Overview of Jewish Liberation (draft 10.7.21)

Jews are a people who have been on the planet for more than two thousand years.

Jews belong to all races. We are brilliant, feisty. We lead beyond our numbers in many liberation struggles.

Anti-Semitism (which always refers to anti-Jewish oppression) has sometimes been called the oldest hatred. Its function is to keep all oppressed peoples confused. When non-Jewish oppressed peoples are ready to rise up and fight their oppressors, the oppressors throw up a detour sign that says, “Blame the Jews.”

In the current period, that detour sign sometimes says, “Blame Israel.”

Anti-Semitism is cyclical, overt in some periods and not in others. Recently the cycle has shifted, and anti-Semitism is more overt, with right-wing forces using it more and more as a weapon to divide progressive movements, including the U.S. Democratic Party and the UK’s Labor Party.

In the current period in RC, key issues for Jews to discharge on are the following:

Internalized genocide recordings. Its message is that there is something so bad about Jews that they shouldn’t exist.

Connection to climate change. Once a tribal people, connected to land, Jews for centuries were not allowed to own land and were kicked out of many countries. Working on climate change is a way to for Jews to reclaim something important that we have lost as a people.

The Israel-Palestine conflict. Discharging on this conflict is central to Jewish liberation. An important direction is to be fully “for” both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people. (See more below.)

Taking action to end anti-Semitism. Taking action in the world, after discharging, has been an important part of Jewish liberation work. To work on anti-Semitism, RC has launched a “going-public” project called Jews and Allies United to End Anti-Semitism, with teams of Jews and allies in nineteen cities. (See: Jewsandallies.org)


Anti-Semitism functions through three main elements:

Blame: scapegoating Jews for problems on both a global scale and a personal scale.

Isolation: forcing Jews to live in restricted areas (sometimes called ghettos) and excluding them from participation in society

terror: threatening Jews’ survival as individuals and as a people. Anti-Semitism’s singling out of Jews for blame frightens and confuses not only Jews, but also people of all backgrounds.


Like all oppressed peoples, Jews absorb the hurtful messages of our oppression and turn these messages against ourselves and other Jews. This is the mechanism we call internalized oppression. Because anti-Semitism works by singling Jews out for blame, not surprisingly many Jewish people blame themselves and other Jews for their problems—and sometimes even for anti-Semitism. And because anti-Semitism is often invisible, or denied, it is easy to see why Jews might conclude (and may have been told) that anti-Semitism is only in their minds. Overcoming the painful effects of anti-Semitism involves raising awareness of this oppression in its external and internalized forms.

 We see some examples of Jewish internalized oppression in our survival strategies. Centuries of systematic persecution and policies of genocide, including the near-extermination of just a few decades ago, have left many Jews frightened about survival. Given this history, for a Jew to be visible as a Jew often feels dangerous. Another strategy: Many Jews have embraced upward mobility as a way to survive and to escape anti-Semitism, even though Jews with wealth were often the first targeted by anti-Semitism.

Jewish internalized oppression also shows in the ways we are divided from each other. Anti-Semitism divides Jews not only from other groups, but also from each other. In some historical periods, for example, Jews who assimilated into the dominant non-Jewish culture were uncomfortable with—and even openly hostile toward—Jews whose language, dress, or religious observance they thought might reflect badly on the Jewish community as a whole. Tensions between more-assimilated and less-assimilated Jews have been expressed in Jews’ labeling each other as “too Jewish,” “not Jewish enough,” or “self-hating Jews.”

Intense fears passed down through generations can have a crippling effect on Jews’ daily lives. Chronic feelings of unsafety can take a toll on relationships. Perpetually on guard against potential attack, some Jews find it hard to trust anyone—even the people we love. Some Jews try to hide fears they carry, but hiding them does not make them go away. The more that allies can understand the impact of internalized oppression on us, the more they can both have compassion for Jewish struggles and become fiercer allies in the fight against anti-Semitism.


Having clarity on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is important for gaining clarity on Jewish liberation in general. Following are some basic points.

First, no matter the apparent difficulty, meeting the best interests of both peoples—Israeli and Palestinian—requires a commitment to a policy of two peoples, two homelands. Both peoples have a right to national self determination.

Second, the Israeli government is not the same as the Israeli people. The current Palestinian leadership is not the same as the Palestinian people. We can challenge government policies while staying committed to the goodness of both peoples.

Third, continuing to oppress the Palestinian people is not in Israel’s long-term interest. The Israeli people cannot build a flourishing society so long as their Palestinian neighbors live under daily occupation. Attempts by government leaders to make occupation seem “normal”—and therefore sustainable—must be challenged.

 Fourth, many individual Israeli Jews have made, and continue to make, attempts at peace and cooperation; and their efforts are continually thwarted. Fear tactics and constant restimulation are used to keep the majority of Israeli Jews frightened, confused, and believing the myth that there is no one on the “other side” to talk to.

 Fifth, the fact that right-wing forces in Israel have aligned with right-wing forces in the United States puts Israel, once again, in the untenable role of supporting a U.S. imperialist agenda of making money in the region from ongoing wars of destruction, arms build-ups, and militarism toward Iran.

 Sixth, some anti-occupation forces vilify Israel (ignoring the ways many Israeli Jews have battled heroically to build cooperative relationships with Palestinians). They say that Israel or its policies are the sole cause of all difficulties in the region. This view must be challenged, because it misses the critical role that imperialism plays in keeping the two peoples divided. It also further isolates Israel, a situation that reinforces its people’s fears and leads them to support right-wing policies and military “solutions.”

 At the same time, the current policies of the Israeli government (increased settlement programs, checkpoints, house demolitions, on-the-ground violations of Palestinian rights, legal attacks on progressive organizations that challenge the status quo) only increase Israel’s isolation from the world’s peoples and result in increased anti-Semitism worldwide. The isolation of Israel from its natural ally, the Palestinian people, continues its major effect of locking anti-Semitism in place.

 Finally, decades-long, systemic racism in Israel toward the Mizrachim (non-European-heritage Jews), even in the peace movement, has contributed to the difficulty in building unity between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Although the Mizrachim could serve as a natural bridge between Palestinians and Israeli Jews, racism has hindered having their leadership be central to peace efforts, where it belongs.

In summary, we need to take a stand against policies, programs, or positions that single Israel out for condemnation. At the same time, we need to speak out forcefully against the occupation and the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people. We need to encourage dialogue, communication, and listening among all forces trying to bring about peace. Creating safe conditions for Jews and their allies to speak openly, and be listened to, about divergent views on Israel, in an atmosphere of respectful conversation, is key to resolving the conflict.

RCers have a unique role to play. RCers can discharge and then communicate the fullest picture possible of what will be necessary to build alliances between Israeli Jews and Palestinians and to resolve the conflict. Discharging on racism and building strong, enduring, one-on-one relationships between Jews and Palestinians will help move this work forward.

Cherie Brown
International Liberation Reference Person for Jews

Last modified: 2021-10-07 22:24:22+00