Tuesday, April 18, 2006

From Boston Tea Party to Liberation Seder

Photo Jonathan McIntosh

SEVEN days ago, while I was writing about the famous Sarajevo Haggadah (book read from at the festival of Passover), and liberation struggles in Bosnia-Hercegovina, a group of young Jews in the city of Boston, where a famous "Tea Party" signalled the start of America's struggle for independence, were using their own Haggadah in a seder( Passover ceremony) for the liberation of Palestine.

A friend in the United States has forwarded this note and report from Hannah, a Jewish woman who has been working as a volunteer in Palestine and was one of the organisers of the seder in Boston:

Dear friends,
I'm writing tonight with great joy after helping to organize and participating in a protest seder today outside the offices of major Jewish institutions in Boston. Our group came together quite organically specifically to try to break open the false idea of "consensus" in the Jewish community when it comes to support of Israeli policy.

On Tuesday, April 11, at 5:00 pm, 20 young Jewish people gathered for a seder (traditional celebration of Passover) outside 126 High Street in Boston, the building that houses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Boston's Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). The group expressed their support for Palestinian human rights and opposition to AIPAC’s and JCRC’s unquestioning support for Israel and its governmental policies.

With a banner that read “Passover means liberation for all. Justice for Palestine,” they conveyed the message to the organizations inside and to the media that AIPAC and JCRC do not speak for all Jews. The group set up a seder table and recited Passover's traditional four questions, with newly written answers that included facts about Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes, confiscation and destruction of Palestine's land resources for the expansion of settlements and the Separation Wall, and malnutrition and poverty in Palestine caused by Israeli closure and movement restrictions. (supplement attached)

According to Marjorie Kent, one of the organizers of the seder ,
“During Passover, every generation of Jewish people is commanded to remember that we were slaves and to tell the story of the Exodus so that we can recognize oppression that happens today and work to stop it. Today we committed ourselves to this task.”

AIPAC pushes the US government to support Israeli policies which result in the brutal oppression of Palestinian people and denial of their internationally recognized human rights. JCRC, while claiming to speak for all Jews, invests enormous time and energy suppressing any voice of opposition to Israeli policies, especially Jewish voices.

"Our generation has had enough of AIPAC’s and JCRC's complicity in Israel's human rights abuses of Palestinians," said Hannah Mermelstein, another seder organizer. “Their support of these policies betray the libratory message of Passover.”

The group called on people leaving the building to take the message of “liberation for all” home with them this Passover. They handed out supplements for people to add to their traditional Passover seders. The text of the supplement follows. As the group left, the police arrived with specific instructions to arrest them. (my emphasis added- CP).


Just thought I'd add that emphasis. Hopefully the young people won't have been dealt with too harshly. But can you remember the campaign for freedom for Soviet Jewry? Imagine the outcry then if Jews were arrested for holding a seder! A few years ago Masorti Jews were arrested by Israeli police, for praying at the Western Wall (they'd enraged the Orthodox by allowing women to wear prayer shawls and tefillin, arm bindings). Now the cops are called (by AIPAC?) to arrest Jews celebrating Passover! It won't make headlines I suppose, but good for end-of-the- year quizzes "In which country were Jews arrested for...etc"

Just recently there's been a controversy among the chattering classes at least as to how much influence AIPAC and co. have on US policy, and whether it serves US interests. Meanwhile Christian Zionists are boasting their pro-Israel Lobby will be bigger than AIPACs. Kol hakoved, all honour, to these young Jews in Boston, for taking their principled stand on to the street for justice in Palestine; and full marks to them for showing that the Zionist Lobby does not speak for "the Jews", nor even for American Jews.

It's a small contribution to the Palestinians' liberation, but may prove as big as the Boston Tea Party for ours.

Photographs available at:




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