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No liberation without Palestinian liberation



On the last Friday of March, Jews over the world celebrated Passover. This year, away from my family, I spent the traditional Passover meal — called Seder (Hebrew for 'order') — with friends. We sat around a table and followed the tradition of reading the Haggadah — a book that sets out the order of the Seder.

Display at demonstration for Gaza in Town Hall, Sydney (Na'ama Carlin)The Seder is laden with symbolism. Every piece of food set at the centre of the table signifies something. A burnt shank of lamb (zroah) represents the paschal sacrifice on the eve of the Jews' exodus from Egypt. Bitter herbs (maror — usually fresh horseradish) remind us of the bitterness of our ancestors' slavery in Egypt.

Charoset, a sweet paste or mixture of various fruits, such as apples or pears, with nuts and wine, signifies the mortar and brick made by the Jews as Pharaoh's slaves. Karpas (conventionally fresh parsley) is dipped in saltwater and then eaten, symbolising the tears Jews shed in slavery. An egg is associated with mourning, but also — with its rounded shape — the cycle of life.

Ritual and symbolism preserve cultural uniformity, as they engender a sense of sameness among a community no matter how dispersed it is. I love that about Passover — the routine, the ritual, the order. We read from the same text, and tell the story of Exodus, thus fulfilling the biblical command: 'And on that day you shall tell your child, for this God has taken me out of the Land of Egypt' (Exodus chapter 13 verse 8).

As we go through the order of the Seder, we read, sing, and tell the story of Jews' slavery in Egypt, our exodus and liberation from Pharaoh's chains. One of the songs states: 'We were once slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, now we are free.' It's a night when Jewish people relish our freedom — no more masters, we are liberated.

The Seder concludes with the following words: 'Next year in Jerusalem.' This reminds us of Jewish exile, and so we end the order emphasising our obligation to return — next year, in Jerusalem. Next year, we come home.

As we Jews celebrated Passover, on 30 March 2018, other people protested their right to return home. The Palestinian 'Great March of Return' was launched on the Gaza Strip, also known as the 'Gaza Strip Prison' due to its confinement and strict restrictions both from the ruling party Hamas and the 'prison's' warden — Israel. The protestors demanded that Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to their homeland, Palestine, a place that doubles as the Jewish homeland.


"How can Jews celebrate our freedom, when it hinges on the pain and confinement of others? Can Jews ever be free if Israel keeps using Judaism to justify the occupation of a whole peoples?"


Religious and cultural celebrations are symbolic by nature, yet this juxtaposition of Passover and the Great March of Return transcended symbolism to shine a light on the cruel reality Palestinians experience daily. During the Seder, we lament our slavery, take joy in Moses' success, and remember our ancestors wandering in the desert, waiting to return to the promised land. We celebrate our freedom and liberation — Passover is also known as 'the Festival of Liberation'.

Meanwhile, people who effectively live in a caged prison, for whom their wardens care nothing, protested for their liberation. The night that Jews globally celebrated freedom, 19 Palestinians were killed and over 1000 were injured because they rightfully demanded theirs. According to human organisation B'Tselem, in the two weeks since the protests near the Gaza-Israel fence began, 32 Palestinians were killed by Israeli military, and more than 1000 were injured with live fire.

A couple of weeks after the protests began, a small demonstration in Sydney's Town Hall rallied for the people of Gaza. There, among the chanting, the speeches, the crowd, I noticed a small Seder table laid out with the traditional food. The only difference between this table and the one I dined on only weeks earlier was the sign: 'No liberation until Palestinian liberation.'

As a Jewish woman, I can always return to Israel and move freely on that land; a prerogative that's extended to any Jew, but denied to Palestinians, many of whom lived on that land for generations but are now displaced. The Palestinian Territories are walled off, civilians experience the severity of Israeli military law, movement is restricted. Even the sea is out of reach.

Ruminating on the Festival of Liberation, I can't stop wondering — how can Jews celebrate our freedom, when it hinges on the pain and confinement of others? Can Jews ever be free if Israel keeps using Judaism to justify the occupation of a whole peoples? In Passover, we tell the story of the hardship of slavery so as not to forget. But I worry that we have forgotten what it is like to be in chains, to be restricted, to be ruled. And I think that Jews will never truly be free until Palestinians are too.



