First Person Singular is an occasional column by JP Marat that empowers local artists, musicians & activists to speak in their own voice
People holding a Jewish Vices for Peace banner

JP Marat writes:

Imagine a narrow strip of land extending about two miles on either side of Interstate 71 and running through Columbus from I-270 North to I-270 South. Now imagine 1.8 million Ohioans are forced to live there behind a large militarized wall that prevents the free flow of people, food and material in and out of the enclave. Attempts to enter or leave without proper authorization are met with force. Resistance brings artillery and aerial bombardment of civilian neighborhoods within the wall.

  Outside the wall, living standards are high. Extensive foreign aid is received. Per capita income tops $36,000 per year. Family income exceeds $56,000 per year. Citizens can travel freely throughout their country and the world and return at any time. Inside the wall per capita income is $6,100 with over 60 percent of the population living in poverty. It is difficult to obtain permission to leave the enclave even to find work. If you leave the country you run the risk that you’ll be prevented from returning. While this sounds like dystopian fantasy similar to the Hunger Games, it is the reality of every Palestinian living in Gaza.

  This summer in preparation for a radio show on WCRS 98.3 / 102.1 FM (Big Barking Dog Alternative Radio Hour, Thurs 11pm-midnight), I met with Farrell Brody, Mary Yoder and Connie Hammond to better understand a local organization that advocates for the rights of the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. They are known as “Jewish Voice for Peace.”

Farrell Brody writes:

Jewish Voice for Peace

  We are a national, grassroots, member-based organization. We partner, not only with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, but with a diverse range of groups committed to a just peace – Christians, Muslims, Arab-Americans, artists, academics, religious leaders, students and more. We support Palestinian-led non-violent resistance, as well as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which was called for by the Palestinian civil society in 2005.

  The reason for this is because we are inspired by Jewish traditions of social justice and we refuse to only care about our own people.

Early Life

  I was raised in Orthodox Judaism, but also participated in Conservative and Reform synagogues. I went to Israel to work on a kibbutz along the Gaza Strip in 1957 and 1958. Later, I spent time teaching in an agricultural high school from 1961 to 1964, where I had both Jewish and Arab-Israeli students. I could see even then that the government of Israel did not want to share the land with the Palestinians, if, indeed it had ever wanted to. I made one further trip to Israel in 1990. All my life I have believed in the Jewish tenet of “tikun olam,” which means “fixing the world.” The Torah includes 36 instances where we are reminded to respect our neighbors like we respect ourselves, and I interpret that to mean that human rights are for all peoples, and that it is my obligation to honor that “fixing the world.” And yet, some have called me an “anti-semite.”

  Although the situation in Israel/Palestine is a very complicated one, there is no doubt in my mind that the tremendous imbalance in power between Israelis and Palestinians, the continued construction of settlements, and the constant punishment of Palestinians have destroyed the so-called two-state solution and have led to great suffering by both peoples, but clearly much more by the Palestinians. This has gone along for far too many years. This is why I belong to Jewish Voice For Peace.

Jewish Community

  I know that many Jews are deeply saddened by this continuing and very tragic situation. Many Israeli Jews have struggled to end the strife. At the same time, Jews in the U.S. and elsewhere, because they have spent their lives thinking only positive things about Israel, are blind to the acts of inhumanity carried out by the government of Israel. Jews can freely criticize the U.S. government when they disagree with it, without being anti-American, but cannot seem to see a similar possibility when it comes to Israel. What the Israeli Government is doing regarding the Palestinians is profoundly hurting Jewish people, wherever they are.

The Declaration of Independence of Israel states:

  “The State of Israel . . . will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture … and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

  If, indeed, these were ever the true proposals of the Declaration of Independence of Israel, the historical record of the Israeli Government’s acts against Palestinians shows that the OPPOSITE of the Declaration has been the reality of the situation since 1948. The Hebrew Prophets certainly did not call for surrounding and uprooting Palestinian villages and towns, arresting thousands of Palestinians including children, bombing entire areas, building walls to encircle populations and taking Palestinian lands for Jewish settlements. The so-called “guarantees” mentioned in the Declaration have never been promoted “for the benefits of all its citizens,” nor has Israel dedicated “itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” For these reasons, Jewish Voice For Peace must speak out. It would be AGAINST the Hebrew Prophets’ vision not to do so.

Jewish Voice for Peace

National Office -

Local Office - email

or “JVP Central Ohio” on Facebook.