Culture, Israel, Peoplehood, Politics

Love Letters To Zionists: An Interview with Tammy Kremer and Adam Golub

When the Jewish community had a Grand mal seizure this summer over the Movement for Black Lives’s use of the word “genocide” in their policy platform, it felt like we had achieved peak Israel/Palestine polarization. Everyone from the ADL to T’ruah denounced the platform, while Jewish Voice For Peace and If Not Now stood boldly by it. Op-Ed after Op-Ed came out in a now predictable ping-pong of point and counterpoint. The polarization around this subject has been ongoing since the turn of the century and while the ensuing increase in the range of voices is surely a positive development, the tenor of the conversation has become rather shrill. Against this backdrop, a new media project called “Love Letters To Zionists” came to my attention. I’m attracted to subversive ideas, so I emailed the project’s creators Tammy Kremer and Adam Golub to better understand what they were trying to do.
EUS: What is Love Letters to Zionists?
Adam: Love Letters to Zionists is a documentary podcast series based on love letters written to Zionists by Jews who dissent from Zionism. Each episode is based on an individual letter in addition to interviews and archival materials. The stories told in the series seek to unveil and create space for the tensions that exist within our community around Israel-Palestine and break through a wall of long-standing censorship. The overarching goal of the project is to support effective advocacy for Palestine and Palestinians and delink the notion of inherency between Judaism and Israel.
EUS: Where did the idea for Love Letters To Zionists come from?
Tammy: The idea for Love Letters to Zionists emerged from my own experience of being alienated from my beloved family as my conception of Palestine/Israel shifted dramatically away from that which I was raised with. I grew up in an Israeli-American family in a conservative Jewish Zionist community in which Israel was the savior of the Jewish people and Palestinians didn’t exist. I had plans of joining the Israeli Defense Forces until I was 17. A few different moments in high school set off questions I wasn’t allowed to ask: Why did my classmates in my American Jewish high school abroad program boo the only Palestinian speaker we had? Why didn’t my teachers stop them? And why was my private Jewish high school training me to respond to accusations against Israel without talking about the perspectives those accusations came from? If Israel was morally “right,” why was it so hard to “defend?” Before I left for college, I committed to learning about “the other side,” despite fear that I was committing heresy by doing so.
Over the last ten years my views have shifted immensely. Cliche as it sounds, acknowledging the violence committed by Israel was like having the rug pulled out from under me. I needed to redefine who I was and I was terrified by the way this would affect my relationships with my family.
I used the opportunity as a graduate student at New York University Gallatin studying Arts and Peacebuilding to develop an activism project that addressed the alienation that many Zionists turned anti-Zionists experience. Love Letters to Zionists evolved into its current iteration over the course of ten months from fall 2015-summer 2016.
EUS: There’s an old saying that friends don’t let friends talk about Israel. What is it about this subject that makes people lose their minds?
Adam: The subject of Israel-Palestine is rooted in collective notions of survival. In developing this project and in our lives we’ve heard many iterations of the sentiment “The Jews are in trouble in this world and always have been.” Much of contemporary discourse around Israel is couched in the rhetoric of fear; the fear of being a minority is a real one, as it often means abdicating one’s security in the greater structure of power. This coupled with the horrific history of the Holocaust, and the perception that demographically our minority status will lead to our community’s extinction creates a real sense of urgency and immediacy around Israel as a place to secure our “existence.” Thus, conversations about Israel are really conversations first about our physical survival and then about survival of a thousands of years old tradition.
EUS: There has been an intense polarization around the Israel/Palestine conversation over the past decade in the Jewish-American community. Do you see this project as a challenge to that dynamic?
Tammy: My research on Jewish anti-Zionism in the US showed me that while the polarization around Israel/Palestine has increased in recent years, there has always been contention around Zionism and Israel within the Jewish community. On the one hand, the project seeks to give greater voice to a marginalized segment of the population, and amplifying dissenting voices will contribute to greater polarization in the Jewish-American community. We believe that this polarization is necessary for change to be pushed through the Jewish establishment. Further, we are not creating a platform for “dialogue” per se, as these letters are not necessarily intended to be delivered, and we are not building equal space for Zionist and anti-Zionist voices.
