Hedy Epstein, Holocaust survivor and Palestinian rights activist, was profiled in the LA Times on Wednesday for her anti-war work and ability to bring protesting women together in times of war. She founded the St. Louis chapter of Women in Black, a global network of women fighting nonviolently for peace and is currently working to protest the Gaza-Israel blockade.
Epstein is a seeming contradiction of the bad-ass variety. She is a Holocaust survivor who fights for the rights of Palestinians in the land supposedly made for Holocaust refugees and she leads all-women protests, which is still considered pretty revolutionary.
When I was in Israel this summer and went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, I found that the physical architecture of the building was constructed in the name of Zionism. When I made my way out, there was a beautiful view of Israel and I had a discussion later about how it is often falsely assumed that Israel was created as a direct response to the Holocaust and therefore all Jews must be Zionists. Hedy Epstein turns this assumption on its head through actively expressing her views through service to Israel’s suffering minority: the Palestinians.
Epstein says, “The mainstream, organized Jewish community, both locally and in other places, have called me anti-Semitic, a self-hating Jew. I’m not anti-Israel, but you’re not allowed to criticize Israel or else you’re anti-Semitic, and if you’re Jewish you’re a self-hating Jew. I don’t hate myself. You’re allowed to criticize every other country, including the U.S., but not Israel, why is that?”
I believe that if someone truly cares about Israel – is truly a Zionist – they want the best for the country and all its inhabitants. Even Zionists – especially Zionists – should criticize Israel because it is the responsibility of those who fight for the existence of a country to fight for the rights of those who reside in it.
Thanks to Miranda from Women’s Glib for the shout-out to the article!