives from the Jahalin tribe. The tribe has been evicted from the Negev during 1949 following increasing pressure from Israel, and moved to the West Bank in an area East of Jerusalem. Today, the tribe faces new threats of eviction as its area of residence is considered by Israel a strategic corridor territory between Jerusalem and the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

After a short movie about the history of the Jahalin, we will hear testimonies from their representatives about their everyday lives and continuous struggles.

Join us on Friday 23/09 for a potluck Shabbat dinner and a nice discussion!

EAJS is 2! To celebrate the 2nd birthday of EAJS we are holding a Shabbat potluck dinner to get to know each other better, eat, discuss and exchange ideas. We are keen to hear the views of our members about what we’ve been doing in the past two years and how you would like EAJS to evolve as an organization in the future.

Do you have the feeling that racism is on the rise? Or is it just the opposite? Have you ever been subjected to racism in Belgium, or have you ever witnessed racism? We propose an informal discussion about racism in Belgium (anti-Semitism and any other form of racism), and we would be very interested to hear your own personal experiences on the subject.

Everyone is invited on Friday 23/9/2016 in Brussels! Please share this invitation and invite your friends. For more details contact us by email or check out our facebook page.

A Jewish Exodus from Europe? Zionism, Antisemitism and the Rhetoric of Return – A Talk with Prof. Brian Klug (Oxford)

Een Andere Joodse stem/Another Jewish Voice (www.eajs.be) welcomes:

Prof. Brian Klug (Oxford)

A Jewish Exodus from Europe? Zionism, Antisemitism and the Rhetoric of Return

Wednesday May 11th at 19:30 at Piano Fabriek Rue du Fort 35, 1060 Saint-Gilles 


Less than three weeks after the attack in Paris on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in January 2015, Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said that there is “a real threat of another Jewish exodus from Europe”. This idea has gripped the imagination of a section of both the Jewish public and the general public. Feature articles have appeared in Newsweek, The Atlantic and Haaretz within the last two years viewing the idea against the background of an alleged rise in antisemitism. The talk will critique this approach, arguing that the Exodus theme is loaded, ideologically and politically, with deep connections to other strands in Zionist thought. This was summed up when Netanyahu called Israel the “true home” for all Jews. The talk will explore the ramifications of these ideas, with an eye to both the Jewish future in Europe and the conflict in Israel-Palestine.

Brian Klug (PhD in Social Thought, University of Chicago) is at the University of Oxford, where he is Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy at St. Benet’s Hall and a member of the faculty of philosophy. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations, University of Southampton. He has lectured and published extensively on Jewish identity, antisemitism, Islamophobia, race and related topics. His latest book is Words of Fire: Selected Essays of Ahad Ha’am (2015). Other books include Being Jewish and Doing Justice: Bringing Argument to Life (2011), Offence: The Jewish Case (2009) and, as co-editor, A Time to Speak Out (2008). In 2007 he co-founded Independent Jewish Voices (UK). He is Associate Editor of the journal Patterns of Prejudice and a member of both the Scientific Board of The Islamophobia Studies Yearbook and the International Advisory Board of ReOrient: The Journal of Critical Muslim Studies.

Recent Articles:

‘The Moral Hysteria of “Je Suis Charlie”‘ (Mondoweiss, 2015):  http://mondoweiss.net/2015/01/moral-hysteria-charlie/

‘Does Moral Opposition to ‘Operation Protective Edge’ Translate into Antisemitism?’ (The Critique, 2015): http://www.thecritique.com/articles/does-moral-opposition-to-operation-protective-edge-translate-into-antisemitism/

‘Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Future in Europe’ (OpenDemocracy, 2013):  https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/brian-klug/anti-semitism-and-jewish-future-in-europe

EAJS Statement following the attacks in Brussels

Een Andere Joodse Stem/ Another Jewish Voice is shocked and saddened by the horrible events in Brussels. We send our condolences to the victims’ families and hope for a quick recovery for the wounded.

We are angry and sad to see that there are people who wish to spread hate and violence by targeting innocent civilians. Our answer to hate and violence is not to react with more hate and violence; we are  afraid, however, that some political forces in Belgium and across Europe will try to lead people in this direction. Militarization of our public spaces, of our borders and our foreign policy will not bring more safety, either in the short or long term; an international policy of peace, redistribution of wealth and mutual respect combined with concrete actions against the funding sources and political support for criminal organizations is the only way forward.

