Israel-Palestine fight draws conflicted lines in Seattle

Jewish Voice for Peace protests Boeing's supplying of weapons to Israel, but is the group representative of any significant local change?
Jewish Voice for Peace protests Boeing's supplying of weapons to Israel, but is the group representative of any significant local change?

Early last Monday, a group of nine protesters locked themselves together outside of Boeing’s entrance in Tukwila. They joined with 40 other protesters to lie on the asphalt and concrete, blocking the entrance for three hours as temperatures reached 88 degrees. A woman spoke into a megaphone and read off names of the Palestinian civilians who have died since the fighting began on July 8. As the protestors staged their “die-in” in front of Boeing they chanted, “We stand with Palestine, killing civilians is a crime.”

The activists were part of a trend that has become more visible in Seattle and the rest of the country as the Israeli-Palestinian fight has raged: Jewish Americans are joining in what some see as growing protests of Israel's actions.

At Boeing last week, Jewish Voice for Peace, a Jewish organization advocating for peace and justice in the Middle East, protested what they say is Boeing Defense, Space and Security's supplying of weapons to the Israeli Defense Force that end up being used on Palestinian civilian targets. One of the protesters, Mariel Boyarksy, stood holding a bright blue painted sign that read, “Jewish Voice for Peace says not in my name.”

Boyarksy said she was brought up in a very Jewish family and can understand the Israeli narrative, but doesn’t support Israel's 47-year occupation of Palestine. “I would say I am a Jewish person who is in solidarity with Palestine. You know, saying pro-Israel, pro-Palestine sets it up as a dichotomy. I believe in Jewish people’s right also to live in that place, but I don’t believe in the ongoing occupation of that place,” Boyarsky said in an interview. "And I don’t believe in the systematic oppression of Palestinians."

The JVP rally for Palestine was one of a number of pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Seattle. Amin Odeh of Voices of Palestine and Ed Mast of Palestine Solidarity Committee—Seattle say they have noticed increased support from the wider community for their cause.

It's not at all clear that there is any widespread turn toward the Palestinian cause here or across America, which has consistently been Israel's strongest ally.

While more Jews are joining Jewish Voice for Peace, Rob Jacobs, regional director of StandWithUs Northwest, a non-profit pro-Israel advocacy organization, considers the Jewish Voice for Peace's members “outliers.” Jacobs said the group only represents about 50 people of the Seattle Jewish community, which consists of 45,000.

“I think the vast majority of the Jewish community has rallied in support for Israel during this time,” Jacobs said. “Within the Jewish community, this has probably pulled the community together more than it has been in years. For us it’s so frustrating that Israel does not have a party on the other side that is seriously willing to sit down and negotiate. The whole reason for Hamas’ existence, according to Hamas in the Hamas charter, is to get rid of Israel. It says specifically "no negotiations, no peace discussions.' " He quotes a passage from the Hamas charter about killing Jews. “It’s not only anti-Israel, it’s anti-Jewish,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs noted that the Jewish community in Seattle has had several rallies in recent weeks in support for Israel. One held in Occidental Park drew 650 people. And nearly 300 people, mostly Israelis in the Seattle area, showed up for a flashmob rally on Bellevue Way in downtown Bellevue just this past Thursday.

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Jessica Buxbaum

Crosscut editorial intern Jessica Buxbaum recently moved to Seattle from California where she studied political science at Humboldt State University and worked on the university's newspaper and magazine.