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My American-Israeli-Palestinian family demands human rights for all

I am an American-Israeli Jew and wife of a Palestinian Israeli citizen. Growing up, I spent every summer visiting my Israeli grandparents and cousins, and having fun eating ice cream at the beach. But my family trips to Israel also exposed me to Palestinians; from a young age, my parents taught me about the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and second class treatment of Israeli Palestinians.

When I told my American-Israeli friends back home that, in Israel, I had met Palestinians, I quickly understood that this was unusual. Their parents had no Palestinian friends because they were “dangerous” and “hated Jews.”

A few months after I moved to Israel in 2014, I met my future husband. Quickly, his safety became my focal point during times of unrest and escalation. In 2015, during the middle of an uprising of Israeli Jews lynching Arabs, he came home one day looking as white as office walls. He told me that his mother had called him when he was on the bus. When the soldier sitting next to him heard him speaking to her in Arabic, he slowly moved and repositioned his M-16 rifle towards my husband. My husband spent much of that two hour bus ride with a soldier pointing a gun directly at him.

That wasn’t his first negative encounter with Israeli security forces. In 2008, at a peaceful march with his family, a group of policemen on horseback grabbed him, beat him to a pulp, and threw him in jail. Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms still afflict him from that incident.

The longer I lived in Israel, the more I understood how far the country was from having equal human rights, such as the freedom of movement, right to self-determination, and access to equitable healthcare. These basic rights applied to both Palestinians and non-Jewish asylum seekers, like those from Eritrea and Sudan.

In order to avoid conflict, I often let my Israeli coworkers think my husband was Jewish. When we looked for apartments, I was always the one to reach out. With his Arabic-sounding name, whenever he tried to make contact, he rarely got a response and if he did it was to say that the apartment was no longer available.

My life changed in little ways. When we left Israel together, we had to give ourselves extra time at the airport, knowing that we would be pulled to the side and asked questions about our relationship. He said that with me at his side, the interrogations went faster than ever before, but they still felt like an eternity of indignity to me.

We thought moving to the US would make things easier for us. But it is just as hard being far away as it was when we were living in Yafa. Glued to the news, we feel agony when we watch tensions escalate. Palestinians are targeted for forceful removal from their homes, assaulted during prayer, harassed at the Iftar break-fast, and shot with rubber bullets at the holiest of sites like Al Aqsa.

It’s horrible and frightening to be woken up by sirens and run to a bomb shelter. I feel horrible for my Israeli friends, but they, at least, have the security offered by bomb shelters and Iron Dome.

What happened to Jewish values? Ethnic cleansing, the Israeli military occupation and blockade of the West Bank and Gaza, and the second class treatment of Israeli Palestinian citizens must end. I am sad that history keeps repeating itself and ashamed that people who stood up for justice for George Floyd and Black Americans under persecution emit a deafening silence.

It is so disheartening that progressive people value human rights for everyone except for Palestine. One can be Jewish, Israeli, critical of Israel, as well as oppose the occupation and support Palestinians. Rather than negate each other, these attributes are essential to stop the horrendous bloodbath that is on the horizon. I am proud of who I am, my Israeli and Palestinian families, and the diverse American community my husband and I live in with folks advocating for human rights for all, without exception.

Leah Platkin is a clinical social worker from Los Angeles who spent several years in Israel doing trauma work with asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan as well as with Palestinian women and youth in Yafa.


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