On the other hand, this project challenges polarization in the Jewish-American community in that it supports non/anti-Zionists in being in authentic, loving relationships with Zionists. The structure of the project continually asks that writers and listeners speak from their hearts. Some episodes feature conversations between the writer and addressee. While these may be contentious, the love between the individuals is palpable. The emotional content encourages listeners to listen openly. For those listeners who are themselves in similar relationships, the letters and conversations elicit reflection on the way they navigate their relationships, and provide potential new strategies for expressing themselves.
EUS: In many ways, this is an internal Jewish conversation. Do you ever worry that this project might take the focus away from the Palestinian people and thereby reinforce a problematic Jewish privilege in the conversation?
Adam: Yes, definitely. This is something we discuss in-house all the time. One of the original and most important (in)tensions of this project is to create space for voicing dissent within our community, with the ultimate goal of supporting advocacy and activism for Palestinians AND, practically speaking, de-funding the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. We feel that all US citizens, not just Jewish Americans, are implicated in this issue as our tax dollars are a part of funding the Israeli military complex.
What arises very often in our stories is that experiences on the ground have given rise to people’s ideological shift. For example, in one of our episodes we hear a description of the racial profiling that happens to Palestinians in Israel and in another we hear of the housing demolitions that happen regularly to Palestinian homes. That is to say, it is through hearing first-hand accounts of the human rights violations on the ground that often times we accompany the letter writer in her/his changing political orientation.
One of our letter-writers reflected with us on what a privilege it is to come to a “realization” and then have to reconcile within the ensuing emotional chasm that it can create. It is our intention to reflect on our privilege throughout but also maintain the practical aim of moving our community forward in having a truly pluralistic dialogue so that ultimately those of us who have shifted can live both in community with our loved ones and in advocacy with Palestinians. We are intentionally working within our privileged community because we believe that our community has unique power to create change.
EUS: Can Palestinians participate in the project? Do you worry that it might be misunderstood by Palestinians?
Tammy: We are accepting any letters submitted to us regardless of a person’s background, and are interested in sharing them on our website in some form. For the podcasts specifically, we are focusing on Jewish voices at the moment because we believe that the specificity of our project is one of its assets. However, in the future, we are interested in expanding the focus of the podcasts.
This is not a “dialogue” or “co-existence” project. When I first was developing the project I researched initiatives that brought Jews and Palestinians together, and found that many of these initiatives were counterproductive in that they recreated the power dynamics that already exist–Jews went home with the same privilege they came with and Palestinians with the same oppression. Instead of feeding into that, I wondered what it would look like to embrace the phrase “act locally, think globally” by focusing on my my own community where I knew I was least likely to cause harm, and most likely to create an impact.
The strongest point of confusion about the project that I have encountered is about whether the project is about healing for Jewish communities or about human rights for Palestinians. The project is first and foremost about how we can be better advocate for a land in which Palestinian, Jewish, and all people’s rights are equally valued. If along the way relationships are improved, that is an added benefit.
EUS: As American Jews who have had their consciousness raised to the plight of the Palestinians, do you feel any responsibility towards your co-religionists inside Israel/Palestine?
Tammy: Both Adam and I are Israeli-American Hebrew speakers, with close family living in Israel, and we each have spent significant time living in and visiting the country. I have worked extensively with the Tel Aviv-based NGO Zochrot, which focuses on educating Israeli Jews about the ongoing displacement and structural violence against Palestinians and the Palestinian Right of Return. Adam spent two years teaching at an open school in Tel Aviv.
The work of consciousness raising among Israeli Jews is critical, though not sufficient to accomplish real transformation. Adam and I see the fear of obliteration and sense of victimization that many Israeli Jews carry as the primary barriers to consciousness raising. It does scare me that my family may experience the very radical reallocation of power necessary for the attainment of full human rights for all in Palestine/Israel, and that this transition is unpredictable. But I am equally scared for the Palestinian people whose safety is in the hands of the Israeli military and government.
While currently this project focuses on activating American Jews, we have discussed creating episodes based on letters written by Jews living in Israel to other Jews there in the future.
To experience Love Letters To Zionists, check out their SoundCloud page: https://soundcloud.com/user-797672523

