— TC Jewfolk (@TCJewfolk) April 11, 2018
On Tuesday I was arrested as part of a protest with IfNotNow. IfNotNow is a mass popular movement seeking to end the American Jewish community’s support of the occupation. We were asking the Jewish Community Relations Committee: Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), to condemn the violence against the protesters in Gaza. The JCRC claims to speak for the Jewish community in Minnesota, but has not condemned the occupation and the recent killing of 30 Palestinians protesters during the protests at Gaza’s border with Israel. The JCRC has failed to represent a large portion of its community. I blockaded the entrance to the JCRC on Tuesday to denounce their complicity and force them to choose a side. As a result, I was arrested and issued a citation. The protest was the first high risk action taken by IfNotNow in the Midwest, and it garnered thousands of viewers online.
I am certainly not the first person at Macalester to be arrested for a cause, nor will I be the last. Risking arrest is a drastic move that has the capability to affect real change, but it also can have dire consequences and should not be taken lightly. A lot of research and critical thinking took place before I decided to partake in this protest. I would suggest anyone who is considering being arrested to do the same.
The opportunity to risk arrest was broached to me on a Sunday night after 12 hours in an intensive IfNotNow training. The thought of being arrested had never really crossed my mind until it was put on a plate in front of me. Looking back, the decision was easy, and I would do it again. Of course, risking arrest is an extreme, and credit must be due to the twenty-some people who helped organized this incredibly successful protest in under 48 hours. They showed up and put in the work so that all I had to do was sit and be detained. Their roles cannot be overstated in their importance. I am immensely grateful for all their work.
I had a positive experience with the policemen involved in my arrest. The arresting officer waited respectfully for us to finish reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish before breaking up the protest, and were unobtrusive and gentle when searching me for weapons. When I was put into the police vehicle, the officer had been reading about the violence at the Gaza protests. Upon exiting the police vehicle while handcuffed, my yarmulka fell from my head. The officer promptly picked it up, lightly placed it back on my head, and proceeded to uncuff me. I was incredibly privileged to be in a position where I felt no real threat from the police. I had put my body in a space that warranted arrest, but I don’t believe my body was ever in any serious danger or threat of physical harm.
The amalgam of emotions that were running through me from the time of my arrest until my subsequent release ranged from nervous fear to pride, but I cannot count terror among them. I am a white male, well-spoken and well dressed. Someone else in my position may have had a much more difficult go of things, and I want to condemn the continued police brutality against people of color that is sustained by a horrendous system of abuse in our country. However, my experience also serves as a reminder that mass popular movements and social justice actions deal with individuals, like the cop who restored my yarmulka, and they deal with oppressive institutions, like police in America, as well as everything in between. It is a balance between interpersonal relationships, and incomprehensible systems, and it is infinitely complicated.
Lastly, I have a personal relationship with Israel, and I am disappointed in the nation it has become. As a young Jew, I was told to give Israel my unequivocal and unrelenting support. I only began to really question my support for Israel earlier this semester, when I was reading a definition of Fascism for a class. I was ashamed and confused when Israel seemed to fulfill some parts of the definition. How can I claim Israel as my nation and its people as my people while they make life a daily nightmare for Palestinians under the occupation? I am still a supporter of Israel, but I am sickened by the occupation and have been arrested to try and end it. I am proud of my Judaism. I study it, I practice it, I live it. Like it or not, Israel is a part of my Jewish identity. Israel should reflect the Judaism I know and love, and be a place that values freedom and dignity for all people.