Na'ama CarlinNa'ama Carlin holds a PhD in Sociology. A dual Israeli-Australian citizen, she writes about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ethics, identity, and violence. Follow her @derridalicious

Main image: Display at demonstration for Gaza in Town Hall, Sydney (Na'ama Carlin)

Topic tags: Na'ama Carlin, Gaza, Israel, Palestine, anti-Semitism



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Brilliant, poignant reflection of true humanity and social justice steeped in theistic belief.

john frawley | 17 April 2018  

Today’s sentimental favourites become tomorrow’s oppressors or, to be more precise, it is the small elites who lead today’s sentimental favourites who become so. If Hamas or the PLO cannot be trusted as to how they will deal with Jewish Israelis if the power relationship moves in their favour, just as the ANC has become unreliable in relation to white farmers after a quarter-century of apparent impartiality, it is irrelevant (though unfortunate) that the ordinary Palestinian fits the profile of weary and harassed that Christ came to serve. They cannot act for themselves because they are already spoken for, chained by undemocratic politics to leaders with their own agendas who hold them hostage. All the cards of power are held by Israel but all the cards of hope and change are held by the Palestinian autocracies. The result is that, like the ordinary Palestinian, Israel too is held hostage. Where is the Palestinian Alexander to cut the Gordian knot? Or where is the Palestinian equivalent of a Christ to offer a new dispensation to wipe the debts of the past with the equivalent of the Hebrew Scripture concept of the jubilee?

Roy Chen Yee | 18 April 2018  

Thank you again to Na'ama Carlin for another sensitive, thought -provoking and moving article about the plight of the Palestinians. It is good to know that the voice of "righteous Jews" on the issue of Palestinian human rights is getting louder. It should now be obvious to all that the racist and apartheid Zionist government in Israel is not serious about the peace process or the two state solution as it increasingly grabs more Palestinian land, usurps its owners through threats and bullets and puts Jewish settlers on it. And then, uses deadly repression against those Palestinians who have been displaced when they protest. The international community could be doing a lot more to restrain the murderous and human rights abusing actions of the Israeli military. Last year, I heard Gideon Levi, a prominent Israeli Jewish journalist with the Haaretz newspaper deliver the Annual Edward Said Memorial Lecture which is organised by the Adelaide University and the Aust, Friends of Palestine Association This man is also a "righteous Jew"and he urged those who attended to support the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. We should all be taking his advice and urge our leaders to do more in the UN to curtail Israeli military repression.

Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 18 April 2018  

Great and brave reflection, Na`ama. Sharing the whole of Palestine and historic Israel between the two communities seems the obvious way to go. However, that was not accepted by the Palestinians when it was offered on several occasions as part of international peace initiatives; and now the move to the political right in Israel after mass immigrations over recent decades makes it all but impossible. This is all very sad, but going nowhere.

Eugenew | 18 April 2018  

Na'ama, you have illustrated so clearly what can happen when religion is only inward looking and self-serving. It then loses its soul.

Anne Cronin | 18 April 2018  

It would be interesting to hear Sir John Monash's post-humus reflection on the current state of the state of Israel - given that he was a colonial Australian Jew of Prussian ancestry who enjoyed both success and discrimination (both I'd argued buoyed on by his experience of oppression as a Jew in a Christian country). But his Australian experience allowed him to thrive (although under duress), rather than be forced to flee. Imagine how much more Monash could have achieved if Australia had been a truly secular country in the early 1900s. Lesson for Israel?

AURELIUS | 23 April 2018  

The strong get stronger as the weak get weaker. Yes! power corrupts as history repeats itself; we see the ongoing subjugation/dehumanisation of the weaker by the stronger, reflected in the information given on the back of Will’s Cigarette cards 1908. "Time & Money series". Palestine: A country lying to the south west of Syria and governed by Turkey it has a population of 700,000 of whom about 100,000 are Jews and 80% are Mohammedans. The area is 11,000 sq. miles. Capital Jerusalem. The exports consist chiefly of fruit, olive oil and maize….. Indian Territory: One of the States of North America kept in reserve for Indians. It has a total area of 31,400 miles and a population of nearly 400,000. Unsuited to the restraints of civilised life and showing inability for agricultural pursuits the ‘Red Race’ is slowly dying out…... Australia: The first English to visit Australia was in 1688. Port Jackson was founded in 1788 as a penal station for English criminals. In 1851 the colony made a fair start in free, industrial progress. Gold was discovered in 1851. At present it has a population of nearly 4 millions, and an area of 2,972,575s.miles. Capital Melbourne; pop., 502,610…...The indigenous people are not even mentioned but then it was to ‘some degree’ still part of the British Empire…The moral of these tales; we hide(Run away) from every broken heart and wail.

Kevin Walters | 03 May 2018  

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