7 thoughts on “Love Letters To Zionists: An Interview with Tammy Kremer and Adam Golub

  1. You hate Jewish settlements in the West Bank, yet you are SILENT about the fact that the entire rest of that region is “NO JEWS ALLOWED” Arab-only neighborhoods that are just as hateful and bigoted as you insist Jewish neighborhoods are.
    You hate Israel’s security barrier, yet you seem to have NO CRITICISM towards Palestinian wars/attacks against Israel that came before the security barrier existed and caused the need for the security barrier.
    You hate Israeli checkpoints, yet you say NOTHING about the MASSIVE WAVES of suicide-bombings and terrorism that were killing Jews on a weekly basis for YEARS AT A TIME before those checkpoints even existed.
    You hate Netanyahu, yet you refuse to criticize Palestinians for supporting Jew-hating psychopaths like Hamas who are a thousand times worse than Netanyahu.
    You criticize every military action that Israel takes, yet you IGNORE the fact that every Hamas rocket fired at Israel is an ATTEMPT to kill Jews. THEY ARE TRYING to kill Jews. Hamas firing 10,000 rockets into Israel, THEY TRIED TO KILL TEN THOUSAND Jews. That’s LITERALLY what that was. Ten THOUSAND attempts. Hamas’ FACTUAL GOAL was hoping to make 10 THOUSAND Jews die. Yet you shrug your shoulders and ONLY scream hate at Israel and at people like me who merely recognize that no matter what you think of Israel’s actions THEY ARE DIRECTLY RELATED to the crazy actions of the giant sea of irrational wackjobs who surround Israel.
    You put no pressure on Palestinians. You treat them like children. Palestinians can scream all they want about how badly they want Israel dead/gone, and you just laugh and then you mock all normal Jews who LISTEN to Palestinians, HEAR them talk about how badly they want Israel dead ,and act on that info.

  2. I’m a Jewish guy with almost no family due to the Holocaust, and if jihadists were trying to murder me (as they try with Israelis), THERE IS A ZERO PERCENT CHANCE that “selfagency” or “Kung Fu Jew” or any of you far-leftists would EVER defend me.
    You are “Jews” who stick up for everybody EXCEPT Jews.
    You are “Jews” who openly care about the people in the Middle East who want Jews DEAD/GONE a thousand times more than you care about me or other Jewish people.

  3. Letter to anti-zionists:
    1) Israel has to hand land that it won defensively, won from countries that were using it specifically to attack Israel, to people who still want to destroy Israel. And if Israel doesn’t do this, Israel is being mean.
    2) Palestinians get to reject peace and elect Hamas terrorists as their leaders, yet Israel should be fully blamed for lack of peace, even though the people who surround Israel openly reject peace with Jews/Israel.
    3) Jews having a state is apparently ‘racist,’ but Muslims having 50 countries and Arabs having 20 countries is somehow not racist.
    4) Jewish nationalism is ‘racist’ yet somehow Palestinian nationalism is great, Arab nationalism is great, and Muslim nationalism is great.
    5) There are ‘NO JEWS ALLOWED” Arab-only neighborhoods across the West Bank, Gaza, also in most of that entire region. To pro-BDS people, ‘NO JEWS ALLOWED’ Arab-only neighborhoods are acceptable, yet Jewish neighborhoods in the West Bank (which require army protection so Arabs don’t murder those Jews) are unacceptable.
    6) Pro-BDS people place NO responsibility on anyone other than Israel to make peace. The people who surround Israel can try to murder as many Jews as they want, can try to kill as many Israelis as they want, Palestinians get to elect Hamas terrorists as their leaders, ISIS gets to take over Syria, Islamic Jihad get to continue to try to destroy Israel, all of this is OK to pro-BDS people. They just want Israel to commit suicide, ‘for peace.’ Why is this? Because 99% of pro-BDS people just want Israel erased/destroyed. Because BDS is a hate movement, not a peace or justice movement.
    7) Bigotry from BDS against Israel’s very existence is peaceful, somehow. Apparently, in BDS land, helping Muslims destroy the only Jewish state is honorable. In the world of BDS, bigotry and discrimination against Israeli professors, scientists, musicians, artists, etc. is acceptable, yet bigotry against everyone else in the world is frowned upon. Even when Israel is bigoted against people who are trying to destroy Israel, apparently that’s wrong too. To BDS supporters, the only acceptable hate/bigotry in the entire world is the hate/bigotry directed at the tiny 1% of the Middle East that is Israel.
    8) Bigotry from this activist against Israelis is good, yet if Israel discriminates against him in response then somehow Israel is being mean.
    9) Hardcore discrimination against Israeli artists, universities, culture, politicians, businesses, etc. is acceptable, yet Israel protecting itself is bad and evil. Somehow, to pro-Palestinian activists and BDS supporters, the only universities in the world that are guilty of what their government does are Israeli universities. All the other universities across the entire world are magically innocent of what their government does.
    10) BDS actively blacklisting Israelis is fine, yet if Israel blacklists the people responsible than Israel is being mean.
    BDS is a hate movement whose goal isn’t to merely get Israel out of the West Bank. It’s a ‘final solution’ that, if successful and implemented, would literally eliminate the world’s only Jewish state specifically to form yet another Muslim state, and would put literally millions of Israeli Jews in mortal danger.
    “Anti-zionists” hold Jews to one standard, Arabs/Muslims to another, and use that double-standard to demonize Jews for things they refuse to demonize Arabs/Muslims for. That’s called ANTI-SEMITISM. If you’re Jewish and you do this, you’re still an anti-semite. Just because your mom is Jewish doesn’t mean you get to tell Jews their self-determination is illegal/racist but the self-determination of Arabs, Muslims, Egyptians, Palestinians, etc. is acceptable… anti-zionism is anti-semitism.

