My Jewish Journey: From Ardent Zionist to Standing in Solidarity with the Palestinian People

An 81-year-old Jewish peace activist looks back on his early, uncritical support for Israel and what came next.

Tarak Kauff Sep 5, 2023

I was born in 1942 to a Jewish family while WWII was raging. My mother hated not only the Nazis, but the German people, for allowing that to  happen. She never forgave them. Never would she buy or touch anything made in Germany. In 1948 the Jewish State of Israel was founded. My  family were fiercely proud and supportive of what we felt was the heroic Zionist achievements in Israel. We knew nothing about Palestinians. All we knew was that Arabs hated Jews and did terrible things. At a young age I decided to join the U. S. Army and “become a man.” I spent three-and-a-half years in the armed forces, mostly in the 101st Airborne Division as a paratrooper, and now I’m an 81-year-old veteran.

The Zionist State of Israel has betrayed the very essence of everything good and decent about being Jewish.

After being discharged from the military, I became involved in efforts to stop the Vietnam War. I also started to hear negative stuff about Israeli treatment of Palestinians, which of course I was in denial about. The Arabs were the bad guys after all. Nonetheless, I began to do some research and soon saw that there might actually be something to the criticism. Eventually I went to the West Bank with a team of U.S. veterans, along with a former Israeli Defense Forces paratrooper, to experience the reality for myself. Four of us on that team were Jewish. I made two trips a few years apart. What I saw and experienced directly confirmed much of what I had researched, and it wasn’t pretty.

I’ll cut to the chase. The Zionist State of Israel has betrayed the very essence of everything good and decent about being Jewish. Instead of being kind, compassionate and empathetic to the oppressed and dedicated to truth, Israel has become a most vicious oppressor. I saw Palestinian children brutalized. They are killed on almost a daily basis. Children! Many are languishing in Israel prisons for throwing rocks at occupying soldiers or for just being suspected of that. Israeli soldiers often break into Palestinian houses in the dead of night, terrorize the family and arrest children. And there is no such thing as a fair trial. If  you are arrested, you are guilty. Palestinians are considered vermin.

Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian boy during clashes in Hebron, occupied West Bank in September 2021.

And the armed settlers with their hatred and biblical stupidity — “God gave us this land” — are the worst. Yes, their god is a real-estate agent in the sky. Idiocy. And there is no excuse for it — none. Just as there was no excuse for what the Nazis did and what they became — arrogant monsters. How ironic that I saw such a similar phenomenon in Israel, especially in my direct confrontations with the IDF and the rabid settlers. Now I understand my mother’s revulsion to everything German. 

I’m a Jew and I wanted to see the truth, to actually see the reality apart from the mythology and the hasbara. The reality is that Israel has become an anathema to the humanistic tradition of Judaism. Instead it is sadistically violent and ruthless, as were the Nazis, but it is the arrogance most of all that repulses me.

Finally, I suggest that people who want to defend Israel first spend some time in the West Bank as an objective observer. As many have, you will then see the truth. It may shock and disturb you, but you will become a better, more honest person because of it.

This article was originally published in Peace & Planet News.

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