Especially in these difficult days, EAJS/AJV sees that there is an urgent need to increase the understanding and cooperation between people of all origins and faiths in order to create a solid ground for a safe and inclusive society for everyone.

At this moment we wish to recall the words of Martin Luther King:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;

only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate;

only love can do that.

Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…

The chain reaction of evil –
hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars –
must be broken,
or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.


Een Andere Joodse Stem / Another Jewish Voice

Belgium, 1 April 2016


Our first event of 2016 is on Sunday, January 31st in Brussels, which will be a movie projection about the Bund.


We’ll gather at 2:00 PM at the community center “Pianofabriek” in Sint-Gillis to watch Eran Turbiners’ film “Bunda’im”. The movie, which will be introduced by Amir Haberkorn, maps the
traces of the Bundist movement in Israel. After the movie projection there will be time for discussion and socializing. We hope to welcome you there! Would you like to know more about the Bund? Here’s a link to an article with some background information:


Practical info: 2:00 p.m. at the Pianofabriek, Rue du Fort 35, 1060 St-Gilles.+/- 15 min walk from Brussels South railway station or 5 min walk from “Parvis de St Gilles”.

Dec. 10th, Brussels: War Against the People – An evening with Dr. Jeff Halper

Co-rganized by Een Andere Joodse Stem (EAJS)

and Union des Progressistes Juifs de Belgique  (UPJB)

On the occasion of the international human rights day

and the 5th Night of Hanukkah


Thursday, December 10th, 2015, 19:30

Overwinningsstraat 61 Rue de la Victoire, Brussels




  • Lighting Hanukka candles
  • War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification”
    Book presentation by Dr. Jeff Halper

Jeff Halper follows in his book Israel’s export of the weaponry, security systems and surveillance technologies, developed in the ‘laboratory’ of the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel globalizes its Palestinian experience, equipping and training militaries, police forces and homeland security agencies around the world. As global elites are increasingly keen to protect their privileges from both external and internal challengers, Israel is forging a place at the heart of “global pacification” industry.

Jeff Halper holds a PhD in anthropology. He is an author, lecturer and political activist. He was born in the US and emigrated to Israel in 1973. He is the co-founder and former head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), a non-violent, direct-action Israeli peace and human rights organization that resists the Israeli Occupation on the ground, especially its policy of demolishing Palestinian homes. Dr. Halper is currently the Coordinator of the War Against the People project of The People Yes! Network (TPYN).

  • The Belgian-Israeli militarized exchange

Surveillance technologies developed by Israeli security companies to control the Palestinians are also imported to Belgian cities and neighborhoods. Some Belgian universities have joint research projects with Israeli weapon companies. Belgian companies export or transfer weapons to Israel, making their share of profits from the ongoing occupation. Can we raise our voice against Belgium’s complicity in the Israeli occupation?

Itamar Shachar, a member of Een Andere Joodse Stem, will present the Belgian campaign for a military embargo on Israel.

  • Open debate with the audience

Moderator: Dr. Anya Topolski, Co-founder of Een Andere Joodse Stem

The event will be held in English with translation to French

For more information please contact infoeajs@gmail.com

15.11, Antwerp – Other Israeli voices: a discussion on Israel-Palestine, History and Memory with Eitan Bronstein and Eleonore Merza

15.11.2015 11:00 – Elcker Ik Breughelstraat 31 Antwerpen

Een Andere Joodse Stem warmly invites you to a discussion on Israel-Palestine, history and memory with Eleonore Merza and Eitan Bronstein from the initiative de-Colonizer; Eitan is also the founder of the Israeli organization Zochrot (“We remember”).

With the creation of the State of Israel, the Palestinians who were expelled or fled their homes were not only banished to refugee camps, but were also marginalized from history. The harsh cost of the Nakba, as the Palestinian catastrophe is called, evaded Israeli, Jewish and international intellectuals and policymakers for decades. Today, their story is being told by a new generation of Jewish and Israeli historians. With new and inclusive visions for Israel-Palestine that are based on a critical reading of Jewish and Palestinian history, Eitan Bronstein and Eleonore Merza tackle the conflict at its core.

As Jews, we can appreciate, understand, respect, and honor the history of Palestinians; this does not mean we ignore the differently-tragic history of Jewish people. In order to find a way forward, we have to understand systemic violence of occupation and dispossession in Israel-Palestine, both today and in the past. Only then can we contribute to an end to the cycle of violence.

The event will take place in English. Free entrance, all are welcome.