  4. Hebron was a Jewish (“Palestinian” Jewish) neighborhood for thousands of years.
    In 1968, Jews that had been living in Hebron were killed or chased out.
    Now in 2016, any Jews who live in Hebron are declared “illegal.”
    And now in 2016, you “anti-zionists” direct 100% of your hate towards Jews in Hebron, and 0% of your hate towards the Arabs in Hebron who will literally MURDER any Jewish person who tries to live there, which is why the Jews in or near Hebron have to live under armed protection.
    Why are “NO JEWS ALLOWED” policies in the West Bank or other areas under Arab control acceptable to “anti-zionists?”
    Israel has 1.5 million Arab citizens. The West Bank has ZERO Jewish citizens other than the Jews that you declare are “illegal” because they’re Jewish human beings in an area that Arabs have declared no Jews should be allowed to exist.
    This is why the term “self-hating Jew” was invented. I always hated that phrase, but no other religion/race/ethnicity has this. ZERO Arabs in the world would agree that if a human being is Arab then they are in a place illegally by definition, yet somehow we have far-left “anti-zionist” Jews who AGREE with Arabs that if human beings are JEWISH than those human beings CANNOT live in the West Bank or Gaza or East Jerusalem etc.
    My logic is rock-solid. No anti-zionist will be able to give a coherent response as to why they support bigotry but only when applied against Jews.
    Go on. Try.

  5. Notice that the anti-semitic authors didn’t question anything about the bad stuff that was being done against Israel/Jews. The authors kept questioning Israel, yet didn’t raise a single objection about the violence, hate and bigotry against Jews and against Israel from the other 99% of the Middle East.
    Notice that the authors didn’t mention “Hamas” even a single time. Or anything else.
    There is some mental sickness among far-left Jews who have some sort of pathological obsession with demonizing everything that Israelis do to protect themselves while completely ignoring the giant sea of crazy jihadists who keep trying to murder Jews and keep trying to destroy Israel.
    No other religion/ethnicity/etc. is plagued with this self-hate crap. ZERO black people in the world would see conflict between black people and KKK members and ONLY criticize black people. If Italy was under constant attack, ZERO Italians would ONLY criticize Italy, with no mention of the guys attacking Italy.
    Yet somehow we have these mentally ill far-left Jews who INTENTIONALLY IGNORE rabid hatred of Jews and war and terror against Israel and INTENTIONALLY ONLY blame Israel for it.
    I have watched this closely for about 20 years now and I honestly conclude that far-left anti-semitic (anti-zionist) Jews are the biggest enemy of the Jewish people since the actual Nazis of the 1930’s/40’s.

  6. Hey Tammy Kremer and Adam Golub,
    Most of my ancestors were killed in the Holocaust, and I will do everything in my power to make sure Israel remains strong in its self-defense to prevent the likes of you from empowering the Jew-hating lunatics that surround Israel.
    You aren’t writing a “love letter.” You’re the enemy.
    Go hang out in Egypt, Gaza, Yemen, Iraq, etc. and be Jewish there. Be sure to convince the locals to extend peace towards Israel. Let us know what happens, you sick freaks.

  7. You question how “Palestinians” are treated in Israel (do you mean Israeli Arabs) yet you don’t question how Jews are treated by Palestinians or by Egyptians or by Syrians or in Iraq or in Yemen or anywhere in the Arab or Muslim world.
    You only question/criticize Israelis and how they protect themselves.
    You don’t question Arabs/Muslims and their intense bigotry against both Jews and Israel.
    You’re self-hating Jews. And you’re no better than anti-semites, because anti-semites do the same thing you do: demonize Israelis for X while NOT SAYING A WORD about Arabs/Muslims/etc. doing 200X against Jews.

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