Calling a Spade a Spade
Día de La Memoria in Argentina & AIPAC Policy Conference in DC
This past Friday marked “Día de la Memoria” here in Argentina — commemorating 41 years since the start of a brutal military dictatorship that “disappeared” 30,000 people and led to the deaths of many more.
It’s always a little bit awkward honoring someone else’s “Memorial Day” — like being invited to the funeral of a stranger. But after being here for almost 8 months, meeting some of the most kindhearted, warm people, getting to know a city as vibrant and twisted and beautiful as Buenos Aires from the inside out — I instead feel proud.
Because the way Argentines commemorate their national trauma isn’t but sitting at home and turning off music and keeping their heads down. Thousands and thousands of them marched in protest, in cities across the country, against injustice and corruption, in honor of the 30,000 people that gave their lives to bring to end a brutal military dictatorship because they felt they had no other choice but to fight it.
Working here in the Jewish community has also given me a unique perspective. On one hand, there are incredible stories of bravery and of sacrifice. Nearly 3,000–1 out of every ten of the “disappeared” political prisoners and human rights activists were Jewish. This is in a country that counts Jews among less than 1% of its population. And though we should never have to ask people to give up their lives, I’m proud of the way this reflects on our community — that our obligation to pursue justice burned so strong in the hearts of so many that they made the ultimate sacrifice. There are stories of JCCs opening up their basements to hide activists being chased by the government and burning books to keep their members off the police’s radar. But there are also stories, unfortunately, of betrayal — of institutions closing their doors out of fear or out of ignorance and shutting out people who then went to their deaths. And these are the tough choices that haunt many in the community until today.
But again — this is not my trauma. I can stand with them and I can pat them on their back but I cannot raise my fist and I cannot cry for their history or their missteps.
Oddly enough, there is an event this weekend that will move me to protest, and to stand up to remind our people of our special obligation to look injustice straight in the face and do something to make it right.
It’s a tough choice — definitely not as tough as risking my life to stand up against a military dictatorship. But it’s difficult because for so long my community has told me that if I do stand up and say something then I forfeit my right to love it. That I will be an outsider for my dissent because it will be seen as a reflection of hatred and not as a reflection of love so deep that I would risk anything.
Obviously I live in Argentina, and even if I wanted to I couldn’t attend AIPAC Policy Conference this weekend. I know that if I was living in the states I wouldn’t because I believe it reflects a dark choice our people have made.
Like it or not, the state our people has built for it’s protection and redemption is currently the perpetrator of a military occupation of millions of people and has been for 50 years. And to say it really, truly eats me alive. It’s not the only issue our people will need to solve — 1/3 of Israelis live in poverty, not all Jews have the right to practice their faith, among others. And those are fights I’m committing myself to without an inkling of doubt or guilt because our state should be a reflection of the values we founded it to protect.
I love Israel with every fiber of my being and our people with a fervor that I can’t explain, and that’s why I’m joining the Jewish tradition — from Argentina, to America, to Israel — of standing up against injustice in my own house.
For those of you that have chosen to attend AIPAC this weekend: I urge you to think twice about what it means that we choose to love our state in a manner so shallow that we don’t care to hold it accountable for its flaws and don’t hope it will be something better.
My Zionism goes back three generations and runs in my veins and I think every day about whether that’s a word I want to keep using because of the mistakes we’ve made along the way. Today I’m going to hold onto it against the sins of my brothers and sisters in the hope that we choose to really make Israel רשית צמיחת גאולתנו — the beginning of our redemption, that’s inextricably tied to the redemption of all humanity.