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Naomi Klein: Jews Must Raise Their Voices for Palestine, Oppose the “False Idol of Zionism”

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Thousands of Jewish Americans and allies gathered in Brooklyn on Tuesday for a “Seder in the Streets to Stop Arming Israel” on the second night of Passover, held just a block from the home of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, to protest ongoing U.S. support for the Israeli assault on Gaza. “Too many of our people are worshiping a false idol,” said award-winning author and activist Naomi Klein, one of several speakers at Tuesday’s rally. “They are enraptured by it. They are drunk on it. They are profaned by it. And that false idol is called Zionism.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Among those who addressed the crowd during the seder was award-winning author and activist Naomi Klein. This is some of what she had to say.

NAOMI KLEIN: My friends, I’ve been thinking about Moses and his rage when he came down from the mount to find the Israelites worshiping a golden calf. The ecofeminist in me has always been uneasy about this story. What kind of god is jealous of animals? What kind of god wants to hoard all the sacredness of the Earth for himself? But there is, of course, a less literal way of understanding this story. It is a lesson about false idols, about the human tendency to worship the profane and shining, to look to the small and material rather than the large and transcendent.

What I want to say to you this evening at this revolutionary and historic Seder in the Streets is that too many of our people are worshiping a false idol once again. They are enraptured by it. They are drunk on it. They are profaned by it. And that false idol is called Zionism.

It is a false idol that takes our most profound biblical stories of justice and emancipation from slavery, the story of Passover itself, and turns them into brutalist weapons of colonial land theft, roadmaps for ethnic cleansing and genocide. It is a false idol that has taken the transcendent idea of the Promised Land, a metaphor for human liberation that has traveled across faiths to every corner of this globe, and dared to turn it into a deed of sale for a militarist ethnostate.

Political Zionism’s version of liberation is itself profane. From the start, it required the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and ancestral lands in the Nakba. From the start, it has been at war with collective dreams of liberation. At a seder, it is worth remembering that this includes the dreams of liberation and self-determination of the Egyptian people. This false idol of Zionism has long equated Israeli safety with Egyptian dictatorship and unfreedom and client state. From the start, it has produced an ugly kind of freedom that saw Palestinian children not as human beings, but as demographic threats, much as the Pharaoh in the Book of Exodus feared the growing population of Israelites and thus ordered the death of their sons. And as we know, Moses was saved from that by being put in a basket and adopted by an Egyptian woman.

Zionism has brought us to our present moment of cataclysm, and it is time that we say clearly it has always been leading us here. It is a false idol that has led far too many of our own people down a deeply immoral path that now has them justifying the shredding of core commandments — “Thou shall not kill,” “Thou shall not steal,” “Thou shall not covet” — the commandments brought down from the mount. It is a false idol that equates Jewish freedom with cluster bombs that kill and maim Palestinian children.

Zionism is a false idol that has betrayed every Jewish value, including the value that we place on questioning a practice embedded in the seder itself with its four questions asked by the youngest child. It also betrays the love that we have as a people for text and for education. Today this false idol dares to justify the bombing of every single university in Gaza, the destruction of countless schools, of archives, of printing presses, the killing of hundreds of academics, scholars, journalists, poets, essayists. This is what Palestinians call scholasticide, the killing of the infrastructure and the means of education.

Meanwhile, in this city, the universities call the NYPD and barricade themselves against the grave threat posed by their own students asking them —

CROWD: Shame!

NAOMI KLEIN: — students embodying the spirit of the seder, asking the most basic question, asking questions like “How can you claim to believe in anything at all, least of all us, while you enable, invest in and collaborate with this genocide?”

The false idol of Zionism has been allowed to grow unchecked for far too long. So tonight we say it ends here. Our Judaism cannot be contained by an ethnostate, for our Judaism is internationalist by its very nature. Our Judaism cannot be protected by the rampaging military of that ethnostate, for all that military does is sow sorrow and reap hatred, including hatred against us as Jews. Our Judaism is not threatened by people raising their voices in solidarity with Palestine across lines of race, ethnicity, physical ability, gender identity and generations. Our Judaism is one of those voices and knows that in this chorus lies both our safety and our collective liberation.

Our Judaism is the Judaism of the Passover Seder, the gathering in ceremony to share food and wine with loved ones and strangers alike. This ritual, light enough to carry on our backs, in need of nothing but one another, even with — we don’t need walls. We need no temple, no rabbi. And there is a role for everyone, including especially the smallest child. The seder is portable, a diaspora technology if ever there was one. It is made to hold our collective grieving, our contemplation, our questioning, our remembering, and our reviving and rekindling of the revolutionary spirit.

So, tonight — so, look around. This here is our Judaism. As waters rise and forests burn and nothing is certain, we pray at the altar of solidarity and mutual aid, no matter the cost. We don’t need or want the false idol of Zionism. We want freedom from the project that commits genocide in our name. We want freedom from the ideology that has no plan for peace, except for deals with the murderous, theocratic petrostates next door, while selling the technologies of robo-assassinations to the world. We seek to liberate Judaism from an ethnostate that wants Jews to be perennially afraid, that wants our children afraid, that wants us to believe that the world is against us so that we go running to its fortress, or at least keep sending the weapons and the donations.

That is a false idol. And it’s not just Netanyahu. It’s the world he made and the world that made him. It’s Zionism. What are we? We, in these streets for months and months, we are the exodus, the exodus from Zionism. So, to the Chuck Schumers of this world, we do not say, “Let our people go.” We say, “We have already gone, and your kids, they are with us now.”

AMY GOODMAN: Award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein, speaking at what was called the “Seder in the Streets to Stop Arming Israel” on Tuesday at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, a block from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s home. Special thanks to Hana Elias, Eric Halvarson and Ishmael Daro of Democracy Now!

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